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Succulent Gardening

Written by Jackie Albarella
Imagery by Jackie Albarella

For many of us, when we think of succulents, we think of the classic aloe or jade plant that Grandma had. But succulent gardening has come a long way. From landscape succulents to beautiful arrangements in pots and containers, succulents can be the new superstar of your garden.
    Succulents are a great plant to add to any part of your landscape. There are hundreds of varieties that can be used in pots, grouped in containers, or used to create focal points in garden beds. In addition to adding some new looks to your landscape, succulents are drought resistant and can go long periods without water; so they provide a great choice for what are becoming long, hot, dry summers.
    Many people confuse succulents with cactus. Although related to the cactus, these plants tend to have shiny, puffed up, waxy looking leaves. Succulent’s leaves store water; they put down a few roots to draw moisture and nutrients from the soil, and, for the most part, are one of the easiest plants you will have in your collection.
    Succulents can be grouped in pots or containers and used throughout the yard on tables, on decks or in entryways. Some of the larger and more dramatic looking succulents, such as yucca, can stay outside all year and can serve as a vertical focal point in a garden bed or in a tall dramatic looking pot. Succulents are also the perfect plants for a rock garden or terrarium.
    One succulent everyone needs in their home is aloe. This plant has beautiful, straight, fleshy leaves, and, when cut open, provides a great salve for sunburn or kitchen burns. It is used in many creams and will live for long periods of time.
    Another favorite is string of pearls, also known as rosary string of beads. This plant looks just like it sounds. It has small, green pea-like foliage on thin, threadlike green stems. String of pearls drapes beautifully and is great in hanging baskets or can be used in a variety of indoor plantings. One concern with this succulent: It is considered to be somewhat toxic and you should use caution if the plant will be around small children or animals.
    Outside, try larger succulents such as burro’s tail. This cascading plant has bluish green leaves and a tiny red flower.
    Remember that jade plant your Aunt had? Well, it is back.Combine a jade with low growing or dwarf succulents and create a beautiful dish garden. Choose a succulent from the hundreds of colors and textures available and plant it in a striking container for a hostess gift or summer wedding favor.
    Remember hens and chicks grown in an old boot? The leaves of these succulents are shaped in rosettes, and come in a variety of colors and sizes. These are still a reliable and fun plant for kids to grow in whatever fun container they have lying around. For other gardeners, there is a large selection of textures, leaf shapes and new varieties of hens and chicks that are always a great, sturdy, long living choice for outdoors.
    Succulents are typically easy to grow and there are so many varieties, sizes and colors that everyone can find something they like. Grown in pots, outdoors, indoors, or even vertically, the succulent is one of those plants that has been around for quite some time and has found new uses and designs to enrich any plant lover’s plot. 


Jackie Albarella is an author, artist, teacher and passionate gardener. See her latest book, Dirty Tricks in the Garden, and more of her work at

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