Plant Care & Gardening Tips
Welcome to the fascinating world of Soft and Hardy Succulents! We have developed one of the country's most extensive collections of Sedum, Sempervivum, Heuffelii and other succulents. Their variety, color and texture will intrigue you, while their ease of propagation and low maintenance requirements will help give you years of growing satisfaction.
Hardy Succulent Folklore
Sempervivum and Sedum are considered ‘Old World Treasures’ and are associated with mythology. During early centuries in Scandinavian countries, they were called "Thor’s Helper" and were believed to drive off demons and guard homes if planted on roofs. The Romans called them "Beard of Jupiter" and planted them on roofs to guard against lightning. This myth spread throughout Europe to Ireland where they were described as "a wee cabbage sat down, on my roof." The name of Sempervivum Tectorum is taken from the Latin tectum, meaning roof.
What are Soft Succulents?
The term “soft succulents” covers a broad range of succulents that are mostly quite drought tolerant, like most succulents, but are less tolerant of cold temperatures than “hardy” succulents. Extreme wet weather will also be tolerated, providing you have the proper drainage. They feature a wide range of textures and colors and are incredibly versatile. They can be used as low water-using ground cover in warmer areas, in pots of all kinds, as house plants, as wedding favors, to “paint” living pictures on green walls or wreaths, and much, much more.
In appearance Sempervivums have many different textures and forms: from velvety, wooly, satins, fringed, tufted, and spidery webs. Some are large and some grow 1/4" diameter and produce tight clumps which have a tendency to produce interesting mounds. There is a wide range in color from silver-blues to the darkest of purple, to delicate pinks. Most of the plants show their best color in the spring and again in the fall. There are also many forms, from rosettes, tight balls (rollers), artichoke look-a-likes, and some that have the appearance of stones.
All Hardy Succulents are hardy to zone 5 unless otherwise noted. Some varieties, such as a number of Sedum, can be grown in zone 4 or zone 3.
Soft Succulent hardiness varies among the different types. Generally, it is not recommended to grow Soft Succulents outside in a frost area (and are considered zone 9 and higher). They can be grown in containers and moved inside for the winter. However, experience at the nursery has demonstrated many, but not all, can tolerate temperatures somewhat below freezing. Most of the Soft Succulents which have rosettes of thick fleshy leaves, such as many of the Echeveria, are hardy to at least the mid 20’s F. Soft Succulents with thinner individual leaves, like most Kalanchoe, can tolerate temperatures just below freezing but are killed back to the roots when the temperature reaches the mid 20’s F. For gardeners, this modest hardiness can simplify or eliminate winter protection depending on your location.
Planting and Care
All plants may be grown in full sun where summers are cool (80-85 degrees) or along the coast. Keys to success: Where summer temperatures reach over 85 degrees for extended periods of time, best results are obtained by growing Semps in morning sun with filtered shade after 1 P.M.. In hot weather Sempervivum will tend to close to protect themselves from hot sun; providing some shade will prevent this and preserve their color longer. They are excellent container plants, needing only a small amount of soil, and also perform well in raised beds where they can be easily viewed. Immediately after planting, shade( if it is hot) for several days, water thoroughly, allowing soil to dry between watering. Provide good drainage and keep the crown above the soil line. A top dressing of sharp sand around the crown is beneficial for appearance and extra drainage if you so desire.
All of our listed plants will grow in most soil, but good drainage is vital for the survival of all Succulents and Alpines. We recommend 1/3 soil, 1/3 pumice and 1/3 sharp’s sand. Bank planting works well with succulents and will help to achieve adequate drainage. A 5.10.10 fertilizer is recommended 1-2 times during the spring. Bone meal can be added to the soil at anytime.
Pests and Diseases
The name "Sempervivum" translated means "Live-for-Ever" which makes a statement regarding the hardiness of the plants. The most common pest is the Aphid. Insecticide soap or a garden spray should take care of the problem. Mealy bugs can be found occasionally; they are more prone to be in potted plants. Most sprays will take care of the problem. If they do persist a garden systemic spray should solve your problem.
Sempervivum will produce multiple chicks per growing season. Some of the cultivars are more prolific than others but you can usually count on at least four chicks per season. You can leave them attached to the mother hen to fill in your garden planting, or you can remove the chicks and start a new planting elsewhere. Chicks will do best when you: Trim the stem to 1", place in a shady area for several days, then plant and water. Do not water again until the soil is dry, usually 5 to 7 days. Heuffelii do not produce chicks and must be cut apart with a sharp knife, leaving a part of the carrot-looking root on each section. Let cuttings dry in the shade for several days before planting. Water requirements are the same as the Semps.
Green Wall Guide
Our nursery created a beautiful green wall for a flower show using succulent plants. We documented the process and created a brief guide showing how to create a green wall with succulents. Click here to see the guide.