LUX Celebrate Summer: Succulent Garden

Flowers have a special place in all of our hearts! But succulents have definitely come in to sweep us off our feet. Whether it's a terrarium, potted arrangement you come up or a succulent garden... these beautiful creatures brighten up a space with a desert vibe that makes you scream, OH YES! Color isn't hard to come by with a landscape full of succulents; neither is texture or form. Mix and match succulents to create an inspiring scene.

Here's some DNA on a few good ones:

Paddle Plant - This is the most popular modern succulent due to its whimsical form and intense winter color. Its leaves are flat, like pancakes, layered into an odd rosette. This plant bolts when it blooms, with the center stem elongating into a gangly white stalk. Those sold in nurseries are youngsters raised to maximum size for immediate use, but they do not last more than a year before bolting, which spoils their looks. Once paddle plant flowers, cut off the stem and give the remnant of the plant good care. It will soon produce many new offsets that can be plucked off and rooted.

Donkey's Tail - Show children a donkey’s tail and they will reach out to pinch the leaves of this unique vinelike succulent. It’s typically grown in a hanging basket where perfect drainage is assured. It also grows well dangling from a pot on a wall or balcony. This is not a heat lover, but it’s a cinch to grow in spots protected from wind. Give it a shaded location with filtered light for best results.

Echeveria - is a collection of truly awesome succulents. The availability of dozens of different-colored hybrids makes them the paint-box plants to pair with glass gravel for out­standing potted specimens, though they look equally amazing in the landscape. Selecting by hand, rather than mail ordering, is the best method of getting the color you have in mind.

Spider Aloe - Fat and stubby, this cute little aloe blooms just as spectacularly as its larger African relatives. In spring, a foot-long spike emerges, topped with tubular, coral red blooms that hummingbirds find irresistible. This hand-size plant is ideal for low, wide bonsai pots. Its toothy leaves are thick and stiff, so its precise form is maintained at all times without flopping. Pairing several spider aloes with smooth river stones makes a beautiful little grouping.

Blue Chalk Sticks - No succulent rivals this one for true blue coloring. It’s favored for mixed-succulent bowls, where it pops against yellow succulents. Blue chalk sticks can be shrubby or low spreading depending on the form you buy and whether you shape it. Leaves are pencil thin and upright, creating a spiky, fine-textured mass. This is an exceptional choice for unusual form in windowsill gardens.

Some key info on potted succulent arrangements:

The biggest problem afflicting potted succulents is the use of soil mixes that are too rich in organic matter. Many bagged cactus soils, often labeled as suitable for cacti and palms, contain a lot of woody material, mostly because these soils are lighter and more inexpensive to ship than the coarse sand that succulents require. This organic matter then becomes a haven for infectious fungi. Succulents need lean, well-drained mineral soil, porous enough that water runs nearly straight through it. An easy test to see if the cactus soil in question contains the right mix is to lift the bag: If it’s heavy, then you’ve found a good mix that includes sand; if it’s light, you’ll need to modify the soil. You can also modify regular potting mixes to suit your succulents. Follow some simple tips to provide the best soil for your succulents:

· Screen out woody particles from cactus mixes with a sheet of ¼-inch-grid hardware cloth to make it downright tough to overwater your succulents.

· Modify regular potting mixes by creating a 50/50 blend of potting mix and sharp sand.

· Fertilize regularly with low-dose fertilizer during the active seasons of spring and summer to compensate for a lack of fertility in the soil mix.

· Pair succulents with other succulents rather than with plants that require rich soil and even moisture. The two are typically not compatible.