Roses are your royalty, and you’ll likely be catering to their every whim. Perennial shrubs are your worker bees, with plants like hydrangeas and geraniums doing double duty as hedges and ornamentals if necessary. But what about succulents? Here in the sandy soil of western San Francisco, succulents are your friends.
Think about your best friends for a moment. They don’t demand much from you when you’re busy, but are right there for you when you need them. They are easily pleased, hard to offend, and know how to be happy all on their own.
Voila the succulent. Easy-care succulents like jade plants, sedum or aloe vera are the backyard garden ornamentals that I like the best. They grow happily in my sandy soil (and any other well-draining dirt), require little attention, thrive in full sun or part sun, and fly right through our California droughts, using the water they stored in their puffy leaves.
Caring for Succulents
If easier garden plants exist, I have yet to meet them. I had never even heard of jade plants before I landed in the outer lands area of the City by the Bay. But they were everywhere: not just the jade plants, but all different and astonishing varieties of succulents.
I learned quickly that the prevalence of succulents did not reflect the neighborhood’s deep love for these plants. Rather, the succulents are the consummate survivor plants. Someone planted them once, long ago perhaps, and they survived the repeated summer droughts, the lack of food, lack of irrigation, warm days and foggy days.
Given good drainage, succulents seem to live for a long, long time. In fact, many gardeners say that the only way to kill succulents, other than pulling them up by the roots, is to give them too much water.
The other delightful thing about succulents is how easy it is to fill your garden beds with them. That’s because propagating succulents from cuttings is the easiest magic you’ll ever do.
I had heard that they were easy to propagate from cuttings, then one day came across an abandoned pile of trimmings from a neighbor’s succulent hedge. I carried home a couple dozen, let them dry out for a few days, then planted the stems in the ground. They are still happy and thriving five years later, my longest garden friends.