Don’t Squish the Succulents

Cherub gets cozy with fleshy rosettes of mixed succulents in a container.

Are you the “forget to water type” of gardener? Do plants die on you all the time? Maybe you ought to cozy up to a pot of succulents. Their fleshy stems conserve water, like cacti, but you won’t get jabbed by spines. Leaf surfaces are smooth, or covered with a soft fuzz, (although some types, like aloe and some echeveria do have pointy tips.)

To me, the smallish rounded succulents seem almost like little beings, appealingly squishy and cute. It’s perhaps a reason why succulents appeal to children: they have personality. There’s a rather bubble-wrap quality to their round waxy leaves, almost tempting you to squish. (I promise I’m not the only one who feels this way.) But hold yourself back.

Pink, purple, grey-green, succulent leaf colour is almost as varied as their shapes.

A warning: The fascinating range of succulent’s textures, colours, shapes and growth habits is perhaps dangerous if you are also the “collecting type”. Rosette forms, tree-like forms, sculptural, spindly, spiky, trailing: the selection is vast. There are tiny forms as well as massive. A trip to the succulent and cactus house at Toronto’s Allan Gardens is a great viewing spot for succulents any time of year.

Pots of mixed succulents are becoming more commonly available at garden centres. A grouping of them is quite dramatic, with varying shapes and textures growing at all angles. Succulents do need a bright spot indoors over the winter, south or west facing windows are best locations. Then, next spring you can put them outside where they will take the hottest, sunniest spot you have, and they won’t mind at all if you forget to water them.

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