Some Like It Dry
In February I make promises to myself about the garden, mostly about what I will and won't put up with. One of those promises is to spend less time watering. And I'm going to start by combining more drought tolerant plants like sedums and other varieties of succulents in my containers this year.
I was never all that excited about sedums, but when I saw this snappy little combo in a windowbox on a garden tour last summer - Sedum cauticolum 'Lidakense' underplanted with Sedum makinoi 'Ogon', I thought it was an interesting way to use them. It's simple, striking, and even better, sedums can get by with minimal watering. They're tough plants too, hardy to zone 3-5.
I discovered that smaller leafed varieties like 'Ogon' do well inside. The tiny golden leaves cascade abundantly from the pot I have on my west facing windowsill and it looks perkier than most of my other houseplants.
And speaking of houseplants, that leads me to my next promise - to quit futzing around with the ones that don't cut it. After I hauled the most pathetic specimens out to the compost, I had more room on my windowsill. This prompted a shopping trip for plants, and since I had succulents on the brain, I took a trip to Honeoye Falls, New York to visit to Todd Lighthouse, owner of Lighthouse Gardens; www.lighthouse-gardens.com/ to see what he was growing. His greenhouses are filled with edible and ornamental plants grown organically in his own special soil mix. This winter, he's added succulents.
"They're popular now because they provide flowers, are easy to grow and don't require much water," he says. Propagating them is a cinch, Todd cuts the tops off and puts them in a flat open tray to get the cuttings to root.
Most sedums and stonecrops are cold tolerant and hardy to zone 3-5. Other members of the succulent family are more tropical and won't survive winters outside, but some of them make great houseplants. I saw a few sitting on a windowsill in his house, and asked him which varieties would do best there.
"The more tropical varieties with thicker leaves such as sedums, crassulas and echeverias do better inside," he told me. A south to southeast exposure is preferable, but extremely warm temperatures aren't required. Todd keeps his greenhouse at around 40 degrees. They like it dry...my kind of houseplant.
He plans to combine succulents in hanging baskets to sell to his customers this summer. After feasting my eyes on the rich colors and textures spread out on the growing tables, I decided to do some combining of my own. Even without flowers, these silver and purplish rose gems, Graptopetalum 'Paraguayense','Pentandrum' and Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy' are a wow.
One of the darkest toned echeverias, Echeveria 'Black Prince', won my heart - I had to buy it.
I kind of liked this green beauty, Aeonium 'Kiwi Verde' contrasted against the gray.
No surprise, I came home with all of the above, plus a few others. A plant that can do double duty, inside and out appeals to my thrifty nature. My next promise? Buy more of them in spring!