Gardening with Laurie: Succulents, sedums good choice for hot, dry weather
During the hot and usually dry summers we experience in this part of the world, we gardeners are always looking for plants that like these conditions. Sure, there are heat lovers like bougainvilleas, periwinkles, zinnias, hibiscus and lots of other summer plants.
But what about a plant that does well in the heat and the cool weather? What about a plant that's happy with very little water, even in the hottest time of the year? And what about a plant that meets these requirements that is attractive and also blooms?
I'm actually describing some of my new favorite plants: sedums and succulents. Let's face it, there are not many of us that like being in the garden during a summer afternoon tending to our plants. The heat and humidity are sometimes unbearable.
Well, sedums and succulent-type plants don't mind this kind of weather. They are as close to carefree as a plant can be. Both of these plants belong to the Crassulaceae family of plants. Although sedums and succulents are genetically different, they are both very compatible and can be grown in the same conditions.
Sedums are typically grown as ground covers, but come in a variety of sizes from two inches tall to a couple of feet tall. They have sprawling stems and succulent type leaves.
The leaves can come in several different colors and shapes. Sedums are sometimes referred to as stonecrops because it's said that only stones need less care and live longer.
Succulents have a rosette-forming-type of growth. Succulents always grow from the center of the rosette in a spiral pattern. Succulents will spread by what are called "chicks," which are attached to the mother "hen" plant by a stem. Succulent chicks will eventually spread to form larger and larger plants. Cacti are all considered succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
Both types of plants will grow in our full summer sun with good drainage. Too much moisture will lead to death or fungal diseases. They are very tolerant of the poorest of soils, as long as it's not compacted.
They will grow best in composted soils with rocky materials (granite, gravel, lava sand) used as a mulch. Both plants can also be grown indoors as houseplants if they can receive three to four hours of direct sunlight. Both types of plants have few insect problems. The most common problem will be rot or fungal diseases from watering issues.
Succulents and sedums will both bloom and their flowers do attract bees and butterflies. The flowers make good cut flowers for arrangements and can be dried as well. With all these wonderful qualities, who wouldn't want to grow sedums and succulents?
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.