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Succulents – Getting the most out of a dry garden

Growing succulents in your garden can be extremely rewarding. Easy to grow, propagate and these plants will thrive in places where others wilt.

Succulents - Aeonium

There’s something very rewarding about growing succulents in the garden. They add a hint of the coast to any sunny border or bank. Living in South Devon, I tend to holiday in neighbouring Cornwall, where the rocky slopes of many a coastal garden are jam-packed with these thick-leaved lovelies.

Not only do they make for an attractive and architectural statement, succulents also by-on-large are very robust and can tolerate poor soil or sites where there is very little moisture. I have seen some gardeners grow sedums and sempervivums literally in saucers, bowls and even old ridge tiles filled with a modest amount of soil.

Succulents tend also to be very easy to propagate. With very little knowledge of taking cuttings, you can easily multiply your single plant into many healthy specimens. Occasionally, I have taken the odd cutting dangling from a garden wall. My point is before I get myself into trouble, succulents are good to grow and share with other gardeners.


Every early spring, I pull up my sedums, sempervivums and delospermas and break the plants apart for propagation. I tear shoots off and stick them straight back into the ground. No need for rooting powder, plastic bags or gritty cutting compost! This provides me with the annual opportunity to create rich garden designs with my succulents plants on the fly, as I mix and match mats of colourful foliage in my dry border. And of course by doing this, I make new plants. By late spring, my display has established itself and thickened up. How rewarding is that?

Hardy Succulents Plants

  • Delosperma – Hardy Ice Plant
    Daisy-like flowers above a bright green carpet of finger-like leaves. A great weed suppressor. The mainstay of the Cornish coastal garden. There are some lovely colour mixes on the market now. My all-time favourite succulent!
  • Sedum Purpureum
    Bearing silver petal-shaped leaves with a purple tarnish. A truly lovely plant and a great weed suppressor.
  • Sedum -Fuldaglut
    A great little carpet maker and very easy to grow with thick, dark-red rubbery leaves.
  • Sedum Lydium
    Vibrant green, extremely dense growing and unbelievably easy to propagate. You can use S. Lydium to fill those gaps between your paving slabs and makes for a great weed suppressor.
  • Sedum Sieboldii
    Pale green, thick, round leaves edged with a splash of red. Reminds me of hanging grapes. This succulent is a real asset to my dry garden.
  • Sedum Tricolour
    If you like a little variegation, then S. Tricolour is a great choice. It develops green leaves, lined with cream and red.
  • Sempervivum
    Rosette shaped growth with a clump forming habit. As with all succulents within this list, sempervivums are very easy to propagate. Puts out very bizarre, alien-like star-shaped flowers each summer.

Succulents that require a little winter protection

Some succulents aren’t as hardy as I’d wish, so I tend to either take cuttings or dig them up and place them in the greenhouse or on a well-lit windowsill indoors during winter. You may also try and cover semi-hardy plants with a garden fleece or plastic sheeting. This will help limit moisture around the root system, which will reduce the risk of ice damage,  the main killer with semi-hardy succulents.

  • Agaves
    Very tropical, symmetrical and architectural, cacti-like succulents. Can thrive in mild-winter areas.
  • Echeverias
    Pale, powdery green and chunky leaves with vibrant yellow and orange flowers.
  • Aeoniums
    Very architectural and a real collector. Usually, dark purple or black leaves grow in rosettes above trunk-like stems. Looks like a small palm. Stems can be cut and propagated very easily. Also in green and variegated pink/green/cream. Another one of my favourites!
  • Faucaria tuberculosa
    A recent addition to my rock garden. Cacti-like thick aloe leaves and bright yellow daisy flowers.

For your further reading, please read my article on growing succulents by clicking here.

By James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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