Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Succulents - 29 March 2016

Mavis gave a presentation on succulents.  The following are her notes:

"Today I want to talk about my new gardening interest which is succulents. I was astonished to find there are thousands of varieties so better to start out simple. I became interested when visiting plant fairs. The selections from specialist nurseries was astonishing and I felt like a child in a sweet shop.

So what is a succulent?
It is simply a plant that stores water in its leaves, which are often but not always fleshy. "All Cacti are succulents but few succulents are Cacti".

So why succulents?
They can be grown in containers, on a rockery slope and in a gravel garden either with cacti or other plants.
They are more forgiving than other plants and, apart from the ones that cannot take the frost, are ideal for people with second homes or travel a lot as they can take quite a lot of neglect and most survive with very little water.
They can make an interesting display in the corner of a terrace and also for people in apartments with only a balcony.

In my garden I have restanques which have a metre band of ordinary small stones on top. I have now started making pockets of soil to fill with sempervivums and sedums.

I shall now concentrate on container growing.

What do you need:
  • A container with a drainage hole as these plants cannot sit with wet roots. Containers can be anything you find attractive or interesting from terra cotta and ceramic pots to baskets, old cups even tin cans as long as they have a drainage hole. Shallow clay bowls are best as one does not want a great depth of soil.
  • Cover the drainage hole with broken pots, fly screen mesh or even paper towel to prevent loss of soil.
  • Soil - either special cactus and succulent soil or a good potting compost with good drainage material - grit, fine gravel, vermiculite and I believe aquarium gravel. Mr. Bricolage sells sacks of an attractive sand coloured gravel at 9 €. Slow release fertiliser.
  • Plants. A list of different types to follow.
  • Surface mulch - again gravel - fine to quite large, small stones, shells or decorative stones.  Two reasons for this, it covers the soil and shows the plants to better effect and more importantly when pushed under the leaves it protects them from rotting and disease.  Also discourages snails.
  • Position - they like 4-5 hrs sun a day and soeme dappled shade.
  • They should be planted in moist soil (not wet). Should only be watered when they have completely dried out. Try not to water leaves, a small watering can, as used for indoor plants. Our water leaves calcaire on the leaves.
  • Feeding if not using slow release fertiliser, give a liquid feed once a month in spring and summer (there are special feeds?).
  • Temperatures - Sedums and sempervivum can take the frost as can some Agaves and Echiveras. It is important not to mix those which cannot go below 5 º C with hardier varieties especially in containers. Some like Aeoniums need winter protection.
  • Pests - relatively pest free though apparently they can be attached by white mealy bugs but I have not had problems. Snails. Not sure about caterpillars.
  • I will show you examples today. If you get the bug you can make attractive presents for family and friend and if you propagate your own plants you save money.

How to propagate.
Spring is best but anytime is possible.

What do you need:
  1. Containers or plastic pots prepared as for planting.
  2. Seed tray or pot for leaf cuttings.
  3. Sharp knife.
Five ways to propagate.

Aireal roots - when fine hairs hang down from stem. Cut stalk and head of plant below the hairs - leave for a day, then  plant.

Leaf cuttings - choose healthy lower leaves and remove by a gentle twist, rock or cut without damaging the leaf.  Leave the leaves for 3 to 4 days on a plate to dry out. A callus will grow over the wound, then leave the leaf on the surface of the soil undisturbed until you see new little plants growing at the base of the leaf. It will also have fine red roots growing. The leaf feeds the new little plant. The original leaf will then die. Plant in individual little pots when large enough to move.

When a plant gets leggy and untidy. With a sharp knife cut a stem in half leaving the lower half and root in pot (can be pot with fresh soil). You may now find new buds will grow on the stem. With the top half of the stem cut off the stalk 2 cm below rosette and leave 2-3 days to form a callus. Plant this in a pot. If you have a long piece of stem left from the middle, lay this on the top of some soil and it may start growing new babies along the stem.

Many succulents and cacti increase themselves by sending out individual new plants at their base which can then be cut away carefully from the parent and potted up. Many sempervirens send out stolents - this is a fine stalk with a tiny baby at the end which beds itself in the soil, thereby producing an ever-growing mass of plants.

Succulents which produce flowers can occasionally produce seeds. Do not let plant cuttings dry out, spray lightly until established, keepo in a sheltered position out of direct sunshine.

Some common succulents:

Sedum (Stone Crop)
withstands cold to -10º C.
S. rubrotinctium, S. acre 'Aureum', S. rupestre, S. spectabile.

Sempervivum (Houseleek)

S. tectorum, S. arachnoideum, S. cilosum, S. montanum, S. guisepif, S. pachyclados.


E. setosa (furry), E. runyoni, E. treieasal (pink), E. 'Perle von Nuernberg', E. ramillette, E. secund 'glauca'.


H. attenuata, H. reinwardtii.


P. oviferum (moonstone).


G. bellum, G. amethyst.


A. 'Zwartkop', A. arboretum.


C. 'Jade Plant', C. rupestris, C. pulverulento 'Dudley'.


Portulaca, Delosperma, Carpobrotus.

Agaves & Aloes

Literally thousand of plants in the succulent/cacti family.

Some plant fairs to obtain succulents:

Villecroze Plant Fair - 24 April 2016.
Jardin d'Albertas, Bouc-bel-air,  20/21/22 May 2016.


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