Succulent comes from the Latin work sucus meaning “juice” or “sap”.
There are approximately 60 plant families which contain succulents. Avid collectors are very quick to point out that Cacti are not considered succulents but botanists and horticulturists would disagree on this point. These fascinating plants have the ability to survive in adverse conditions which makes them ideally suited to the water restrictions we are currently living with. Their fleshy/swollen appearance is due to water storage which is a characteristic known as succulence.
INDIGENOUS SUCCULENTS ALOES A very large genus of approximately 450 species, Aloes come from Africa, Arabia and Madagascar. These summer growers need light shade to filtered sun and limited water during winter which is their dormant period.
Drought tolerant but frost sensitive, they need a slightly acidic soil (pH 5-6) (Right: Aloe Brevifolia; Aloe Squarosa & Aloe Arista) CRASSULA Native to South African and Madagascar, these succulents vary in size and colour. Easy to grow and drought tolerant, they need a fair amount of sun. Some varieties become large shrubs, which makes them ideal for landscaping purposes.
HAWORTHIA Native to South Africa, these succulents have attractive leave patterns. Spring/autumn growers, they are dormant over summer and require semi-shade or filtered sun. (Left: Haworthia Limifolia; Haworthia Pentagona & Haworthia Coarctata) Crassula Argentea SEDUM Native to the northern hemisphere with a few varieties in the southern hemisphere, these succulents form lovely groundcovers. The leaves of some varieties turn red when exposed to full sun.
Easy to care for, they require full sun or light shade. GASTERIA Native to the Eastern Cape Province, these succulents have thick, hard tongue-shaped leaves. They thrive in light shade and sandy, welldrained soil. (Right: Gasteria Little Warty & Gasteria Flo) ECHEVERIA: THE MOST POPULAR NON-INDIGENOUS SUCCULENT Native to the America’s, this is most probably the most popular of the succulents due to their range of colours and shapes.
The prettiest of succulents, they are prized by collectors. Also known as desert roses, they are often used in floral displays and are popular with brides as wedding favours. Growing to up to a width of 50cm, they make a stunning display when in full bloom. With a shallow root system, they require good level s of organic matter and full sun. Succulents can survive in the most adverse conditions.
However, if you want your succulents to thrive you need to provide them with well-drained soil, light fertiliser during their growing season and water on a regular basis. Allow the roots to dry out between watering. Some varieties do not require as much sun as you think and prefer filtered sun or semi-shade.
These are fascinating plants which will keep you enthralled as you learn and watch them grow!
Ingrid Riedmeyer, Flora Jubilee