Sun Loving Succulents

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


mixed assorted sedums shown with Fiskars soil scoop

When I begin working with a new client, I have them complete a survey covering all sorts of garden-related wants and needs questions. For almost everyone, planning for drought tolerance and water conservation is a priority.

In many cases, clients have tried and failed to build successful drought-hardy gardens. For some, the problem is poor soil preparation. For others, its bad plant choices. For most, it comes down to having planted a number of drought-tolerant plants and expecting them to withstand a drought right away. The reality is most plants that will survive in drought need a bit of coddling for the first few years in our gardens.

One possible exception to this rule: choose succulents!

Succulents are plants that have the ability to store a lot of water in their stems and leaves, which they can draw upon in times of need. (Like when you forget to water the garden for a week in summer when the sun is blazing.) This doesn’t mean they can go forever without water, but they can withstand more neglect than other plants that haven’t created specialized water-storage cellular structures.


mixed succulent green roof planting on chicken coop


In just about any outdoor zone, there are succulent options. Most prefer well-drained soil and a hot, sunny location. And, if you fall in love with one that is too tender for your garden in winter, pot it up to bring life indoors during the chilly months. Just be sure to place it in a sunny window. Even if you forget to water them, most will endure dry indoor environments just fine for a long time.

Succulents come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Cactus, Sedum, Echeveria, Jade, and Aloes are a few fantastic choices. And, don’t forget to try a few Hen ‘n Chicks, which go by the Latin nameSempervivummeaning “always alive”.

Cacti provide unusual shapes and textures for the garden. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to get a bloom, you may see a bat coming to pollinate those flowers. And, many provide edible parts. Just confirm if yours does before you take a bite. Of course, some are covered in spines and hooks so keep caution in mind when choosing yours.


Fast spreading sedum shown with Fiskars Big Grip Cultivator


Sedums come in an array of colors, shapes and sizes. Some die back for winter. Others cover the ground rapidly and beautifully year-round – even under a layer of snow. Some bloom in pinks; others in yellow. All feed the pollinators. And, a small pot of these goes a long way since most Sedum will root right off the stem, making them easy to propagate in your home garden.

Echeveria, Jade and Aloe make wonderful houseplants in cooler climates. Jade is a long-lived potted plant that is often handed down from generation to generation. In warmer locations, each of these offers unique forms and shapes to a mixed border. Plus, Aloe can soothe your sunburns fast!

Sempervivums are hearty rosette-formed plants that rapidly fill in otherwise weedy crevices in hard-to-water rockeries. Tuck in a few and watch the big “hen” send out lots of little “chicks”.  Be aware: when that hen sends a flowering shoot upward, she’ll die right after, but from that flower will come several more chicks to tuck into her now-vacant spot.