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Late Season Succulents, Inside or Out

By: Maureen Gilmer

pastel gilmer2

Gorgeous purple hued Echeverias and mint green Sempervivums in a shallow wide pot make a perfect table top feature for autumn outdoor dining.

For parents, back to school season is the happiest time of year. Finally things slow enough to spruce up the garden for fall. But what to do when food plants and flowers are going to seed at summer’s end? Try some experiments with colorful late season succulents in pots to give outdoor living spaces a contemporary feel. When cold nights arrive, just bring them indoors to decorate your home all winter long.

Designing Succulent Pots

You’ve seen them everywhere, those fabulous pots stuffed with vibrant succulents. They look great on tables or arranged on a sunny deck, balcony or window. And, growing and overwintering success is easy. Start by selecting a lightweight pot (with large drainage holes) that is easily carried in or out, and fill with porous Black Gold Cactus Mix potting soil, which provides the ideal root zone environment. Then pick out an array of unique succulents from the garden center, and get planting.

In this composition you can readily see the upright plants, strong rosette forms and cascading edge plants.

In this composition you can readily see the upright plants, strong rosette forms and cascading edge plants.

To achieve the trendy looks of decorator showrooms, select succulents that represent three different forms. First are upright branching types like Euphorbia ‘Firesticks’ or Portulacaria jade trees. Second are the rosette forms of cold hardy Sempervivum and Echeveria varieties. Third are crawlers, such as Senecio string-of-pearls and cascading groundcover sedums that hang off pot edges.

A pot with a balanced design will have one or more of these three forms, but the actual plants you select will define your personal creation. Shop by foliage color for vivid hues that give your composition punch without flowers. For more subtle effects, select pastel shades for a perfect match to your interior color palette.

Planting Succulent Pots

The best succulent pots are created by packing young plants tightly into the container. Generally speaking, succulents plants don’t resent crowded conditions, so purchase good sized individuals that are in scale with the size of your pots for eye popping effects on day one. Fill tiny gaps between root balls with Black Gold Cactus Mix. It’s best to wait a few days to water them in so that any broken stems or roots can heal over with a waterproof callus. This ensures that exposed tissues are not exposed to waterborne diseases that cause rot. (This is a succulent gardening basic; to protect fresh cuts/breaks during the planting process.) And don’t worry about not watering, succulents won’t wilt if not promptly watered.

This composition at the Proven Winners trials shows how perfectly succulent hues blend into fall and water color palettes.

This composition at the Proven Winners® trials shows how perfectly succulent hues blend into fall and water color palettes.

Finished pots should be given plenty of light, a cool winter environment and light water. As days grow shorter and cooler, be aware that succulents don’t need much additional moisture because there’s less loss to evaporation. The cooled, drier conditions of fall will demonstrate just how long moisture can remain in the soil. Succulents will truly thrive through winter with little to no supplemental water while excess water can kill them.

If you’ve been dying to jump into succulents for the first time, late summer is a good time and slower season to start. It’s also more affordable because not only will they make your fall garden sizzle, you’ll enjoy them all winter too. This is economy we can all live with, and if well cared for, they’ll be ready to go back outdoors when it warms up again next year.

About Maureen Gilmer


Maureen Gilmer is celebrating her 40th year in California horticulture and photojournalism as the most widely published professional in the state. She is the author of 21 books on gardening, design and the environment, is a widely published photographer, and syndicated with Tribune Content Agency. She is the weekly horticultural columnist for the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs and contributes to Desert Magazine, specializing on arid zone plants and practices for a changing climate. She works and lives in the remote high desert for firsthand observations of native species. Her latest book is The Colorful Dry Garden published by Sasquatch Books. When not writing or photographing she is out exploring the desert on her Arabian horse. She lives in Morongo Valley with her husband Jim and two rescue pit bulls. When not writing or photographing she is usually out riding her quarter horse.

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