Succulents

gardener 2005 07 succulents 1 Succulents gardener 2005 07 succulents 2 Succulents

KALANCHOE thyrsiflora or White Lady has fat grey leaves edged with pink, reminiscent of a full blown rose, and bears a majestic spike (up to 1,5 m high) of white buds which open to bright yellow, scented flowers. The plants form wonderful rosettes and bear flowers within their second year, after which they die back leaving hosts of seedlings at their feet. They add texture to a bed and are superb in a pot.

Crassulas deserve a whole article of their own – many of them thrive in semi shade and all have nectar-rich flowers. Members of the Blues and Copper butterflies breed on this family. With 200 species of Crassula there will doubtless be some suitable for your part of the country. Shown here is
CRASSULA alba – most inappropriately named because the petals are not whitish but a deep ruby red and absolutely riveting in a garden. Lime green basal rosettes of leaves add to their attraction and they are hugely popular with bees and insects. Although they die down after flowering they bloom for many weeks in autumn and are quick to re-sprout with many seedlings. They are such a joy!

gardener 2005 07 succulents 3 Succulents
ALANCHOE thyrsiflora (White Lady)

One of the biggest pleasures in my garden comes from one of the smallest plants –
CRASSULA nudicaulis. Bright green foliage and little flowering spikes of minute white flowers enjoy pride of place in my succulent bed because of the life they nurture. When in flower, a cloud of tiny butterflies and other insects hover over them for 6 weeks; making them quite a talking point, which every visitor is taken to see! Do seek them out and plant them if you can.

CRASSULA sarmentosa tumbles and spills down banks and is equally electrifying in a pot. Handsome foliage and large heads of little pinkish white flowers will light up any spot in dry semi-shade. They also draw bees and butterflies like a magnet.

KLEINIA fulgens is a delight in a dry spot. Grey leaves (wonderful texture and contrast especially with lime green Crassulas) and bright red blooms provide months of colour in winter. They are also excellent in a pot provided they have good drainage.

While on the subject of pots, another rewarding plant isPLECTRANTHUS neochilus with its purple-grey succulent leaves and fat purple flower spikes – our indigenous equivalent of lavender. It will rapidly cover a bank and thrives in semi shade and full sun, though it flowers prolifically in the latter. A delight indeed!

So go ahead this winter – search out our succulent treasures and treat yourself to year round displays of colour, texture and form, not to mention butterflies.

In closing I mention a special Aloe which is fairly uncommon in KZN gardens.
ALOE pluridens is endemic to the east coast of SA and here’s the joyful thing about it – it loves the shade! The soft green leaves are handsome in their own right with apricot flowers borne in May and June. It grows tall, but suckers wildly from the stem so it always remains quite bushy – so useful for the shady difficult areas under the eaves.

gardener 2005 07 succulents 4 Succulents

ALOE pluridens
CRASSULA alba

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