Growing Green: Indoor succulent gardens
Looking for a different kind of houseplant or indoor garden? Why not try succulents? Succulents provide interesting geometric forms and textures and require minimal care.
Many cacti and succulents are extremely well adapted for indoor living conditions. They require only modest amounts of water and fertilizer, low relative humidity (10-30 percent) and abundant light.
Select a shallow container with good drainage and fill with a sandy potting mix designed for cacti. Plant your succulents in the container, water and place colorful rocks on top to enhance appearance and drainage.
During the winter months, dormant plants require a thorough, monthly watering. Allow water to pour through the drainage holes. Discard the excess after a few minutes.
Succulents only need fertilizer once or twice a year, when they are actively growing, usually during the spring and summer months.
Cacti and succulents are not usually bothered by pests. If they have mealy bugs or scale, the problem can be controlled by wiping them off with alcohol-dipped cotton swabs. Fungal or bacterial rots can almost always be prevented by maintaining adequate cultural conditions: bright light and proper watering.
Some of my favorite succulents are:
Living stones or pebble plants (Lithops) - These interesting South African succulents resemble mottled, pale stones.
String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) - These trailing plants have bead-like leaves and are often sold in hanging baskets. The plant and its fragile leaves should be handled with care.
Mother of thousands or Mexian hat (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) - This native of Madagascar has triangular leaves lined with many miniature plants.
Bow-tie or cow tongue plants (Gasteria) - These South African succulents can have solid colored or variegated tongue-shaped leaves and produce tubular flowers.
Pinwheel plants (Haworthia) - These plants resemble "hens and chicks" but have more intricate leaves. Look for the many different varieties including zebra plant (red and green striped leaves), limifolia (wide triangular, file-shaped leaves), cymbiformis (fast-growing, soft, grape-like leaves), or truncata (fan-shaped arrangement of low-growing leaves).
Succulents are available at local garden centers and through mail order catalogs. Make sure to protect any new plants from cold, windy weather when you bring them home.
For more information about growing succulents and cacti, visit www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG1127.html.
Until next time, happy gardening!