- Plant Care
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.
USA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Hardy Succulent Folklore
Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks) 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.
Hardy Succulent Appearance
Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks)
Sempervivums have many different textures and forms: from velvety, wooly, satins, fringed, to tufted, and spidery webs. Some are large (up to 4” or more in diameter), others are tiny (only 1/4" diameter ). Most produce tight clumps that form interesting mounds. There is a wide range in color from a range of greens to silver-blues to the darkest of purple, to delicate pinks. Most of the varieties 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.
There are over 600 species of sedums with many cultivated varieties. The sedums sold by Mountain Crest Gardens are mostly low, spreading plants that are often used as ground covers on the ground, on roofs, or in containers mixed with other succulents. Leaves can best be described as small and fleshy. Colors range from bright green to bright pink to silver and blue. Many are evergreen, but some of the more popular varieties lose most of their leaves in the cold of winter, and then re-sprout for the summer growing season.
Heuffelii have rich full colors that do not fade, typically shades of green, yellow, red, pink, and purple. Many varieties are defined by distinct edges on the leaves. If left alone, they form a lovely, large clump. The clumps have a more sculptured appearance than Sempervivum. Unlike Sempervivum, flowering rosettes do not die.
What are Soft Succulents?
The term “soft succulents” (also known as “tender 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.
It is important to remember that these plants are tolerant of drought conditions, but will not perform well and perhaps die if treated as cactus. They need some water and fertilizer to be at their best.
Common Soft Succulents include: Echeveria, Crassula, Jade, Kalanchoe, Aloe, Aeonium, and Senecio.
Soft Succulent Appearance
Echeveria are rosette-forming soft succulents that can grow as large as a dinner plate. They range in color from bright green to blue green to purple and variegated red. Leaves are mostly fleshed and arranged around a central stalk, but have a wide variety of forms. They have become very popular for a wide variety of uses including landscape plants (in warmer areas), potted plants, green roof and walls and for table center pieces and wedding decorations.
Other Soft Succulents
Soft succulents include a very diverse group of plants with a wide variety of forms. Most are some variation on the rosette, but some form vines and others appear stone-like.
All Hardy Succulents are hardy to zone 5 (-20 F) unless otherwise noted. Some varieties, such as a number of the Sedum, can be grown in zone 4 or zone 3 (Click here to view the USA Plant Hardiness Map.)
Soft Succulent hardiness varies among the different types. All can be grown outside in frost free areas (USDA zones 10 and higher). Elsewhere they can be grown in containers and moved inside for the winter.
However, 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 (approx. zone 9). 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. This modest hardiness means that they do well outdoors in areas that receive only light frost (such as most coastal locations) and in protected spots in colder areas. (Click here to view the USA Plant Hardiness Map.)
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 sand. Bank planting works well with succulents and will help to achieve adequate drainage. As indicated above, a top dressing of sharp sand or grit can greatly reduce problems with crown rot. A 5.10.10 fertilizer is recommended 1-2 times during the spring. Bone meal can be added to the soil at anytime.
Planting and Care
Weather and Sun
All plants may be grown in full sun where summers are cool (80-85 degrees). Where summer temperatures reach over 85 degrees for extended periods of time, best results are obtained by growing succulents in full morning sun with filtered shade after 1PM. In hot weather, some varieties are better at keeping their color. These include the Jovibarba Heuffelii and many of the soft succulents. If you are planting during a hot time of year, shade for several days immediately after planting.
Water thoroughly, but allow the soil to dry between watering. However, keep in mind that while most succulents are quite drought tolerant, they still need to be watered each time the soil dries out. These succulents are not cactus!
Most succulents are excellent container plants, and need only a small amount of well drained potting soil. If stem or crown rot is a problem, then reduce watering frequency and improve the drainage of the potting soil by mixing in additional perlite or pumice or planting in a top dressing of coarse sand or grit.
Most of these succulents also perform well in raised beds and rock gardens where they can be easily viewed.
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.
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 for Sempervivum.
Sedums and Soft Succulents
Many of the sedums and soft succulents can be propagated by removing and planting offsets or extra stems, or by replanting cuttings or in some cases just leaves.
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, particularly in potted plants. An appropriate insecticide will usually take care of the problem. If they do persist, try a garden systemic.
As also discussed above, crown rots can be remedied by reducing the contact between the crown and wet soil. This is done with a combination of reducing the watering frequency, using a better drained soil or potting soil, and/or planting on top of a top dressing of coarse, very well drained material.
Most of the other types of succulents have been basically pest-free in the nursery. Most of the problems are related to watering. Under-watering causes a higher rate of leaf loss or slow death if it persists for too long. Over-watering generally causes the roots system and the lower part of the shoot to rot. The remaining shoot should be trimmed and dried, then repotted in a better drained media and watered less.
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.