Container gardening is the perfect way to fight off the winter blues. You may have a frosty nose and frozen toes, but growing succulent plants — either in a container garden or even a rock garden — will make you feel like spring has arrived already. Succulents are fairly undemanding and often quite frost-resistant, so you can even locate them outdoors on a porch or patio. Succulents come in a spectacular array of colors and textures, which makes for a fun and interesting design challenge.
Choose Your Succulents
You can choose from a myriad of succulents, but Sempervivums, commonly known as hens and chicks, are among the most versatile. Because this species’ roots are relatively shallow, a bowl, dish, or even a teacup can work well as a container. Plant one larger container, or have fun with lots of smaller ones along a sunny windowsill. They have the advantage of not taking up very much indoor growing space. Red and purple varieties inter-planted with mint- or lime-green species will really spice up your winter gardening palette.
Prepare Your Container: Drainage is Key
Finding the ideal container for your winter succulent garden is half the fun. You can go for something whimsical, like an old teapot, wagon, seashell, rusty bucket or even a cowboy boot. The important thing is to be sure that whatever container you choose has one or more large holes for drainage. If the soil becomes too wet, succulents’ roots will become waterlogged and rot, causing the plants to wither and die.
If you do select an unconventional container, make sure to drill or carve large holes to increase drainage. Holes should be 1/2 inch or more in diameter for small pots and 1 inch or more for large pots. It’s a myth that adding gravel or broken pieces of a pot to the bottom of your container will increase drainage. Instead, this allows even more water to pool in the bottom of the container. Use a sandy soil, or a soil from your garden center that is specifically designed to maximize the health of your succulent garden.
Light and Shade Play an Important Role
With so many cultivars to choose from, some will have varying light and care requirements. Check the plant tag to ensure that your selected plants (if you plan to combine them in the same pot) have similar needs and play well together. Most succulents do best if they only receive direct sunlight for a few hours each day. They can actually suffer from sunburn and be scorched by the midday sun. However, most do need plenty of bright, indirect light. Give your newly purchased plants an adjustment period to become acclimatized to their new home.
In the Salt Lake area, Millcreek Gardens offers a variety of supplies to support your garden any time of the year. Ask the friendly, experienced staff for suggestions and advice on container gardening to keep your succulents growing and thriving all year long.