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Start a succulent garden!

Published on February 6th 2021

by CandideUK. All rights reserved

A close up of a flower
Succulents are a hot topic during the sweltering summer months in South Africa. Well-adapted to harsh, dry environments, these guys are experts at conserving moisture whilst still maintain a fleshy and lush look.
If you've always wanted to grow a small succulent garden, why not start now? With such a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes and colours to choose from you can create a beautiful and textured display. By planting a succulent garden, you automatically reduce water usage in the garden and by planting locally indigenous succulents you'll preserve local biodiversity and conserve the valuable diversity of species we have in our beautiful country.
A plant in a garden
"Growing a small succulent garden does not only provide endless enjoyment but can also be educational." - Ernst van Jaarsveld
In this article, Ernst van Jaarsveld shares his expert advice and tips on how to prepare your soil when starting a small succulent garden and gives a few suggestions on the type of succulents to get started with.
A close up of a sandwich and a salad

Succulent soil preparation

Soil, plant choice and location are the three elements that you should pay attention to. The most important of these, however, is soil because the plant must spend the rest of their lives there. Plants cannot walk around like animals looking for greener pastures. They are therefore place-bound and the reason why the right soil and location are so essential.
Many succulents are highly adaptable and will grow in many soil types. Of further importance is soil drainage. Too much water causes them to rot quickly. The best general succulent soil mix one part loam (garden soil), one part compost and two parts river sand. In other words, half of the mixture consists of sand to provide drainage.
A pot with food in it

Location matters

Depending on the type of succulent plant, location is important. Certain succulents will suit specific conditions, some do well in a warm, open, sunny north-facing view, and others will survive facing the cooler south, with sufficient light.
As far as plant choice is concerned, we sit with the world's largest succulent diversity and variety for every place under the sun (except for marshes). Each region has its own species and what you have to decide is whether you’re going to establish a winter or summer growing garden.
Choose species that grow easily, as well as a theme; winter or summer growing. The winter-growing succulents such as Conophytum tylecodon are dormant in summer and only grow in winter.
A plant in a garden

Selecting succulents

The next step is selecting succulents. Choose between the shade or sun lovers. The smaller rosette succulents are especially beautiful. There is a great variety in different leaf and flower colours to choose from.
Here is a list of easy-to-grow succulents you can start with:

Smaller, hardy aloes

Short-Leaved Aloe

Aloe brevifolia

Kenya Dwarf Aloe

Aloe juvenna

Tiger Aloe

Gonialoe variegata

Kouga Aloe

Aloe pictifolia

Baviaanskloof Cliff Gasteria

Gasteria rawlinsonii

Dwarf Ox-Tongue

Gasteria bicolor var. liliputana

Ellaphie's Gasteria

Gasteria ellaphieae

Kouga Gasteria

Gasteria glomerata

Keeled Ox-Tongue

Gasteria carinata

Olifants River Cliff Aloe

Aloe humilis

Aloe humilis. Photo by @going.local.


Crassulas for groundcovers:
A plant in a garden
Larger erect Crassulas for the background:

Other succulents

Add a bit of detail

You can also bring in beautiful rocks or stones. It’s better to stick to one theme such as dolomite, quartzite etc.
A piece of cake sitting on top of a rock

Maintaining your succulent garden

The succulents grow slowly and you just need patience. They will slowly wake up and you do not need to apply any plant food at the beginning. If they look pretty fat and happy, rather give them too little water. They’ll soon show if they need water as the leaves begin to shrink. Each plant will form a clump and thus expand to fill the area.

Follow @ernstvanjaarveld for more tips, advice and inspiration on waterwise and indigenous gardening.