Fine Gardening magazine recently had an article on 10 outstanding succulents to try, which prompted my thinking – midst continuous snow fall and crazy temps – of how happy succulents make me. They teach us snowbunnies much about surviving the winter. They tolerate dryness by holding onto any moisture they can muster up, as best as they can. This is what gives them their beautifully bizarre shapes. Oh, they like water, don’t get them wrong, they simply require great drainage.
I got to write on the subject in Northern Gardener magazine a few years ago. Read: Succulent Choices: Sedums Add So Much to the Garden.
While researching the article, I stumbled upon a few succulents that I wasn’t that familiar with.
Euphorbia. Commonly known as spurge, euphorbias have the great, low-maintenance characteristics of all succulents. What you think may be their flowers, are actually bracts (modified leaves). Think poinsettias, which are in the non-hardy limb of the family. These colorful bracts give the impression of flowers in the spring garden, when their fluffy pops of color are really a welcome sight!
Hardy cacti. Opuntia are the “Prickly Pears” of the western US and Mexico. This large genius contains the most cold hardy of all cacti.
Yucca. There is something distinctly non-Minnesotan about yucca, with its acupuncture sharp leaves like swords and nearly 6-foot-high stalks producing bell-shaped flowers. That said, they are striking specimens and several varieties do well in the North. They love to bake in the sun and demand well-drained soil. The varieties below are hardy to zone 4 and bloom from July to August.
- Yucca filamentosa ‘Ivory Tower.’ Height: 60 inches. Width: 36 inches. Green foliage with white flowers.
- Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ PP9393. Height: 72 inches. Width: 48 inches. Green and white variegated foliage with white flowers.
- Yucca glauca. Sometimes referred to as soapweed. Height: 72 inches. Width: 36 inches. A more native looking yucca with matte green leaves and white flowers.
Here’s a link to my step by step instructions.
And of course, a shout out to my favorite succulent. The good old-fashioned mother-hen-and-chick.