By Glenn DiNella
Whether you are a complete novice gardener or an old-hand green thumber, you can have fun and success with succulents. They are easy to grow, very drought tolerant once established, simple to propagate, and fun to pass along to fellow gardeners.
Better yet, they come in thousands of shapes, sizes, and colors — ranging from the jade groundcover, above, to the crinkly-leaf Echeveria, right.
Sedum is one of the most popular succulents. Some of my favorites are the low-growing ground covers. They work well in pots, as well as landscape beds. Although these ground covers tend to spread, they don’t become aggressive. Sedum is also easy to pull up if it oversteps its boundaries. And talk about tough: I’ve seen landscapers establish roof gardens by throwing sedum cuttings onto the soil atop a roof. Most of it takes root without even raking it into the soil.
Lowe’s has started selling mixed varieties of low-growing sedum in trays. Either plant the entire tray contents in a bed, or cut the mat of sedum into smaller sections to use in pots or beds. Then watch them spread.
You can purchase these trays at Lowe’s typically in spring. If the trays are unavailable, consider growing your own. Purchase some coir fiber, sold in the Lowe’s Garden Department, for lining wire planting baskets and window boxes.
Cut the fiber to fit an old plastic nursery tray, and nestle it in. (Before doing this, you might add a rectangle of plastic bird netting between the tray and the coir. This helps hold the sedum roots together as the coir deteriorates.
Toss in a few varieties of your favorite sedum. Get cuttings from friends, or purchase small pots and divide them gently.
Add some potting mix to cover about 50 percent of the sedum, and water it well. Continue to water regularly until the sedum fills out the tray.
If you start your sedum trays in spring, they’re ready by fall. I leave my trays in a low-key spot in my garden until they fill out and look presentable. You can start this project during any season, but protect the trays if the temperatures dip into the 20s during winter.
When the trays are mature, you can lift out the entire mat of sedum without it breaking up. Now cut it into sections by slicing the backside with a utility knife, or plant the entire mat.
I planted sections of my sedum in a bed just above a retaining wall.
To add some zing to the planting this summer, I tucked in a number of bold, upright succulents behind the low-growing sedum. Lowe’s sells these in several sizes, ranging from quart-size pots, which cost about $5, to 2-gallon pots, from $19 to $23. I selected ‘Flapjack’ kalanchoe, ‘Campfire’ jade, ‘Ghost’ echeveria, and several small ‘Zebra’ haworthia, pictured.
While most of the low-growing sedum planted by my wall survived single-digit temps last winter, I suspect many of the taller succulents will not. If you live in Zone 8 or colder, you can dig up your succulents in fall, plant them in pots, and move them indoors.