Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Succulent city

Just re-organised my succulents again, and this is them, pictured here. Repotted lots of them, cut down on the number of pots and improved soil drainage for all the pots.
I grow the succulents in pots as the soil is a bit heavy for them here. Last year I did a little experiment and created a low, raised metal mesh 'bed' that was just 100mm off the ground, and sat lots of pots on that mesh. Every succulent sitting on that mesh took off like crazy, including a couple of my 'stugglers' that up till that point had never really grown all that brilliantly. So, last weekend I created an even bigger metal mesh bed and every pot is now well off the ground, with perfect drainage.
Hopefully, that will do the trick. My current mesh beds are made up from offcuts of timber and cheap wire mesh. Probably life expectancy for the timber on the ground is a couple of years at best, if I never touch it. Maybe by then I'll have saved up for a metal fabricator to weld up something suitable, for a permanent solution, or I might bite the bullet and create a special raised garden bed for them, but I have to confess that I prefer the higgledy-piggledy look of the jumble of pots!

Why all the succulents? Well, apart from being interesting, drought-hardy, unusual and colourful, they travel really well. Every time we go on holidays somewhere in Australia, the easiest plants to bring home are succulents. And the easiest cuttings to swap with friends are succulents. And the easiest cuttings to propagate are succulents. So, once you start with them, by a matter of degrees, even if you never intended to have a succulent collection, you'll probably end up with lots of them. That's partly the reason for the pots: you collect them in ones and twos, and so you add a pot to a little gap here, another pot on the pavers there...

Succulent growing tips: apart from providing good drainage and using a specialist succulent potting mix (or a home-made mix based on coarse sand), succulents just need sunshine. They actually colour up and look much better in really cold climates, but they do fine here in Sydney. I do use a specialised low-nitrogen succulent fertiliser, but only during the growing season, and only in very light doses. If you fail to water them at all, and the weather is really dry for a long, the soil can become water-repellent, so it's a good idea to add a wetting agent to the soil (or the watering can) to help the water absorb into the potting mix (or soil). Even though these plants are drought-hardy, they do grow better with an occasional good drink.

What's in the pic? The usual suspects: echeverias, aeoniums, graptopetalums, sedums, agaves, senecios, cotyledons, crassulas, euphorbias, graptoverias, kalanchoes, stapelias plus, of course, some weirdos whose names I don't know. We just liked the look of them at some far-off nursery, then brought them home. That's how it is with succulents.


greengardener said...

You've got a great collection of succulents, and the efforts you have employed to ensure extra good drainage are food for thought. I hadn't planned to start a succulent collection but after my first few I quickly became hooked! I recently lost a few that were doing well, and I think it was due to the preceding rain. I had the thought to put scoria in the bottom of the pots at planting time, but as I was using a good quality succulent potting mix I thought it wouldn't be necessary. The others are doing OK, so I guess it's because they are different varieties and have a higher tolerance to a bit of extra moisture. It all a learning experience.

greengardener said...

That was interesting to learn about the cold weather improving the colour. This would explain why my Flapjack has been pale through summer, and is only just starting to get some colour back now in March. Some of the other varieties of succulents I'd bought as either cuttings or tube stock last spring have also lost their original colour, so I hope they regain their colours soon. I'd thought I was doing something wrong, so it was good to learn this, thanks Jamie.