Succulents have it all (delightful shapes, a variety of colors and a range of sizes) so it's no surprise that they are a favorite choice for landscape designers. They do more than add beauty to outdoor spaces. Succulents can also be effective problem solvers, replacing a water-intensive lawn with a more drought-tolerant landscape, filling narrow planting areas, creating low-maintenance container plantings, and much more.
Before planting succulents, it is important to know a few things. There are many kinds of succulents. Some thrive in full sun, while others prefer shade; many love warm climates, but a number can be grown in cold regions as well. It's important to note the USDA hardiness zone and recommended sun exposure of each succulent before you add it to your garden.
All succulents require well-drained soil, as they will not survive for long in soggy conditions. Succulents do need water. A general guideline is to water them deeply and then let the soil completely dry out before watering again.
Replace Thirsty Lawns
We may enjoy the bright green color of lawns, but they take a lot of water and require frequent maintenance in the forms of fertilizing and mowing. Replacing grass with succulents is a great way to reduce water usage and garden maintenance.
There are many bright green succulents that can re-create that lush appearance of a lawn. If cool blue-gray hues are more your style, there are succulents for that too. Visit your local nursery to see what types of succulents do well in your area, and choose those that you like best and fit the sun exposure that your front yard receives.
Switch Out Flowering Annuals
Growing flowers in pots is a high-maintenance garden element, with constant deadheading and frequent watering and fertilizing. Instead of adding annual flowers to your pots every few months, switch them out for colorful succulents, which will lend beauty throughout the year for a fraction of the water and fertilizer required for flowers.
Use a planting mix that is specifically formulated for succulents, and fertilize in spring and in summer using a slow-release fertilizer.
Fill Narrow Areas
Small planting beds can be a difficult spot to add plants, with their limited soil space. However, many succulents thrive in these confines. Narrow planting beds are frequently found next to the foundation of buildings and walls, where frequent watering is discouraged because of the damage it can cause to structures. Adding succulents that need infrequent watering is often a viable option for these confined spaces.
Substitute for High-water-use Flowering Perennials
When we think of flowering plants, succulents don't often come to mind; however, many succulents produce beautiful displays of flowers that will add welcome color to the landscape while needing much less water. Ask your local master gardener or nursery professional what kinds of flowering succulents do well in your region.
No Nearby Water Source? Fill Containers with Succulents
We don't always think of how our newly planted containers are going to get watered. Despite our best intentions, we don't always water them regularly, and they can suffer because of this. This is particularly true in areas like sidewalks or courtyards where there isn't a nearby hose or spigot.
Succulent-filled containers are a great alternative for these spots, because you can enjoy the beauty of plants in pots while not having to water them frequently. Water only when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil is completely dry.
Use in Coastal Gardens Where Salt Spray is a Factor
When growing plants in areas near the coast, salt spray in the air can be a problem for plants that aren't salt-tolerant. There are, however, several succulents that do well in this situation. If you live near the coast, visit your local nursery for succulent recommendations.
Plant in Beds that don't Have an Irrigation System
Planting areas without an irrigation system don't have to be left empty. Add succulents for a welcome splash of green color, and water infrequently when the top couple of inches of soil are dry.
Brighten Locations that Receive Hot, Reflected Sun
Many types of succulents are well-suited to areas where the sun beats down mercilessly, and they help soften these areas visually and prevent them from appearing washed out. When looking for succulents for this type of location, be sure to choose those that can handle hot, reflected sun. Your local nursery professional or master gardener can provide you with a list of plants that will work in this challenging situation.
- Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus