Plants simply substitute coarse sand for the soil mixture usually used to build the mound

Plants in the rock garden should be carcfully arranged ac cording to size, habit, color, and texture. They must never be crowded or planted in regular lines, but in well-spaced drifts with plenty of open ground between. Plants requiring similar treatment or watering are best placed together Plants requiring shade can be grown beside taller species, near rocks or tn the shade of small-leaved desert trees like the Jerusalem Thorn, Parkinsonia acu/eata,, set in or near the bed. The planting may consist only of cacti, ol other succulents, or all combined. Extensive outdoor collections are sometimes planted in a series of free-form beds, each devoted to a single succulent family or tribe. The possibilities and pleasures of rock gardening with succulents are endless.

Pofferried Bedding

Sooner or later everyone who admires the wonderful cylindrical Ibrms and rosettes of succulents wishes he might arrange them in a more formal planting, and it is out of such H vvish thai Victorian gardeners created the very beautiful Md intricate art of carpel bedding. In a prominent spot on

This spectacular mass planting of cacti displays dozens of Echmocac-tus grusonii, the Golden Barrel, blooming in the foreground, and three clusters of tall columnar cacti in the center. They arc, from left to right, Cephatocereus senilis—with the white hair showing on the four smaller specimens and the taller one. twenty-five feet high, rising out of the picture; Lemaireocereus marginatus* just right of the centcr, with another specimen forty feet high attached to the corncr of the house: and the giant Saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, the thick column at the right supported by a pipe. The two dark treelike plams in the back* ground, at ihe extreme right and left, arc Euphorbia ingens, and the smaller tree below the balcony a cereus.

the front or back lawn of great country estates a large planting bed was prepared, just as we have described foMhe rock garden but without stones and perfectly regular in form. On this round, oval, oblong, or square planting area various designs were drawn with a stick and outlined with sand The patterns could be abstract, or represent birds or animals, or actually copy Lhe design of a Turkish carpet in the great house, When the planning was finished, the various areas were planted with dwarf plants and flowers carefully chosen lo re-create the colors and textures of the original model.

It is easy to see why the tiny, slow-growing globular and cylindrical cacti and the prim rosettes of other succulents were favorites for this kind of work. They could be planted close together without fear of rank growth, they required far less care than other plants, and the rich colors of their spines and leaves remained the same throughout the season. Beginning with a few larger Barrel Cacti in the middle, the design was carefully worked out with varicolored mamm:llanas and echinopses, astrophytums and lobivias. echeverias and sedums. Of course a tremendous number of plants were required, all of uniform size and quality. and a large reseñe to replace any that might fail But more important still, this type of bedding required great skill and good taste.

The day of patterned bedding is by no means over. It can still be wonderfully effective if the home gardener wishes to devote ihe time and thought necessary to create these living pictures m the garden In mild climates they can be a permanent fixture, in colder areas plants may either be set with iheir pots or planted out and lifted each season.

Wall and Ground-Cover Plantings

A much more practical use for succulents is in wall and ground-cover plantings. Wall gardens are becoming increasingly popular in many parts of the country where dry-wail

More and more, succulents are leaving the rock garden and desert planting to move into the perennial border and informal flower bed. Here succulents combine happily with perennials and shrubs to form .1 neat, colorful, carefree border The utfJ rosettes against the fence art Aeonium urbkum and the smaller branched rosettes a! the corner arc Aeonium arhoreum. In front of them, at the extreme left, arc three laree. low- rosettes of Aeonium canariense; behind the pinks, in the center of the picture, is Sedum pachyphyllum; and beside it the spotted Atoe zebrtna in bloom with the lower, dark green roselies of Aloe mitriformis hybrids on either side. The tall, fingcr-like gray plants beside the aloes are Kteinia tomentosa and the shorter ones a dudlcya specics. In the foreground are, among other things, a variety of sedums and hybrid echeverias ending, just above the far right corner, with (he silver Ghost Plant, Graptopeialum paraguayense.

construclion is used to retain steep banks and fills. These walls are easily made by laying successive layers or rocks, without mortar, against the exposed grade. In very cold areas a concrete foundation is sometimes required extending below the frost line, but generally the wall may be built on the bare ground.

Tlie first course of the wall is made with the largest rocks, laid on iheir broadest side and selected with some attention to strata, colors, and fit. Over, around, and behind this first row good garden soil is tamped down firmly. Before the gardener proceeds with the next course, the plants should be laid on the soil with their roots spread into the depths of the wall and covered with more soil. To prevent succeeding layers of rock from squeezing down too hard on these roots a wedge of stone should be inserted to hold each course of rocks slightly apart. T he same process is repeated with each layer—tilling in soil, planting, and wedging—each successive course being slightly recessed from the one below and slightly tilled up to caich the maximum sunlight and rain and provide quick drainage.

Good subjects for planting in cold areas are the hardy ledums and sempervtvums. In frost-free areas almost any succulents suitable for growing in this manner will do. It must not be assumed thai only new walls can be planted Crevices in old wails may also be packed with soil and planted, but it is a difficult and exasperating job, and the plants rarely thrive as well. There are no special rules for arranging plants in a wall« but good judgment should be used not to plant a rampant grower above a delicate species, or to use plants which look uneasy when grown on the perpendicular.

A still more important use of succulents in mild-winter climates i.s for «round covers. Thousands of homes in t ali-fornia and the Southwest have used the trailing mcsembry-anthemuras anr other succulents as lawn substitutes, as park way plantings, and as retainers for embankments and fills.

Succulents are perfect plants for banks and ground covers, terraces and rock walls. Here Cotyledon harbeyi grows out of pockets in a stone wall, with the silvery-white Kleinta lonwntosa cascading down from above

Hundreds of miles of stale highways and freeways are planted with succulents to make them more beautiful and to prevent erosion. Even in colder climates the hardy scdums have long been used as ground covers in landscaping. There are cer" lainly no easier or more colorful plants for this purpose, and none that are so quickly and inexpensively installed. The only real shortcomings of succulents as ground covers are thai ihey cannot stand foot traffic, they sometimes become leggy and coarse and require severe thinning, and they are generally tender. But to offset this they can be propagated in unlimited quantities by cuttings, thev are practically sun- and drought-proof, and they thrive where few other plants can succeed.

Espa/iers, Planters, and Baskets

Of the many new uses to which succulents have been put in recent years, none is so exciting and promising as ¡heir use in architectural plantings. 11" ever there were plants expressly made for our modern homes and gardens, patios and lanais. I hey are succulents. In line, color, and texture they jibe perfectly with the clean, spacious spirit of modern housing. So it is no surprise to find them used in increasing numbers and ways to complement our new architecture and way of life.

Perhaps one of the most striking uses of succulents today is as espaliers on broad wall surfaces. Many of the climbing and trailing species can be used, but especial favorites are the spectacular epiphyllums and night-blooming cacti. These are either planted in beds at the foot of the wall or placed in large tubs or boxes in front of the area to be covered. Then the long, pliant branches are carefully trained and tied to a permanent trellis of wood placed i.n the tub or bed, or to a grid of wires attached to the wall. Formal, geometric espalier patterns are not always possible with succulents, but the grace ulJy scalloped branches of the epiphvtlums and the

Many -.u^culents make beautiful and easy-lo-care-for hanging-basket plants, and one of the finest is the Burro's Tail, Sedum toorganianuw, shuwa here The ground planting below consists chiefly oí aeoniums on the left and gastcrias on the righL

slender, snakelike stems of the night-blooming cacti have a rhythm and pattern all their own. And when the wall bursts into bloom, the effect is unbelievable.

Equally popular is the current practice of using succulents in special raised planters, either built against the house or in a patio, deck, or special garden area. These architectural planters are of many styles and sizes. They may be nothing more than a raised brick planting bed, a very large box made of weathered redwood, or a huge ceramic or metal bowl. But in them are planted a variety of succulents and other popular drought-resistant plants such as yuccas, dasylirions, nolinas, beaucarneas, puyas, hechtias, and dyckias These planters are. of course, as carefully prepared wilh drainage and soil as any other container or bed. and given protection from frost when necessary, They are in many ways the perfect answer fur the gardener who wishes an unusual modern planting with little expense or maintenance.

The last way of using succulents in the garden is as hanging-basket plants. There are many species that can be shown off to better advantage with this method of growing than with any other—such as some of the climbing and tree-dwelling cacti, the trailing crassulas, sedums. and mesernbryanthe-mums. All these and many more have been treasured x» hanging-basket plants for generations, and they .»till have a place in every collection. They may be planted in hanging clay pots. tubs. tins, or moss-filled wire baskets. All are satisfactory, although the more porous containers dry t«ui very rapid!v and must be watered with great care. They should all be fitted with ample drainage material and given a slightly richer, heavier soil to offset the rapid loss of moisture and plant foods because of their suspended position. The wire baskets—heavily lined with two inches or more of damp florist's sheet moss—are especially good for epiphyllums and other tree-dwelling species, but they are the most difficult to maintain. In semitropical region* these tree-dwelling succu lents are sometimes also grown in a thick slab of florist's moss attached with poultry netting arid staples to the ti or branches of high-branching trees such as oak, olive, or elm. The bare-root plants are securely wired against this cushion of moss and grow into it without any soil or care except occasional watering just as they would in their native habitaL.

A few welJ-grown basket specimens hanging at eye level are elegant fixtures for any patio or porch, lath house or greenhouse. The additional work involved in keeping them is slight when compared with the graceful line of their stems and branches, the subtle colors and textures of their leaves, and the brilliant display of their flowers. No collection should be without them.


Now i h at we have surveyed the evolution of succulents, their major families, and some o: the ways we can use them in our homes and gardens, it is lime to think of our own collections, And certainly what the novice needs at this point is a little plain down-to-earth advice from someone who has nothing to buy or sell, who has survived a great enthusiasm for these plants and emerged neither disgusted with succulents nor a fanatic, someone who knows that honest advice is the hardest thing to give -or take—in the world.

"The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on" wrote Oscar Wilde. "It is never of any use to oneself" Looking back over many years ol growing succulents, ! am encouraged to set down here a few bits of advice learned at great expense but, unfortunately, too !ate to use myself


The first problem in growing succulents is knowing and selecting the best varieties. How I wish someone had helped me as I pored over the catalogues, wandered through the nurseries, stood bewildered at the shows in those days gone by- Every glowing description I read tempted me, for it never

occurred to me that all those varieties could not possibly be the "biggest.** the "best," the "showiest," When buying plants I always assumed the higher-priced varieties were best, not knowing price was determined orlv by scarcity, not worth.

At flower shows ! fell in love with individual plants and

blooms, never knowing how they would grow for me or how i would use them. As a result I ended up with more varieties than I wanted or could carc for a sizable hole in niv bank roll, and an ever growing headache.

When it was all over, I discovered there were some succulents in every family that were outstanding. They had everything an idea] succulent must have: vigor, good color and form, abundant and attractive bloom, and easy propagation. I have tried to indicate some of these choice plants in my ur ey in ( hapiersThree and Four. Of course there are many who will disagree with my selections. Lei me say that they are based first on m> personal experience and tastes, and second on the desire 10 have the finest succulent plants and blooms the year round with a minimum of cost and effort, I realize each grower will wish to amend these lists to sujt his own experiences, growing conditions, and tastes But the beginner cannot go wrong starting his collection with some of these varieties or. indeed, ending with them, as I did.

No doubt the reader has already discovered some plants here that seem especially interesting and exciting. He might well begin his collection with them, and as his interest and experience grow he will find some parlicular family or genus so irresistible that he will soon become a specialist. The succulent hobby is virulent and contagious, and there is no cure for it except more plants, more books, more information. The collector should read all the literature available on succulents in general and his specialty in particular A good basic list is suggested in Chapter Ten, He should visit cactus-suc-culcm nurseries at every opportunity and study their catalogues carefully- He should see great desert plant collections like the fifteen-acre display at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino. California, near Los Angeles; or at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St Louis. He should join the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, P.O. Box 3010, Santa Barbara, CA 931.10. or inquire there for the name of a cactus-succulent club in his own locality. In all these ways he will find the succulents he wants to grow and the information he needs to grow them successfully.


Once the beginner has decided what succulents he wants, another problem faces him: How can he know and Bad the best possible plants of those varieties? Buying succulents wisely is an important technique that most amateurs learn only after much needless expense and disappointment. Yet, actually, anyone can become a good buyer by learning a few simple rules.

Always buv from a reputable nurseryman, preferably a succulent specialist-never from supermarkets, ten-cent stores, or department stores. These stores often good plants from reputable growers, but they seldom have the proper conditions or help to keep them correctly labeled and growing until they are sold. "Bargain" planLs are usually ex, pensive at any price. Unscrupulous promoters sometimes Offer large plants collected in the desert at very low prk». but these specimens are usually impossible to^re-establ sh and such wasteful destruction of native plants * bidden by law in several states and should no, be encouraged. In any event, there is no particular advantage m buvmg large-specimen plants. For the strong conmm^gn^ -*

4 and cuttings offered by most nurserymen axeaaual^

beUer buy for iJhe beginner. These

Sive. easily transplanted, and bccome ^f^^ that they often overtake the larger plants in a lew ye i>

It is always desirable to select your plants personally, if possible, although it is perfectly safe to order by phone or mail from established firms. In selecting any plant judge it against other plants of the same variety and size in the nursery. Succulents vary greatly in growth habit and appearance according to species and variety. Some are naturally lank\, sparse-leaved, dwarf, bushy, or strong. Pick the most normal plant not the tallest or the most heavily budded or the biggest—but the one which is well formed from the ground upf with the freshest color and the best shape. Actually if you select the plan: with the greatest number ofhealthy leaves or branches you will probably have the plant with the best root system too, for the quantity and quality of foliage and stems are a very good indication of the quantity and quality of the roots in the container below. The plant must be absolutely free of any insect pests or diseases. Examine the stems and foliage of the plant carefully for scale or mealy bug, which can invade even ihe best-regulated nurseries occasionally. But when all is said and done, your best guide ard insu ance in buying succulents will always be to patronize a reliable professional grower.

Prop o go fin g

Although most of our plants may be acquired from nurserymen there is a great deal of interest and enjoyment in learning how to propagate succulents for oneself. Sooner or later every collector wants to swap cuttings and seeds with other enthusiasts, wants to grow rare or difficult species that cannot be bought, wants to multiply choice plants or even improve them by hybridization. Fortunately he can do all these things and more with very little effort or equipment, for succulent are among the easiest of all plants to propagate. The besi means of propagating each genus and species has already been suggested in Chapters Three and Four.

Seeds. One of the most satisfactory methods of propagating succulents, though perhaps the slowest, is by seed This is the method used by most commercial growers because plants raised from seed are generally lower in cost, healthier, more perfectly formed, and more easily acclimated than plants raised by other means or collected in the wild. Some succulents cannot be raised in any other way. Others set seed so rarely, grow so slowly, or self-hybridize so freely that propagation by seed is impractical. For the amateur, who can buy almost any succulent seedling from a nurseryman for a few cents, this method is generally far more trouble than it is worth. But for raising large quantities of plants cheaply or just for fun, for growing very rare plants otherwise unobtainable or developing new hybrids, it is well worth

The amateur need not concern himself too much with the intricacies of hybridization, for he can usually buy good seed from succulent dealers or collect the seed formed on his own plants. But he should understand the process of fertilization, which is the beginning of all propagation by seed. In a cactus flower, for example, the long, thick organ which protrudes from the very center is called the pistil. It is the female organ and consists of three parts: a swollen base called an oxarv, a long stemlike part called a style, and at the top of the style several branches which spread out like a siar and are called the stigma. Around ihis pistil are a number of slender, threadlike organs called stamens. These are the male organs and consist of a threadlike slatk called a filament, which is topped by a little organ called an anther. which contains the yellow dust called pollen. When the flower is mature, the stigma opens wide and becomes moist and sticky. Any pollen grains which chance to fall or be rubbed on this surface are stimulated by the moist secretion and emit tubes which grow down the whole length of the style, below the flower, into the ovary, where they unite with the ovules. As soon as the pollen

tube enters the ovule, fertilization takes place and the ovule quickly becomes a seed.

In the process called hybridizing, this natural fertilization is strictly controlled. When the flower is half formed, some of the petals and sepals are cut away with cuticle scissors, and through this opening all the filaments are eased out and their anthers cut off to prevent chance pollination. The flower Is then covered with a bag large enough to permit it to open fully In a Jew days when the flower is mature and the stigma is expanded and moist, pollen from another species is gathered on a clean camel s-hair brush and applied to the rcccp-tive stigma. The flower is then quickly bagged again, tied securely at the bottom, and labeled with the date and name of both parents. The process of fertilization then takes place as usual» exeept now we know both parents in the union and can predict the offspring quite accurately by Mendel's law.

Very <oon alter fertilization takes place the ovary begins to swell and the fruit is formed. If it is a dry capsule it will split when ripe to release its seeds, and so must be bagged or gathered just before that time. If it is a pulpy fruit, like the cactus, the seeds are removed when the fruit is ripe and soft by squashing the pulp in a bowl of water. After the seeds are washed well, the water is strained off and they are spread on a newspaper to dry. After drying, the seeds can be cleaned further by rubbing them together gently to remove any dried pulp still on them. The clean seeds should then be stored in a cool, dry. well-ventilated place until time for planting.

The best time to start most succulent seeds is in spring or early summer. The warmer weather and good growing conditions at that time or year insure quick results and allow the seedlings to become well established before winter. Most succulents require a bottom heat of 70° F. or more for optimum germination, especially at night, if one does not have access to a greenhouse, hotbed, or naturally heated room, a wooden box about a foot deep may be fitted with a 25-walt electric


Ovary swéIU

5tjm tni

A rrth cr i



5 par^ i«nd 2 parts icif mM 1 pirM tûp^it I p*rt tkarcoaf

Bmktn cfockf i y

Sift finr i^nd ovir wfiit

Set finished pet in Yitftf tc wait

&lai<r cover tftif let Jlings appear prtcfc out with carted ^fjcV

pi/5h tact glass or ivap up to air ïttiiltinq

Jfld transplant how to grow succulents from seed light placed on its side at the bottom, and six inches over (hat a floor of open slats or strong wire mesh should be built On this false floor, well above the light, the seed pots are set in a pan oT damp sand, and ihe whole box covered with a pane of window glass. With a little experimentation and the help of an inexpensive thermostat to regulate the light this simple propagating box will work wonders.

To germinate only a few succulent seeds the best containers to use are squat, four-inch, red-clay fern pots, although other types wilt do. They shouid be thoroughly scrubbed before using and sterilized with boiling water if necessary. In the bottom o! each the usual drainage materia! is arranged, and over this a soil mixture made of five parts clean, coarse sand; two parts well-rotted leaf mold: two parts topsoil; and one pan powdered charcoal. This compost should be well mixed and put through a quarter-inch screen to make a louse, well-drained seed bed. The pot should be rapped lightly on a bench to settle the soil and the surface leveled and pressed down gently with a block of wood.

If the seeds are large they may be piaced evenly on the surface o! the soil with the help of a pair of tweezers. If they are very tine they should simply be dusted lightly over the surface. One pot may be planted with two or more species if small strips of wood or metai are laid down as dividers on ihe soil But the seed must never be sown too thickly or mixed indiscriminately in the pot. Each pot or section should be labeled separately with a small plastic label giving the botanical name, approximate number ot seeds sown, and ihe date. Then the seed should be covered no deeper than its own height by sifting fine, clean sand over it evenly.

The finished pot is then set in a pan of tepid water up to its tow er nm to become thoroughly saturated by capillary action. And when it is completely soaked it should be removed from the water and allowed to drain completely before taking its place i.m the ^reenhoqgis bench, in the hotbed, or propagating box., No matter where it stands, a pane of glass should be put over the pot to conserve moisture and prevent excessive evaporation If the glass sweaLs profusely it may be removed and wiped dry occasionally. If ihere are signs of fungus or algae on the soil, a light spraying of Semesan or other fungicide may be used.

Germination varies among succulents from one day for some of the Siapeliads to as long as a year or more for certain difficult cacti, The average is probably two or ihree weeks. Germination is affected by many factors—soil moisture and temperature, the season and climate, and the freshness or age of seeds. Some succulent seeds are expressly designed by nature to resist germination for many months or even years to coincide with the availability of moisture in then native habitat. Most desert plants produce iheir seeds at the end of a rainy season which is followed by a long drought. So if the seeds germinate at once ihey are quickly burned up. To preven! this nature has coated them, |ust as a pharmacist coats delayed-action pills, with a thick, hard, or waxy coating that must be softened or worn off with just the right amount of moisiure, just the right amount of abrasion and swelling before they will germinate. This explains why fresh seeds so often lie for months in the soil before germinating. while older seeds germinate at once The gardener who would grow succulents from seed must have both knowledge of and patience for such things.

Once the seed is germinated the glass cover should be lightly shaded with a piece of cheesecloth or waxed paper. This admits lighi but prevents the direct rays oi (he sun from burning the tender seedlings. When all the seeds have germinated, the pot should be ventilated for a few hours daily by pushing the glass back a little or by propping it up from the pot rim with a matchstick. Too much air and light at once will cause the seedlings to become red or bronze in color and burn, too little favors the growth of aigae on the soil and roL-

ting of the plants. But as the seedlings develop, more and more air and lighi can be given until the glass is removed entirely. The soil should be kept reasonably damp throughout the germination and "hardening-off" period by occasionally immersing the pot up to its lower rim in a pan of tepid waicr After the glass is removed and the seedlings begin to show their characteristic leaves or growth, watering can be lessened somewhat but never neglected.

The young seedling plants should be grown on in the same pot through the winter and into the following spring. Then they are carefully transplanted to new pots or flats, using the same soil mixture as for the seed bed but with four parts of leaf mold instead of two. The tiny plants must be handled very gently, either with tweezers or at the end of a wooden plant label which has a forklike V notch cut into it. They should be generously spaced, lightly firmed in. and watered thoroughly from below. They will grow rapidly in the new soil and should be transplanted into other pots or'flats as often as they become crowded, which may be two or three times a year. When they are large enough to fit a three-inch pot, they should be potted individually in one of the soil mixtures recommended in Chapter Five and grown on as any other potted succulent, f »«ings. The simplest and certainly the most popular method ol propagating succulents is by cuttings. Unlike seeds, which sometimes lake several years to make mature »lowering plants and then may or mav not be true to the species from which they were taken, cuttings often make sizable blooming plants in a few months and are always true i»' type. They require no special equipment or tedious wait->nn. no special care or dclicate handling. Of all plants succulents are probably the quickest and easiest to grow from cuiiings.

The best time to take succulent cuttings is in spring or summer, just as the plants come out of their resting season

Collecting, buying, and propagating


Tip cutting

La^ ôiHIngî or a thelf to callus fer s ^ecV o> two.

Joint cutting





On i Wet stait


Plintld* on leaf margin*

Cuttings, prolrftftationî, and dwiii miy be footed in flats of *and, directly ïn pots, o* in the grou where th«y are frf- to

Tat! cutting* ihoJd be inserted only slightly in ici a^d iUKtd tor WppO't how to m\ke: cuttings and divisions cacti and other sue cacti and other sue and begin to grow vigorously. Plump, healthy leaves or stems should be chosen, preferably from ihe mature growth of the previous season. They should be fairly large, as sizable cut.

lings make stronger plants and bloom more quickly. All cuts should be made with a sharp knife, razor blade, clipper, or saw. depending on the size of the cuttings, and never simply broken or torn from the parent plant, Cuts on large outdoor plants an inch or more in diameter should be made diagon.i:

so that the stump will not hold water, and the wound should be dusted with powdered charcoal? or sulfur to prevent infection.

Unlike other plants that wilt easily and must be rooted at once, succulents are practically wilt-proof and must indeed be dried out a bit before rooting lest they rot. All succulent cuttings should be put on a cool, shady, well-venlilaied shelf to callus for a week or two before they are put in the rootinc medium. Actually very heavy cuttings may be dried out for as long as six months or a year without ill effects.

There are several types of succulent cuttings. The most popular are stem cuttings, which may be taken at any point along the stem, near the tip, at the joints, or even from a porimn of the stem, such as a single rib or tubercle. Any of these parts will root and make a new plant. Another type is the leaf cutting, in which a whole leaf or sometimes a part of a leaf may be put to root just as one roots a Rex begonia or African violet leaf. Closely allied to these are the cuttings known a* proliferations. These cuttings includc the sprouting leaves of the bryophyllums; the green fruit of opuntias which root; the bulbUs or planUets formed on the flower >talkx of certain agaves, aloes, haworthias. and members of the Crassula family such as Echeveria pbbijlora. Here too belong the multitude of plants that may be propagated by offsets, little planUets formed around a mother plant, and those lhai can be propagated by simply dividing a malted clump. A of these—leaves, plantieis, flower stalks, offsets, and di-

visions—require much the same treatment as stem cuttings, for whatever roots some of them may have will either be broken and die back, be severely shocked, or cut off in the process of removal and preparation for planting

After being severed from the parent plant, preferably at a joint to make the smallest wound possible, and having been dried, these cutiings may either be rerooted in individual pots just as if they were established plants, planted out in the ground where they are to grow, or rooted in flats or pots of coarse sand. Generally most gardeners like to root their cuttings in sand first, before potting or planting them. The rooting medium must be several inches deep, well drained, and a little on the dry side. I he cured cuttings are inserted only deep enough to stand firmly in the sand. Deep planting is lo be avoided at all costs as it quickly leads lo rot. Tall cuttings should be tied to a small stake for support, and easily rotted plants such as the euphorbias or those with very large cut surfaces should not be buried at all, but simply laid on the sand or held over it supported by a stake. The cuttings should be placed in a warm, half-shaded spot and watered very sparingly until fresh color and plumpness or new growth show that roots have been formed. Then the plants are lifted and potted or transplanted as any other succulents.

Crafts. The last and least used method of propagating succulents is grafting, a process of bringing together the growing cells of two related plants to make them unite and grow as one. In this process a stem cutting, called a scion, instead of being placed in sand to form its own roots, is united with the root system of another plant, called the understock. The added impetus of the older, more vigorous root system of the understock forces the rare or weak scion to prodigious growth, permits seedlings to be matured more quickly, preserves strange crests and monstrosities that are often difficult to root, and allows the propagator to form weeping treelike standards and novelties that lend interest lo any collection. But unior-

tunately not al> succulents can he grafted, only those thai have a definite cambium, or growth layer, in their stems, the dicotyledons, and of these only planus belonging to the same family. So of the major plant families we have surveyed only members of the Cactus. Euphorbia, and Milkweed families can be grafted. We have suggested some of the possibilities, methods, and species to be used for understocks and scions in these families in Chapters Three and Four.

There are Sour methods of grafting commonly used for succulents. The first is called a flat graft, and consists simply of fitting a scion cut with a flat base to an understock cut with a tlai top The second meihod is called a cleft graft, because it fits j scion cut with a wedge-shaped base into a V cleft in the understock. The third method is called a side graft, because both stock and scion are prepared with long, slanting cin^ that \\[ exactly when joined. And last is the stab graft, which is so named because a deep upward stab is made in the understock into which a scion is wedged end up. Each of these methods has its own uses and advantages. I he flat ¿ran, which is easiest of all, is used especially for thick, globular scions; the cleft and side grafts for slender scions; and the stab graft for fiat, trailing species.

The one imperative in grafting is that the stock and scion must be of the same family and as closely related within that family as possible, in the Cactus family, for example the small and difficult tephrocacti, epiphyllums, and rhipsaJes are commonlv grafted on the spineless platyopuntias or 0> subu-lata; the small globular and slender cylindrical Cereeae on understocks such as Nycroeereus serpentinus or Selenicereus nmcdonaldiae; and the larger globular or cylindrical species on stocks sucb as Trichocereus spachianus or Cereus peruviana. The list is endless, and always open to argument and experimentation, But whatever grafting Mock is used it must always be large and vigorous enough to support the scion, not only at the time of grafting but when Lhc graft reaches



ipinir or toothpick

Hdges trimmed ard Develed

Rubber bands



V cleft in understock

RubfcrP' bartdi, raffia or . o twrne ties

Wedge cut on scion



Stake and tie for support,

Cut Wanted o > understock 7 and scion,


normal size. The rule that the stock must be at least ten times the weight o! the scion is a good one. It may or may not be rooted at the time of grafting, as in an emergency succulents are sometimes grafted first and then the understock is rooted. Bui this is neirhcr customary nor desirable, even though succulents can be united and remain alive without roots for some time, The scions should always be plump and fresh and taken from the firm growing tips or new offshoots of healthy plants They may be equal to the understock in diameter or very much smaller, but they must never be larger.

The understock should always be cut just slightly above the last complete cycle of growth, where the stem feels firm but is neither entirely mature and hard nor watery and soft. A taU stock may be used to form a standard for a trailing variety or to better display an unusual scion and keep it out of din and moisture, or a short one grafted only an inch or two above the ground so thai as the scion grows the understock will be hidden completely and the plant will seem to be growing on its oun roots. Both types have their advantages and ^advantages, but in the last analysis ii should be understood that grafting is not a permanent way of growing succulents. Although many grafts lasL for years, grafting is essentially a way to speed propagation and grow plants lo a size where they can continue on their own roots. Many growers cut m(T scums at the union when they have reached the desired size and root them because they feel the plants are more valuable, attractive, and permanent on iheir own roots.

The equipment needed for grafting is extremely simple and easily assembled. A pair of clippers or a small keyhole saw to cut heavy stocks and scions; razor blades and a thin, sharp knife 10 trim them perfectly leather gloves or tongs to handle very spiny specimens; a supply of soft rubber bands in assorted lengths; long lender o;)untia spines or toothpicks to fasten the grafts or hold the rubber bands; soft raffia or twine for

tying; and a few paper bags to cover outdoor grafts complete the list.

The best lime for grafting is spring or summer, when both slocks and scions are in good growing condition. It is possible to graft at other seasons, especially to save a rare scion, but more care is needed and the results will not be as quick. Once the plants and method of grafting have been selected, the stock and scion should be cut and trimmed to fu as closely as possible. The edges of the stock and scion in flat grafts are usually beveled to cut away interfering spines and more nearly match the surface diameters of the two parts. Success depends in a very large measure on fitting the cut surfaces evenly so thai the cambium, or growth layers, of both parts are in contact over as much area as possible. The cuts must be kept absolutely free of all dirt. dust, or foreign maiter. If the parts bleed so profusely that the sap threatens to interfere with the union, they may be soaked in water for a few minutes to dissolve the sap. and any excess may be scraped away gently just before the parts are brought together.

The stock and scion should be joined quickly, evenly, and firmly, and the union held in place with one or another of the following devices. For holding flai grafts the best method is to pass rubber bands under ihe pot and over the scion on two sides; to attach one rubber band to a strong opuntia spine or toothpick inserted in one side of the understock and run it over the scion to another spine or toothpick inserted on the other side; or if the understock has long, downward-pointing spines, the ends of two rubber bands may be hooked on them as they cross over the top of the scion Rubber bands are ideal for holding grafts because they expand with the growth of the scion and need not be removed because they rot away soon after growth begins. They must never be too light, however, or thev will injure ihe scions.

Cleft and side grafts are generally fastened wuh one or two

opuntia spines or toothpicks run through the union to prevent slipping, and a wrapping of soft raffia or twine to prevent loosening. The wrapping and toothpicks should he removed after the graft has taken, but the opumia spines may remain without danger if they arc trimmed down to the stock. Firm, young spines from O. subulata are especially good for large grafts, while those from O. ramosissima are best for slender ones. Unlike toothpicks, which leave a scar when removed, or metal pins, which invariably lead to rot, opuntia spines are absorbed into the plant without a trace. Only one or two of these spines are needed to hold a stab graft in place.

Once the union is made and secured, no other treatment is necessary Succulent grafts do not need to he protected with grafting wax or compounds, glass bottles or special shading, except that plants grafted out of doors should be covered with a paper sack for a few days until the graft is set. It is a good idea to examine Lhe plants a few hours after grafting to maJce sure the rubber bands arc not too tight and that the scions are still in place. Newly grafted plants should never be sprinkled overhead, as the cut surfaces may hold water, which will lead to rot and necessitate regrafung immediately With any kind of luck at all and simple good treatment, succulent grafts should "take" and be growing in a few weeks.


No matter how succulents are propagated or uhcre the\ are grown, they must have adequate care. The apartment dweller in New York with one plant and the collector in California with a thousand are faced with the same everyday chores of

shading, watering, and feeding. Maintenance, more than anything else, spells the difference between success and failure with succulents.


It may seem strange that ihe first and mosi important requirement of these drought-resistant plants is water. Yet without water at the right time and in the right quantities no succulent can live. Many succulents are ninety-five per cent water by weight, water patiently absorbed by deep-searching roots, water quickly euzzled in showers. And while the> can store this moisture and keep most of it from evaporating, they must nevertheless drink deeply and well from time to

Watering is one of the greatest problems of the beginner because he falls into either one or another of these errors: he

cacti and other si waters his succulents just as his other house planus or, knowing ihey are drought-resist a at, he fails to water them at all Both extremes lead to loss of roots and death of (he plants Watering succulents requires some know-how and an understanding of how these plants were meani to live and grow.

As a rule cultivated plants require more waler because their root systems are smaller and dry out more quickly, especially when grown in pots. They seem to grow best when watered heavily at infrequent intervals. This allows the soil to dry to a medium point, and then the heavy application of water pushes out the carbon dioxide accumulated tn the soil, and as the water drains away new air circulates into the soil from above. By this means also roots grow throughout the entire soil mass and an occasional drying of the upper crust causes no damage. Frequent shallow waterings or constant saturation have ihe reverse effect on root growth and do not favor proper aeration of ihe soil.

It is almost impossible to tell how often any given succulent must be watered, for that depends entirely on the nature of ihe plants root system, its age. location, and the season o! the year Of course newly set plants must not be watered for several days, and then very sparingly for a month or two. But established plants making fresh growth in spring or summer can be watered as often as the soil dries out This is easily determined by scratching the surface of the soil a half inch deep with a matchstick or pencil. If the soil appears dry at that depth, the plant should be watered thoroughly.

The best lime to water succulents is early in the morning, so that the plants and soil will be somewhat dried before evening- Opening a window or ventilator indoors after watering is a good practice, as succulents sometimes rot when they are bedded down for the night while stilJ wet. It is always better to water succulcnts by irrigation rather than sprinkling. Indiscriminate watering overhead not only spoils the appearance of many plants that have a hairy or powdery surface.

bui consiant wetting of stems and foliage may lead to rot. This docs not mean, however, that an occasional spraying of the plants with water is not beneficial in keeping them clean and free of pests. Bui it must not be done too often, for the plants will rot if it is done in cool weather or late in the day, or burn if it is done in bright sunlight and yreat heat. Rain water is ideal for this purpose because it does not leave a chalky deposit to disfigure the plants, as does hard water. Whatever water is used for irrigation or spraying should be reasonably close to room or air temperature.

While succulents may be watered rather freely during their growing period in spring or summer, they require far less water as the weather becomes cooler in fall and winter. In this season most succulents begin their long period of hibernation, or rest, living largely from the moisture stored in their tissues. They should be watered only enough to keep them from shriveling. If the weather is cool and moist, young plants mav safely go a week or two without water, older plants for a month or two. In outdoor growing areas winter rains alone will probably provide all the moisture needed. This dry rest hardens the plants against cold and rot. and is of utmost importance in succulent culture. As the weather begins to grow warm again in spring and the plants begin to take on a fresher, livelier appearance, water should be gradually increased to stimulate summer growth and bloom.

The technique of watering succulents is not a matter of formulas or schedules, but one which calls for much common Sense and careful observation. There is only one reliable rule of thumb that can be recommended. Always water succulents thoroughly when they are growing, sparingly when they are resting, and not at all when you are in doubt.


Closely related to watering and all other phases of succulent culture is the vital need of succulents for rest. Nothing is so

essential to tlieir health and well-being, nothing is so much a part of their natural rhvthm and way of Hie. Just as we sleep to regain our strength through the long, cold hours of the night, so these plants, exhausted from making new growth ami flowers in spring and bearing fruil and seeds in summer, rest through the long, cold months of fall and winter. And as our body's needs and processes are less in sleep, so it is with the-^e resting plants, They want neither much food nor water, coddling nor disturbance—only rest. This is true of all succulents. But it must be remembered that these seasons are reversed for some South African species. They grow in fall and winter and rest in spring and summer.

)( is fairly easy to sec when succulents are asleep and when they jre awake And there is nothing to he gained from forcing them unnaturally in either period. The results will always be the same—abnormal growth, loss of blooms, and greater susceptibility to cold and rot. Succulents should be allowed to rest easily and naturally for several months each year, for they are essential!) slow-living, slow-growing plants. Their active season is ra: ely more than three or four months, and it is a serious misiake to treat them otherwise.

Cold and Shelter

Succulents that have been properly hardened by rest and reduced watering in fall and winter can withstand a remarkable amount of cold. It is not always low temperatures that damage these plants, but the combination of" wet soil and soft, swollen stems and leaves that makes the first freeze so deadly. In their natt\e habitat many succulents can take winter snow and freezing temperatures without damage because they have bccome hard and dry in the long resting period. But in cultivation these same plants arc easily destroyed by even the lightest frost.

In Chapter hre< and Four we have tried to indicate the

206 L

relative various genera and species, but these estimates are hardly exact because so much depends on the age, location, soil, moisture, and condition of the plants. Of course no collector wishes to risk his plants unnecessarily, and it is a simple matter to winter most succulents safely.

In relatively frost-free outdoor growing areas succulents may usually be wintered with no protection at all if careful attention is given to proper hardening of the plants in falL But if a hard freeze is predicted, a few tender plants in the ground may be protected by placing over them paper sacks large enough to clear the plants, as it is the free air space inside that does the job. Extensive outdoor plantings are usually protected with orchard burners which heat and circulate the air over the entire area.

In colder climates succulents must be wintered indoors in dry. well-lighted rooms, sun porches, verandas. or cellars, preferably at a constant temperature of 40 to 50°F. They should not be kept in highly heated rooms for long as this may force premature growth and greatly weaken the plants. Actually the ideal way to grow succulents in cold-winter areas is under glass. Any type of glasshouse will do provided it is sunny, dry. well ventilated, and kept at the optimum winter temperature of 40 to 509F. The plants may be grown either in pots, on benches or, better still, in large raised beds on the floor. Occasionally cold or heated frames are used for wintering succulents, but the close atmosphere in these boxes is difficult to control and the plants may suffer from lack of


Air, Light, and Shade

As much as water, rest, or heat, succulents need air, not only in the soil around their roots but all about them. They must never be grown in stuffy, poorly ventilated rooms or greenhouses, for they are by nature native to open places. Plants

CACTI AND OTHER succulents indoors should be aired al every opportunity, and windows or ventilators opened whenever the outside temperature is equal to or higher than the room temperature. By this means cold drafts are naturally avoided.

Even more important to the health and well-being of succulents is light. Indoors or out most species need a bright, sunny spot throughout the da) to insure good growth and blooming. Potted specimens should be turned occasionally so that the light reaches all parts of the plant evenly, but plants in bud should not be moved or turned as the change in light may cause the buds to drop.

Whenever weather permits, succulents should be put out of doors to get the benefits of full daylight without the obstruction of glass. But the> should not be put in full sunlight at once Many species are burned by too much sun, Indoors they may be shaded lightly by curtains. Venetian blinds, or shades; oui of doors they can be put in the filtered shade under trees or covered with an improvised screen of lath, bamboo, or cloth Large collections of shade-loving succulents, such as epiphyllums, are generally kept in cloth or lath houses, especially in their summer-blooming and growing period. But it is better to think of even these tree-dwelling succulents a.s plants for half sun rather than half shade. All succulents, even the so-called shade lovers, must have as much of the available sunlight in ail seasons as they can possibly take without injury.


Contrary to common belief, the soil in which succulents grow naturally is very rich, There is sand in the desert, to be sure, but with every torrential rain topsoil is washed down from the mountains and added to it; and a new crop of annual grasses and flowers springs up, matures, and dies to become rich leai mold The mineral content of this soil is very high

, ventilation, and cleanliness are »he secrets of successful or in beds succulents make e*-

a won derful group of Old Map Cacti ¡it the center

too. tor the scant rainfall cannot wash these elements away. That is why we do not grow succulents in "pure" sand, why we are so careful to add rich topsoil, leaf mold, charcoal, and even lime to our mixtures.

But while succulent soils are rich in natural fertility they seldom receive much in the way of animal fertilizers. An occasional dead animal in the desert or the droppings of birds in jungle trees are about the limit of added fertilizers. In cultivation too succulents do not require much more than a well-balanced soil mixture in which to thrive. Bone meal is perhaps the only safe fertilizer for them, and should be added to the soil at the rate of one teaspoonful to each six-inch pot, or four pounds for each hundred square feet o; planting area

Occasionally tree-dwelling succulents such as epiphyllums and zygocacti are greatly benefited by a foliage spray of liquid fertilizer made by soaking one pound of cottonseed meal in five gallons of water for twenty-four hours. The clear liquid at the top is strained and sprayed on the plants two or three times during the growing season on cool or cloudy days. This very nearly duplicates the way they are fertilized in nature, as rain washes dust, decayed matter and bird droppings from the higher leaves and branches of the trees down on their flat stems and aerial roots.

Actually the very best way to feed any succulent is by giving it new soil. Potted succulents should be taken from their pots and repotted in fresh soil whenever they become very root-bound, whenever they look weak or refuse to grow properly, or whenever pests or diseases are suspected at the roots. Most succulents will normally require repotting once every two years. Permanent outdoor plantings, however, are only occasionally fed with a light mulch of one part bone meal to thirty parts well-rotted leaf mold.

Pruning and Weeding

The need :'or pruning and weeding is not stressed often enough in succulent culture AlJ dead, diseased, or spindly leaves and branches should be removed from succulents, not only to improve their appearance but to admit light and air to the base or center of the plants. All cuts should be made with a sharp knife, clipper, or saw, preferably at a joint, and wounds over an inch in diameter dusted with powdered sulfur or charcoal to prevent infection. Very often drastic cutting of the upper part of stems, as when scions are taken for grafting. forces the remaining portion to make numerous branches, or offsets, at the cut. These may be allowed to grow on, or may be removed and rooted to make new plants.

Care should always be taien in cutting succulent flowers or seed pods to leave a small porlion of the stem still attached to the plant. ; his stub will dry and drop off naturally without injuring the plant, but flowers or seeds torn or broken from the plant invariably cause injury or rot, II is imperative that the flower stalls of certain of the larger echeverias and aeoniums be removed before they bloom, because the planb die after blooming and generally leave no offsets. If the bloom stalks of aeoniums such as A. tabulae-forme are gouged out with a sharp knife from the center of the plant jum before they elongate, the plant will not only remain but produce innumerable offsets around the cut. Flower stalks of the larger echeverias such as & gtbbiflora are allowed to develop to the bud stage, however, and then they are removed and treated like stem cuttings. Numerous plant-lets form along these rooted flower stems and may be removed and grown on separately.

Another very important chore in growing succulents out of doors is ihe never ending battle against weeds. Nothing

looks more forlorn, nothing harbors more danger from pests and diseases than a succulent bed overrun by weeds. Weeding must be done regularly and thoroughly with small tools and stout gloves, as weed killers and cultivators are impossible to use among these plants. Keeping the garden area generally free of weeds helps, regular edging of lawns and paths helps too, but when all is said and done it's a job for a gardener with a strong back, nimble fingers, and a patient soul.

labels and Cataloguing

The final task in maintaining succulents properly is to keep them labeled. There are many kinds of labels in use. but a really satisfactory plant label must be small, inconspicuous, and reasonably lasting. Wood labels are cheap but they roi quickly; metal labels are durable but expensive. The very best kind for succulents are the thin, hard, plastic pot labels orchid growers use. They measure one half by three inches, and can be had in white and several soft colors. Names, dates, and descriptions written on them with an ordinary soft lead pencil will last for five Years or more in the open, and they may be easily erased with a rubber eraser and the labels used again.

The really serious collector will also want to keep a small catalogue or notebook of his plants. Here the source and date of purchase or propagation of each plant are listed, the date of potting and repotting, and notes on blooming and seeding. Persona] observations and experiments in watering or feeding axe also recorded, and the resting period for various plants. Such a book is often more valuable than a dozen printed texts because it is personal and specific. It is not only the factual record of a collection of plants, but the story of the beginnings and growth of a valuable hobbv

0 0

Post a comment