(Omnivoracious) - When my 5-year-old nephew came by my garden last
summer, the otherworldly plants snaking out of my patio containers
fascinated him. He wanted to feel them, but when I told him they were
succulents, he drew his hand back fast and asked gravely, "What do
they suck?" (Cuuuuuute.)
Succulents--a plant gang that includes cacti, the tender and showy
echeverias, and cold-hardy sempervivum commonly known as hen and
chicks, among others--SO DO NOT suck that I'm always amazed when I
realize so many people I know and love haven't really noticed them
before. For my money, succulents are the most exciting plants for new
gardeners. As Debra Lee Baldwin says in her gorgeous new Succulent
Container Gardens, "these are plants that allow you to be lazy" and
still look amazing--just give them sun, drainage, and a little water
every week or two, and they'll reward you by looking plump and
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Succulents are very often native to quite arid or desert climates but it depends on genus. The term "succulent" usually refers to the fleshy foliage or stems, which act like water storage organs so the plants can tolerate extended dry periods. Because of this botanical feature and their ability for most to withstand full sun and hot temperatures, they are often used as very low maintenance landscape plants in areas like Arizona and SoCal. But many will also grow well in cooler and wetter environments as long as they have fast drainage.
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