succulents

Succulent sedums grow on a green roof. The vegetative cover is very drought tolerant and dense like sod.

Wannabe gardeners with brown thumbs and the desire for a greener living environment might try growing succulents. The plants, which include cacti, have become the “it” plant for inexperienced and experienced gardeners alike.

As people become more exposed to succulents, interest in them is growing faster than that in other kinds of plants, say those familiar with them. Not only does growing succulents require little expertise, they require little water, time or funds.

“There's a general craze about the plants nowadays,” says Ryan Van Hoy, a horticultural student at Trident Technical College. The variety of outlets that sell them, from retail garden centers to trendy online furnishing stores such as West Elm, are a testament to their widening appeal.

They are among many plants that will be seen and purchased at this year's Charleston Horticultural Society's Plantasia, a Friday and Saturday plant sale on Wragg Square.

The event also includes a number of gardening workshops covering several other topics such as natural gardening and container gardens.

“Succulents come in every imaginable color and texture,” Van Hoy says. “They grow in some of the most arid areas in the world. You almost can't kill them and that makes them perfect for many home gardening situations.”

Johanna Neiman, also a student in Trident's horticulture program, says the plants are a lot more forgiving in situations where the gardener must spend a lot of time away from home because succulents retain moisture in their leaves.

While most other plants might look ragged or dead when the gardener returned, the succulents would not, Neiman says.

Succulents run the gamut when it comes to shapes, colors and textures. They can look like cones, rosettes or peppers. And they might be green, gold, purple or even pink. Some are smooth to the touch while others might be prickly.

And the names: aloe, agave, burro's tail, echeveria, jade plants, pencil cactus, prickly pear cactus and hen and chick yucca. All are popular choices, but represent only a tiny fraction of the varieties available.

They also can be used in a variety of ways.

“I grew some hens and chicks in a terrarium,” says Neiman. “I got some glass containers, one that looks like a big cognac glass, put nice white sand on the bottom of it, and planted different varieties of sedum. Then I stuck my little votive candle in there with some shells I found on the beach.”

John Millman, who works at Hyams Garden Center on Folly Road, owns about 25 different kinds of succulents. They like sandy soil, but it helps to add a little peat moss and top soil, he says. They also need a little fertilizer. Those in containers need to be watered about once a month. Some in the ground don't need to be watered at all.

Succulents also are environmentally beneficial when used as covers for flat roofs, Van Hoy says. Planting a flat roof can lower an inside house temperature by up to 20 degrees during the summer. The roofs also lower ambient temperatures in cities by absorbing heat.

“I am experimenting with making outdoor furnishings and having an outside table with a strip of succulents down the middle,” Van Hoy says. Succulents can also be planted in picture frame shapes and hung on walls as art.

Millman says other gardeners grow succulents on the tops of sheds in their back yards.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.