The use of succulents in dish gardens was Comanche County 4-H Educator Sharon Stuckey’s topic at an Oklahoma Home and Community Education leader lesson here Tuesday.
Dish gardens are a type of container garden, usually made with shallow, open dishes or bowls and with multiple plants in one container.
Succulents have thick fleshy leaves or stems that store water, need minimal watering, and are very adaptable and durable. They love light, and a bright southern or western window works well for many.
“Some people during the summers like to put them outside, to let them get a little bit more sunlight. Just be sure if you do that, to not have them in the intense sunlight or direct sunlight from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., because that seems to be the hottest portion of the day, and it might burn them just a little bit,” Stuckey advises.
“If you do take them in and out of the house, be sure to try to acclimate the plant over several days to the different environment. You don’t want to shock them and stress them out,” she cautioned.
Succulents can withstand temperatures from 40 degrees up to 90 degrees for long periods. A lot of times, the colder days are when they start flowering, so if you want to force them to flower you can put them outside at those colder temperatures.
As to soil, you want something that has really good drainage. Coarse sand, perlite and organic materials make good additions to a soil mix for succulents. A mixture of two parts coarse sand or perlite, one part organic material and one part of garden soil is one example.
Succulents do better in a relatively small amount of soil. Larger pots can make controlling the amount of moisture difficult and lead to poor plant health.
The pot should have either a drainage hole or rocks in the bottom so that the roots are not standing in water. Broken clay pot shards or coarse gravel will also work.
Take care not to over-water succulents because this will cause the roots to rot. Water when the plant starts to droop, or the leaves have indentations, or the plant starts to look a little gray (depending on the type of succulent).
If the soil still feels moist, don’t water yet. Wait until the soil completely dries out before watering again. Succulents love to have a lot of water all at once. If you water them only a little bit at a time it tends to weaken the roots and they don’t survive and thrive as well as they should.
Be careful when repotting succulents because they are very sensitive during planting. The roots can break easily, and a gentle teasing is fine to spread the roots out from the plant.
If a leaf breaks off, wait until the break scabs over and it can be used to make a new plant. Similarly, cuttings may be taken from larger succulents when they come out of dormancy in early spring to make new plants.
Cacti and succulents are often grouped together in shallow dish gardens. While this may be an attractive way to display your plants, take several precautions. Choose plants that are compatible in growth rate so that one or two plants do not outgrow the rest. Even more important, the plants must have similar water requirements. Most cacti need less water than other succulents.
Scale and mealy bugs attack cacti and succulents. Remove them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, or apply an insecticide recommended for these pests. Follow directions carefully.