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Year-round gardening: Creating succulent gardens in containers

By: Fredricka Bogardus Colorado Master Gardener
June 9, 2018
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Photo by Fredricka Bogardus

I love pots filled with annuals that bloom all summer, but these plantings need constant watering, deadheading and frequent fertilization. If you're looking for a less-demanding, eye-catching planter, consider a container garden of succulents.

Succulents' fleshy leaves and stems can withstand drought. They come from a wide variety of botanical families. They are not quite as drought-tolerant as cactus but grow more quickly.

They tend to have short roots, so pots can be wide and as shallow as 6 inches, with no need for huge quantities of soil.

Container-grown succulents can be annuals or perennials. The key is selection. Pay attention to hardiness information on the label.

Most of Colorado Springs is in zone 5, meaning winter temperatures dip to minus 20 degrees. Many succulents can tolerate our winters, including hens and chicks (Sempervivens sp.), sedums (Sedum sp.) and iceplant (Delosperma sp).

If colorful blooms are more important to you than winter hardiness, consider a container of moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora), a low-maintenance annual that is more drought-tolerant than other annuals.

Planter design with perennial succulents is more about the foliage shapes and shades. Interesting designs can be created with the almost other-world morphology of these plants. You might get blooms, but the captivating shapes and colors of these plants are what attracts attention.

Succulents need well-drained soil and little fertilization. Most thrive in full sun. A mulch of pebbles can be an attractive addition to your pots.

In winter, move your perennial succulent pots to a sheltered location. A covering of frost cloth may benefit these plants in winter. I leave it on until mid-spring, as it discourages animals from disrupting the plants in early spring. These plants are fairly deer- and rabbit-resistant. But if deer are hungry enough, they might try to munch them, often leaving the plants after they pull them out.

If you would like to create one of these gardens, consider attending the Make & Take succulent class at Colorado State University Extension on June 16. You'll create a great planting under the guidance of Colorado master gardeners and take it home that day. More information at elpaso.extension.colostate.edu/.

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When you have questions, email ask.extension.org or call 520-7684 from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Thursday. For garden tips, visit facebook.com/ColoradoMasterGardeners.EPC

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