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Hilltop's Variety Spotlight

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Hardy Succulents

A 'Desert' planting of various sedums.

Hardy succulents are an excellent choice for that difficult dry spot that is just out of reach of the hose; for that place that you really want something but don’t want to spend a lot of time fussing; for that place that you want subtle texture but not screaming color. Consider some or all of the following:

  • Sedums –

    • Tall – examples are Autumn Joy and its progeny. These sedums are tall (2’-3’), coarse plants that bloom in the fall. They are the landscaper’s favorite, but we personally think they are over-rated. To each their own.

    • Medium – examples are ‘Vera Jameson,’ ‘Purple Emperor,’ sieboldii Variegated, and ‘Postman’s Pride.’ They are about 12-18” tall and come in a wide range of foliage colors. Most have mauve blooms.

      A sedum wreath, complete with kitten.

    • Short – examples are hispanicum, ‘Angelina,’ ‘Voodoo,’ and ‘Dragon’s Blood.’ These tend to be 4” tall or less. The variety of colors and textures is amazing! Flower colors range from white, to pink, to rose, to reddish, and even yellow. These varieties lend themselves to troughs, wreaths, and rocks with holes in them.

    Ice Plant.

  • Ice Plants – These come in a wide range of flower colors. The magenta Delosperma cooperi blooms all summer, while some others have distinct bloom periods. The new ‘Desert Jewel’ series should boom all summer! (The large-growing ones you may have seen along the freeways in California are not hardy here.)

  • Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum) – These come in the most amazing array of color and textures. They “make more” by setting off “chicks” from the hens.

  • Cactus – The Prickly Pear cactus is a Missouri native and can be found in rocky out-croppings in fields. They bloom large yellow blooms, followed by red fruit.


  • All hardy succulents need excellent drainage, especially in the winter. Incorporating lots of sand into the bed, creating a raised bed, or planting on a slope are all ways to increase drainage for hardy succulents.

  • Hardy succulents are quite drought tolerant, but will grow faster and lusher with regular moisture.

  • Most like part sun or full sun.

  • Grow lean (little fertilizer) and on the dry side for best color and tidiest growth.

    Hens & Chicks.

  • Hens and chicks and some low growing sedums have best foliage color when they are cold and hungry (late winter, early spring). Hens and chicks tend to be a little less colorful in the hot summer.

  • The smaller hardy succulents (not the tall sedums) are excellent choices for small pots, troughs, wreaths, rock gardens, “hell strips,” and areas with little soil volume.

Variety Spotlight #9, 2/8/2014 © Hilltop Farm

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