In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
Plants called succulents are adapted to arid climates and are native to many places around the world. A few are even native to Florida. They are often called “Fat Plants” since their leaves are typically plump and juicy looking. Their cool looks are not fashion statements but a response to the harsh climactic conditions in which they developed. In order to survive in hot dry climates, they retain moisture in their leaves, stems, and roots and often those leaves take on interesting shapes.
Travel to the following locations around the world to find a variety of native succulents. This list only scratches the surface and these regions may have only one or a few species native to that area.
Russia – stonecrop
Northern Europe – sedum
Middle East – aloe, adenium
Madagascar – aloe and kalanchoe
Africa – aloe, bulbine, echeveria, haworthia, lithops, sansevieria, senecio, stapelia
South America – dyckia, pedilanthus, portulaca
Mexico – agave, dasylirion, echeveria, opuntia (cactus), selenicereus
Southwestern USA – agave, echinocerus, ferocacxtus, hesperaloe, nolina, ocotillo, opuntia, yucca
Florida – agave, opuntia, harissia (cactus), yucca
Most succulents are known by their Latinized botanical names. This is a sample of some with common names you may have heard: Sansevieria spp. – mother in law’s tongue/snake plant, Kalanchoe thrysiflora – cow’s tongue/flapjack plant, Lithops spp. – living stones, Crassula ovata – jade plant, and Yucca aloifolia – Spanish bayonet.
Many succulents are now available for purchase around the world and display greenhouses have areas dedicated to these interesting plants. Even though they may have disparate heritages, many can grow in one area because they are provided with well-drained soils (also called sharp soil/drainage) and the moisture levels are controlled. They don’t mind taking in moisture but an excess of it in poorly draining soil will rot the roots and kill the plants. Most succulents thrive in full to part sun, while others grow better in part sun. A few, such as sansevieria, will also take shade and make good houseplants.
We planned a recent visit to California to include two amazing gardens (Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and Lotusland next to Santa Barbara) full of succulents. Then by happenstance while travelling between the two gardens, we discovered a nursery, Succulent Gardens in Castroville, with gorgeous vignettes of succulents. Many are arranged by the nativity of the plants.
Totally seduced by succulents we had not seen before, we accumulated a handful and managed to bring them back with us. Rest assured they are already planted in sharp soil. Please let us know if you spot a cruise line offering an around-the-world cruise focused on succulents. We’ll book it in a heartbeat!
Join us for a seductive program about succulents – “Sexy Succulents” at Harry P. Leu Gardens on Wednesday May 17th from 6:30- 8:30 p.m. To register, call 407.246.3621 or visit www.leugardens.org/classes/.
Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886/ email@example.com.
All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasis