Potted succulents are perfect summer plants for a Midwest porch, patio, or deck thanks to their small size, water-saving habits and sun-loving nature. These tips will help you start a successful succulent container garden:
-- Select a container with drainage holes. Spread gravel in the bottom of the container to speed drainage, and top with a potting soil mix designed for succulents or cacti.
-- Plant succulents tightly in the container (left). They are slow-growing, so pack them into the pot from the start.
-- Let the pots dry out slightly between watering. Succulents store water in their fleshy leaves and flourish in dry conditions.
-- Bring containers indoors to a bright windowsill in winter. Some succulents, such as hens-and-chicks and Sedum spp., are hardy to Zone 3 or 4 and can be transplanted into your garden. Click on "Best Succulent Plants for the Midwest" to see which varieties can take winter's chill.
Ideas for great-looking container succulents are on the next 14 slides.
Fill an urn with the thick pointed leaves of hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.). Some varieties, like the one used here, bear white hairs that form what looks like a spiderweb over the plants. The naturally variegated colors and tightly packed texture add plenty of visual interest to this single-specimen planting.
Elevate Echeveria spp. on a fence post or column to better enjoy the flowers that cluster on the top of stalks sprouting from between the thick, rounded blue-green leaves. Echeveria foliage comes in a variety of shapes and colors.
Blue-green echeveria (Echeveria spp.) combines with white-striped zebra haworthia (Haworthia fasciata) and fuzzy panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) with brown-tipped leaves. A separate container with burro's tail (Sedum morganianum) adds color and textural contrast as it drapes over the edge of the next step.
Single out one of the more than 300 species of agaves, a relative of the lily family. An eye-catching plant, Agave celsii sports thick, wide, swordlike leaves with sharp tips. Colors range from bright green to blue-gray.
Show off three foliage champs in clay pots: Dyckia marnierlapostolle in the pot at left in the photo, and the ubiquitous Echeveria spp. in the pots at center and right. Note that leaf tips of the slow-growing, spiny-edged Dyckia can shrivel in excessive heat.
Nestle a couple of hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) among the lush spires of watch chain stonecrop (Sedum sexangulare) in a concrete bowl. In summer, the stonecrop bears tiny yellow star-shape flowers on its lanky stems.
The mottled colors of old metal compotes complement this collection of succulents. On the left, ruffle-leaved Mexican hens (Echeveria shaviana) pair with ghost plants (Graptopetalum paraguayense). In the lower tier, a collection of hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) circles the fleshy paddles of Cotyledon spp.
Focus on exotic plant forms by pairing mother of thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana, center plant in photo, with bristly rat tail cacti (Disocactus flagelliformis). The violet-flowering Kalanchoe also bears the name devil's backbone, for its serrated edges.