From Succulents to Water Gardens


The Kiawah Island Garden Club met in February to hear Nancy Hart, of Church Creek Nursery, talk about growing succulents, which have specially structured leaves which hold water.  Deer do not normally like succulents, but the “lead doe” in each herd decides what the herd will eat.  Most succulents are cold hardy in our area, down to 20 degrees, and some are moderately hardy, down to 28 degrees.  Sedums are normally flat growing succulents and are great ground covers.  Another succulent type is Echeveria, better known as “hens and chicks”, which hardly ever need water:  if they are bone dry wait another week to water and never let water puddle. Echevarias will grow from one leaf, or an entire stem (a cutting with no roots):  just stick it in the soil, do not water and it will send out roots.  The water would rot the plant. 

 Succulents with tiny leaves do need water and average drainage like normal plants.  Ice Plants are dry-loving plants, and in planters should be paired with similar plants. They are great for creating “fairy gardens”.

In planters, the soil should be peat and perlite potting soil and ¼ builders sand for drainage, with no bark, which holds water.  Good soil is available at All Seasons at River Road and Maybank.  A hole in the bottom of the pot is best, which can be drilled with a masonry bit (a little water in the pot while drilling keeps it from cracking).  Then a shard should be placed over the hole. A good design principle is to plant a “Thriller, a Spiller and a Filler”, with the taller center plant as the Thriller.  Chinese Sedum, which turns red in the Fall is perfect, and is garden hardy.  Harmonious or contrasting succulents are then planted around the Thriller plant.  After planting the pot, water it thoroughly and then leave it alone.   If you fertilize use a weak solution maybe once a month, and do not use Root Tone. 

A lovely way to grow succulents is in a wreath formed from spaghnum moss.  Simply soak the wreath and then stick cuttings into it, holding them in place with hairpins.  When it needs water, submerge it in water for 10 minutes then let it dry out.    If you want to hang the wreath, let it “root in” for a good while first. 

All succulents will grow with four hours of sun, maybe 5, but no more.  They will take less water.  Indoors the plants need to be close to a window, lamp light doesn’t count.  You can leave plants outside but they need to be sheltered in extended periods of rain, three days or so.