I know marketeers (am I a marketeer? I suppose I am) always say they are very excited about the launch of a new product range but I am genuinely giddy about our new range of succulent plants. This is something I have been looking forward to for a while now as I am a big fan of the subtle frosty colours and interesting shapes of these beautiful plants.
Luckily, succulents are also a passion of our head grower (Jack) in the nursery who has also been keen to develop a range of plants for sale. As we had a lot on our plate this year we were a little delayed but I am now delighted to say we have a full range of 21 fabulous varieties ready to ship.
Succulents make ideal indoor displays so are a great winter project (or present!) for anyone who its itching to do a bit of gardening. Plants are easy and fun to propagate with leaf or stem cuttings so you can increase your stock or make pretty miniature planting schemes.
With Jack's help, I have put together some of the basics in terms of plant care and propagation below if you would like to have a go at this rewarding hobby.
Succulents are desert plants Succulents have evolved to live in hot, dry climates. Their trademark thick leaves are water reservoirs and enable them to store moisture and withstand prolonged periods of drought. They are generally suited to desert soil conditions which will be dry and relatively low in nutrients.
It is important to keep their origins in mind when growing them as the most common reasons gardeners fail is by using an unsuitable soil mix and by overwatering them (more on this further down the page).
Succulents are relatively slow growing For the most part, succulents are slow growing plants. The reason, if you are interested, is that the utilise the CAM photosynthetic pathway (crassulaean acid metabolism) which is less efficient than the more common C4 pathway. The benefit of CAM is it allows the plants to keep their stomata (their little leaf mouths) closed during the day and therefore reduce evaporation. The trade off is they are slower growing because they can't photosynthesise as quickly as C4 plants.
Why are you telling me this? Slow growth is a handy trait for houseplants as they won't outgrow their pots too quickly. The current trend is for miniature succulents (as shown in the sardine tin above) which are actually just a collection of baby rosettes propagated (easily) from stem or leaf cuttings. The slow growing nature of the plants means the displays you create don't get unruly too quickly, you will generally have to re-pot or trim only every 6-12 months.
Propagating Succulents The photo above (thanks to 'Succulents & Sunshine') is a new miniature rosette starting to grow on the end of a severed leaf. Succulents can be propagated using either a stem or leaf cutting. A stem cutting involves snipping a portion of the stem from the plant with a secateurs before planting in moist compost. The cutting should be left open to the air for a few days for the cut to form a callous and seal over before planting.
A leaf cutting is achieved by simply removing a full leaf (right down to its base) from the plant and placing it on a bed of compost. The end of the leaf should not be buried in the compost, it is simply laid on the surface as shown in the image above.
Leaf cuttings need to be misted every day or so with a fine spray of water and should start to produce a new mini plant after 2-4 weeks. Some varieties will propagate better from either a stem or leaf cutting, it's important to check the variety you have before choosing your propagation method.
Succulent Compost As we've said, succulents are desert plants so the compost you use should be very free draining but also quite low in nutrients. You can purchase a cacti and succulent compost mix or you can make up you own using potting compost, coir and horticultural grit or perlite.
The mix we use is 2 parts potting compost, 1 part coir, 2 part coarse sand and 1 part perlite. It is OK to use a standard multipurpose compost (which will have fertiliser added) as bulking up with the other additions reduce the amount of fertiliser in the mix.
Watering Succulents Again, coming back to our desert conditions, succulents should be allowed to dry out between watering in the same way they would in their natural environment. These are tough plants and will more likely suffer from pampering rather than neglect. From October to March plants should not be watered at all other than a light misting with a spray bottle. From April plants should be watered approx every 2 weeks depending on their position (full sun or partial shade).
If you want to give them the super deluxe treatment, water with tepid rainwater instead of tap water. This is because minerals in tap water can build up in the soil and can leave deposits on the leaves. You might feel life is too short to bother with the tepid water but they actually do seem to grow better, they certainly don't like cold, wet roots.
Flowering Succulents flower at different times (autumn or spring) depending on the variety. In their natural habitat they follow a pattern between a dry season when they rest and a rainy season when they flower.
You can simulate the seasons and get the best flowers by keeping watering to a minimum for the rest period followed by an increase in water and a little feed when the plant enters its flowering period. Check the flowering period for the variety you are growing so get your timing right.
Where to plant Most varieties are not hardy so are best planted in pots when growing outside so they can be moved indoors in winter. Personally I think they look their best planted in bowls as in the photo above. There is plenty of inspiration online where home growers have created some fantastic looking displays.
The majority of succulents have fibrous roots which grow close to the surface so are well suited shallow pots or wide bowls. Unglazed terracotta is a good option as they warm up quickly (if growing outside), they are also porous which allows the compost to drain and dry quicker after rain.
Adding a fine gravel to the surface of the compost looks great but is also practical as it prevents leaves rotting from being in contact with damp compost.
How to order We are stocking an extensive range of really superb little plants. I am not just saying this, I actually couldn't believe how uniform the little plants look. The photo in the product page below and the one above the 'watering succulents' paragraph above is our nursery stock, they really do look great.
Helpful as always, I have built a number of ordering options including our clever custom picker which includes an info window on each variety (which takes ages to set up, this is why I didn't send a mailer last week!). You can order the 'Choose Your Own' packs as a 6, 12 or 18 pack with the individual plants getting slightly cheaper as the numbers go up. You can also order individual varieties as 3 packs, I am afraid we can't send single plants as the price of packing is more than the plant so we can't make our few meagre pennies.
I have included links to products below or a link to our full succulent range which you can access by clicking the blue button.