Succulent Weddings

We’ve seen succulent centerpieces, painted succulent corsages and succulent bouquets. Now get ready for succulent boutonnieres. No! From Aol’s DIY site.

For a boutonniere that has a distinctly modern feel, why not try sculptural succulents? Even better, Ellen Frost of Baltimore’s Local Color Flowers designed it for those who are a little intimidated about the whole idea of going the DIY route on boutonnieres. Here’s her easy tutorial.

And it turns out we’ve seen Succulent Boutonnieres before too. All tied up!

Succulents Here and There

It’s a Succulent Topiary from Gardening Fantasies. What’s not to like?

Now, do I have the ability to leave the blog entry that short, and to the point, without writing any commentary? Only time will tell…

Succulents in the Summertime

Caroline from Marin sends us 2 photos of her recently planted succulents.

I purchased this cactus from you about a month ago. The leaves are slowly turning black, almost as if they are burning? I live in Marin and it recorded full sun almost all day. Any advice?

Thanks, Caroline

Hi. I purchased this aloe plant from you about a month ago and sent a note last week because I was concerned it wasn’t doing well. It seems to be getting worse. Here is a recent picture. Any suggestions what could be wrong?

Thanks, Caroline

Hap was gracious enough to provide an extensive answer discussing Mediterranean climate plants in Mediterranean climate summers (That’s us!)


Both of your plants, Aeonium “Sunburst” and the Aloe striata are winter growing plants from Mediterranean Climates just like ours (the Aeonium is from the Canary Islands and the Aloe from South Africa), where all the rain is in the winter months and summers are basically a long drought.

To deal with this they have a summer dormancy period (just like many native Californian plants) where they shut down and nap for the summer and then wake up with the onset of the winter rains and start their active growth stage.

The Aeonium deals with the summer dormancy by letting some of the lower leaves dry out and curl up, to reduce surface area exposed to the sun and the Aloe by doing something similar as well as developing Carotenoids (red and orange pigments) that are more resistant to UV during the long hot summers and increase in the intensity of the sunlight and UV.

Both of the plants you sent photos of look normal for this time of year and should take off with new growth in October and November and really look great by the Holiday season. You can keep them slightly awake and looking “garden fresh” with an occasional drink (weekly to every two weeks), but do not over water in the summer, since it can lead to rot and infections, since while they are dormant they have a harder time fighting off infections.

Take care,


Summer Heat in Vancouver

This calls for planting succulents.

What can you grow in a container on your overheated west-facing balcony or patio? The answer is to plant a “hot pot” full of sun-loving succulents — plants that carry their water supply around with them in their leaves and can take all the heat you can give them.

I’ll annotate as we read together from the Vancouver Sun.

To create the tender hot pot, first place gravel or terra cotta shards in the bottom of the pot to ensure good drainage.

Just make sure you don’t block the hole. In fact, cover the hole with mesh, and place a fast-draining soil all the way to the bottom.

Fill the upright 18-inch pot with a quality container soil mix.

Make that a quality cactus and succulent soil mix. Regular container soils will rot the plants.

Next, place your centrepiece — the large, Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’. This will stand about 35 to 45 cm high in the pot.

We always start with the big plant, although we often plant it off-center for effect.

Moisten the soil before taking the three large “collector’s echeveria” — colours range from warm pinks to cool blues — and placing them equidistant apart around the aeonium. The roots can be pressed into the moistened soil without much difficulty, but be careful not to damage the leaves or interfere too much with the roots.

We recommend planting into dry soil, and not moistening anything for another week, since succulents have tender rot-prone roots. In other words, rather than press the roots into wet soil try digging a hole into dry soil.

Finish off your container by planting the smaller, filler sedums in between the echeveria.

I approve of surrounding echeveria with smaller sedums.

This container can be placed in full-sun, but will need to be moved into a frost-free room in winter.

So true for those poor unfortunate freeze-loving Canadians.

Sun Shining on a Cactus

Ever wonder how a cactus finds the sun? They rotate to face it. Really?

Every cactus knows exactly where the sun is. They know this from their first day of life, and will always reach for the light in their natural angle of repose. At the Huntington Botanical Garden, their massive old golden barrel cactus are so illustrative of this fact. Virtually every one of these large old specimens leans southward.

It’s true of our native cactus too. The compass barrel (Ferocactus cylindriacus) is so named because it always leans however slightly to the south. They do this so reliably that their inclination was once used for reckoning much the same way pioneers found north from moss that grows only on that side of a tree trunk.

OK, maybe not rotate exactly, but leaning isn’t as exciting a story as rotating.

Suzanne Cooks Cactus

She lives in LA and this is what she does in her spare time.

I boiled the cactus in salted water for ten minutes. It kind of looks like green beans, but its slippery like okra.

I sauteed the cactus with the onion and bell pepper in some Pam and a healthy squeeze of lime. I added 3 scrambled egg whites with one whole egg. Quick and easy!

Add some pretty pictures of an omelet in the making, and voila! Blog post heaven!

I think I’m feeling lazy today, so let’s stipulate that I’m only going to reblog news items today.

Tall Terrarium Like a Cactus

I got a million of these things. I can post terrarium pics for the next year. Although, with the expected rains, I think I will post only a 1/2 million of them.

That’s some layering – rough gravel and then raffia and then a smooth gravel and then a larger smooth gravel and then some preserved reindeer moss and finally 2 lovely airplants – Tillandisa bulbosa and Tillandsia recurvata.


Lila B Designs made terrariums for the Google campus.

I think they got the glass and plants and rocks and everything else from us. We had 3 people come in at 5pm a couple weeks ago and they were putting together terrariums for google, and that all looks like product we carry, so there is a good chance that we helped pick all these out.

I put the odds at 70-30.

They’re nice – even if they got their glass and succulents and other stuff from someone other than us. But I think they got it from us. So that’s even better.



I was thinking I might post about making terrariums. Or I could just share this photo of Keith making a terrarium.



Thanks, Keith.

The Latest in Airplant Terrarium Technology

I just can’t get enough of these very small airplant terrariums with tiny holes to shove little things through.

A couple Tillandsias, a mix of mosses and some lichen to round it out. No room for anything more than that.

They Get Questions

From Athens, Georgia they get questions about growing cactus from cuttings.

I have some cactus growing in my yard and I would like to propagate it so I can have it in other parts of my yard. When would be the best time to do this and how?

– Lauren M., Watkinsville

I am guessing that you have some sort of prickly pear cactus in your yard. The best time to propagate this cactus would be in the spring when the plant is actively growing. Your cactus is probably going semi dormant with cold weather approaching. In the spring, use a sharp knife and cut off whole individual pads at the node (where the pads meet). Place these cuttings in a dry, shady area for one to two days to allow the cut to heal or scab over. Once, the cut has healed, place the cut end in shallow soil or sand for rooting. Make sure the soil does not stay too wet or the cactus will rot. It could take several weeks to a couple months to establish a healthy root system. Once the pad has rooted, dig it up and move to the desired sunny area in your yard and enjoy.

Tillandsia Video

I don’t know how to embed this video since the text around it is all in Japanese, so you’ll just have to click through to see someone who’s known as the Cactus Man in Japan watering a lot of Tillandsias.

Consider it a how-to video.

Toys in Terrariums

The latest in gorilla-themed terrariums, utilizing Ian’s latest tiny toy find.

Transplanting Cactus

Peggy called and needed to transplant the cacti she had bought from us, but she now lives elsewhere so we talked her through the process and pictures ensued.

We purchased an Oreocereus trolli in 2009. We since moved to Los Angeles and cacti out grew its container and spawned three-four new growths. I called a month or so ago and spoke to someone about transplanting it. I was able to transfer it this morning, I promised to send photos.


Here’s what it looked like before the repotting. Nice!




And the final result…. After the break…. Read More…

Tuna City

Ever wonder how to prepare cactus fruit? I found this article from the San Francisco Chronicle’s archives, 5 years ago.

Tasty cactus pears keep fans a-prickle


It’s a good idea to process the fruit outdoors. Slit the top across but not completely off. Cut parallel incisions into the skin lengthwise, taking care not to cut into the flesh, then pry apart the skin and reach fingers in to pull out the fruit. Photo, 2001, by Catherine Yoshii

That picture is the key to the whole operation – it really explains it all. Now if they would just do an article about mangos.

Twisty Terrarium

And here we see Ian reaching into a twisty terrarium to plant little sempervivums in the far end for a customer. The glass was made by the customer’s brother. I hope they appreciate the effort Ian is putting in to this. It’s awesome.


Watering Succulent Terrariums

This is a tough one.

I have a new succulent terrarium and am in need of watering instruction. I had instructions included saying to use a spray bottle and moisten at the base of the succulents. I am aware that over-watering can lead to root rot, so I want to make sure I do not get to that point. The middle of my two main succulent plants are showing signs of brown leaves. I feel quite certain that I have not over-watered just solely on the fact that I’ve watered once in the week that I’ve had it, but I am concerned with the browning. Everything I have read has said the lower/base of the plants will brown and those leaves will die, but as long as the middle/center of the plant isn’t turning, all should be fine.


You can see in the pictures attached that is exactly what I’m noticing. I have the terrarium indoors in in-direct sunlight during the day. Could you please offer some watering suggestions? I do not know if I’m even watering enough, I don’t see any of the water going down into the soil-is that a visual indicator I should/not see? Thanks for your time.


It’s hard to tell from the photos what is going on. The plant in the middle is a Haworthia and they are very sensitive to over-water. The bottom leaves dropping off look like they are rotting, rather than drying, which would imply over-water.

Terrariums are difficult to get the watering right. You may well lose a few plants before you figure out your own conditions. In general when a succulent is in a regular pot we water every 2 weeks (in our area), drench the soil and let it drain away so it is never sitting in water. In a terrarium you can’t quite do that since there is no drainage. So you water more often, but less water. You want to wet the soil, but you don’t ever want water sitting at the bottom (we add charcoal at the bottom of our terrariums to neutralize any sitting water). So you need to test it out over time – a small amount of water and then check the soil to make sure it is dry before you water again.

Good luck,

We Have Become Terrarium City

You will be a terrarium too.

Now these two were more difficult. Ian made the one on the left, and I made the one on the right.

I used a bottom layer of charcoal with a layer of sand filling in around it. Cactus soil, packed tight. Then I make a bit of a hole and added the taller cactus, the Cereus, and used the back end of a small paint brush to get the roots fully into the hole, and then push the soil over it.

Then another layer of sand, and the paintbrush to spread it out evenly.

Then I added the sempervivum cuts right through the sand and the crassula cut too. Make sure you take off the bottom leaves of the crassulas so that there is a good piece of stem to go down into the soil.

I added the seated smoking lady figure, and then brushed all the sand back into a level playing field. Ian added the bee because he likes bees.

What to do in Colorado Tomorrow

Wendell “Woody” Minnich is the featured program presenter at the Chinle Cactus and Succulent Society’s Sept. 9 meeting.

His program will focus on his experiences in the Rio Grande Do Sul, the most southern state in the country of Brazil. The public is invited to attend the free presentation at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Building at Mesa County Fairgrounds.

“This seldom-seen region of Brazil is rich in cacti, bromeliads, succulents and other unusual plants and animal, fascinating birds and where many of our most well known cacti are to be found,” Minnich said.

What to do in Detroit this Saturday

Plant succulents in a container of your choice. Don’t know how? Join some other people in or near Detroit (Troy is near Detroit, maybe?) with succulents to plant and you too could end up with a succulent container garden of your own. If you’re in Detroit this Saturday. If not, then nevermind.

Succulent Container Workshop: Bring your own container or choose from a variety of different pots. 10 a.m. Sat. Telly’s Greenhouse, 3301 John R, Troy. Workshop: $5 plus materials. Register. 248-689-8735.

What to do in Sonoma Tomorrow

Let Master Gardener Anne Lowings introduce you to the wide variety of succulents that thrive in our Sonoma climate at a free workshop on Sat., Sept. 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Healdsburg Regional Library, 139 Piper St . She will discuss choosing, cultivating and propagating these tough and fascinating plants.

What to Do in Your Hometown

Are succulent events coming to your hometown? Maybe. Debra Lee Baldwin is traveling this spring, and maybe she’ll be coming to your hometown. And then you can have a wonderfully succulent spring time in your hometown. But not otherwise.

My Spring-Summer Whistle Stops
Succulent garden railway

Here’s where and when I’ll give presentations. If your city’s on the list, please save the date!

Fri. and Sat., Feb. 28-Mar. 1, Spring Home & Garden Show, Del Mar Fairgrounds, San Diego~~~Attend the Spring Home/Garden Show as my guest. Print a free pass for two. $16 value.~~~

Thurs. and Fri., March 20-21, San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, San Mateo Convention Center

Sat., March 22, San Diego Master Gardener’s Spring Seminar

Tues., Wed. and Thurs., April 1-3, Epcot Center International Flower Festival, Orlando, FL

Sat. and Sun., May 17-18, 2014, Eco-Xpo, San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, CA

Sat. and Sun., May 31-June 1, Sunset Celebration, Menlo Park, CA

Fri. and Sat., June 6-7, Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals nursery, Escondido, CA

Sat., June 28, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis

I’ll be signing all three of my books (including the new one, Succulents Simplified) at all events.If you enjoyed one of my presentations, I’d be grateful if you’d post a comment on the Great Garden Speakers website. Many thanks!

That’s a lot of California hometowns, including two in the Bay Area, so you know you should all move out here to California.

What to Plant In Winter

It’s getting a bit late in the year to be planting cactus in the ground. So what now? What can you do? Why you can plant them in indoor containers, that’s what you can do.

Container cactus gardens allow homeowners… to have the pleasure of a small piece of the desert up close…

Several key elements are required to create a successful succulent or cacti container….

(D)esign is probably the most important element in creating a beautiful container.

Oh that is so true. For instance, if you choose a cheap red container from Ikea and a cheap plastic cactus from Home Depot and some cheap plastic rocks from Walmart, well then you have come up with a bad design scheme and should not be let anywhere near a container.

Where to Stick a Succulent

In a pillow? Yes!

The Christian Science Monitor has the skinny on Succulent Pillows with step by step instructions and step by step photos.

Here’s the result.

I recommend a more decorative pillow. Solid colors make me nauseous.

Window Boxes

There’s an article about window boxes on a site that has articles, called Article Publishing. I don’t know what this site is about, but the article is about <a href=";entry_id=1487" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">window boxes.</a><br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Cacti<br />
<br />
In hot climates with little rainfall, cacti and succulents can be the answer. They can be grown, too, in other areas, particularly by gardeners who like to travel without worrying about the container plants they leave behind. Foliage patterns and forms of these plants are fascinating, and many extraordinary compositions can be achieved.</span><br /></div><br />Well, that just about says it all. I have nothing more to add to that fine how-to article. Except that we like wood windows, and wood window boxes too. That seems like a nice little addition to that article. But that’s all, nothing more. It is otherwise a very complete recitation of the window box how-to facts.<br /><br />

September 2021

US Constitution


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