Seven secrets for growing stunning succulents

The second week of June is not too late to plant some food. You can visit the garden center for potted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and eggplants that can be transplanted into a sunny spot of your garden and you will still harvest the home-grown goodness this summer.

Mid-June is also the time of year when hanging baskets and container gardens are in need of more fertilizer. If you want annuals like petunias, fuchsias and lobelias to continue with the big blooming show all summer you must keep them supplied with nutrients and water. If you have failed at this task or do not want the responsibility of daily deadheading, watering and feeding then consider growing sedums and succulents.

Succulents and sedums are plants that store moisture in their fleshy leaves and need very little soil as they are not heavy feeders. The huge popularity of these low-care plants has made new varieties easy to find at local nurseries and garden centers. You can even find tender varieties in the houseplant section of nurseries. If you cannot attend the class I’ll be giving this week all about sedums and succulents, then here are some tips for growing succulents in our climate.

Here are seven secrets of growing succulents in Western Washington:

1. Add perlite to the potting soil. Sedums and succulents need really good drainage and it rains here — a lot. Perlite is a natural white stone that adds air and drainage. Most potting soils will already contain perlite but if you add more perlite to regular potting soil you add more drainage and make your succulents very happy. Two-thirds potting soil and one-third perlite is about right.

2. Allow the plants to dry out between watering, then just mist or very lightly water the plants. This means a pot of succulents exposed to rain may need watering once a month in August and September — or less in June and July. Go on vacation and don’t worry.

3. Do not use a large or deep container for sedums or succulents. These plants have shallow roots. Too much soil with no roots will hold moisture that can rot the plants.

4. Full sun is great, but these plants do well in partial sun and some (such as sedum Angelina and hens and chicks) do fine in almost full shade.

5. Do not over feed. Don’t fertilizer at all if your succulents look fine. Use a slow-release plant food at half strength if your sedums have been in the same container for several years and look weary.

6. Short roots mean you can get creative with your planting. Pot hens and checks and sedum Angelina in an old purse. Make a succulent wreath or ball of sedums to hang from a tree. A wire frame, moss and a bit of soil is all they need. (Come to class June 13 at Windmill to learn more.)

7. Move your fancy tender succulents indoors for the winter. Then, don’t water them much. Echeverias, chalky fingers, string of pearls, and fire sticks are all names of exotic looking succulents that can be overwintered as houseplants. A bright window and very little water is all they need.

Write to Marianne Binetti at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022.

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