Far Out Flora – Succulents Love the Sunset

How’s it going Ocean Beach? Still confused about those crazy succulents that you see around the ‘hood? They’re a diverse group of plants: so many colors, shapes and textures. But they can be some of the easiest plants to grow – especially with our sandy, fast-draining soil. Yeah, they love our sand. So let’s dive in. Prepare for a crash course on Aeoniums.

There are a bunch of different species in the Aeonium genus and most of them come from the Canary Islands, which have a climate similar to San Francisco’s. Their leaves form rosettes – that is, they look a lot like a flower such as a rose. Cool thing is that Aeonium rosettes last year round, while flowers can fade after a couple of days. Near the beach, these guys do best in full sun, can take some shade and hate frost. Also, they’re active winter growers and dig our winter rains. We usually don’t water them at all in the summer. Fact is, more Aeoniums are killed by over-watering than under-watering.

Take another look at the lush succulent garden above. Can you spot the Aeoniums?

Here they are: Aeonium species (left), Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ (center), Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum (right).

There are a couple ways to make more Aeonium plants. The easiest way is just break off a rosette and stick it in the ground. Formally, this is called “taking a cutting.” Also, Aeoniums generally grow babies from the base of the stem. These can be pulled off and planted in the ground. You may also hear the babies referred to as pups.

“But Far Out Flora,” you say, “I don’t have any Aeoniums.”

Well, before going over to the neighbors and taking cuttings of their plants, try asking first. You may be surprised that people love sharing their succulents but hate to find them randomly gone missing. We started our collection of succulents from a big bag of clippings from a friend, and found a bunch of free ones on Craigslist.

OK, the crash course is over. Time to give your new knowledge a test drive.

There was a corner of our lawn that never seemed to perform well. So we decided to try a little experiment. We took about two dozen cuttings from around the garden, and stuck them in the ground about four to eight inches apart.

Frankly, it was shocking how fast they filled in. Here’s how the corner looked after four to five months. Not fast enough for you? Well, use bigger cuttings or plant them closer together.

Give it a try. Walking home from the beach, we saw a street garden that may help for some inspiration.

By the way, feel free to send us any garden questions. You can either leave comments here, or else email info [at] faroutflora [dot] com. We are in training for Master Gardener certification and could use the practice! See you in two weeks.

We (Matti and Megan) live in San Francisco near Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park. Plants are awesome. We like to do interesting things with them. Succulents, bromeliads, carnivores and other unusual plants are our favorites. Both of us graduated from UW-Madison with art degrees. Matti works for an art gallery and Megan works for a home staging company. We’re originally from the great state of Wisconsin. Before moving to San Francisco we lived in Madison off of Willy Street Our dog Max is too smart for his own good. He makes us check out beaches all over the coast.

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6 Comments

  1. i call aeoniums stare plants, cause i stare at them

  2. This is one of the more amazing succulents that I’ve seen out here.

    http://theoutersunset.com/2010/07/06/these-movies-we-make-they-can-be-better-they-can-help-they-really-can-im-gonna-keep-trying-if-you-guys-keep-trying-lets-keep-rockin-and-rollin-man/

    I’ve since learned that it’s called a Century Plant or Agave Americana and that they only bloom once in their lifetime.

    • Yeah, those Agave americana are monocarpic…they flower then die. But they typically push out a bunch of babies before that so the plant keeps on going. Matti

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