Welcoming Succulents to the Neighborhood


I’ve been walking my suburban San Francisco neighborhood for 13 years now, first as a newly married in jogging apparel, then as a new mom pushing a carriage, then one pushing a double umbrella stroller, and now, as an old mom yanking on a pug dog’s leash as I hike the steep hills. I’ve observed a happy change evolving in the landscape, from estates with thirsty sprawling lawns graced with European cottage-style gardens to inventive green designs using rocks or wild grasses as ground cover and gorgeous compositions of the heartiest plants around: succulents.

Who doesn’t love an exotic plant that stores its own water? Guess that’s why more homeowners faced with fat mortgages and recession woes are curbing the sprinklers and opting for low water-use plants.

We often associate cacti with succulents, and while all cacti are succulents, not all succulents are categorized as cacti. Both are native to regions such as the Southwest of Africa and can thrive in many environments and weather conditions. As eCountry Lifestyle points out, succulents are among the easiest plants to grow – and even make excellent potted indoor house plants, when positioned near a sunny window.


Succulents actually prefer small pots, even in the garden, which allows you to control the moisture level since over-watering can cause the roots to rot. A cutting can be planted directly in soil and it will develop roots and flourish.

Naturally stunning rock configured landscapes, such as those by Dane Easter of Mystical Landscapes (below), exhibit newly planted succulents in both shady and sunny settings. These hearty desert dwellers are accustomed to dry conditions and do best with varied soil mixtures, including coarse sand.


The aloe vera plant, sold at sites like Cacti.com, is one of the most familiar succulents since its properties often employed in natural skin remedies. Others include the jade plant, century plant (Agave), snake plant and flowering kalanchoe. They can add variety since they come in so many different colors and textures. They key is learning how to plant them in multiples to produce a balanced design.

For some helpful hints to get started with your own garden, check out Garden Time Online which will lead you down the path of selecting the right plants and placing them in your garden.

Images: breworks, Melir,

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.