by Joe Mantkowski, ArtisTree Landscape Designer, LEED GA, LICHP
Q: When we moved to southwest Florida, I thought it would be so easy to plant succulents and not have to tend them. But mine look lifeless and just kind of sit there (I did add mulch around them). What am I doing wrong?
A: Sounds like you’re not working with good drainage material. Yes, succulents ARE easy to grow here, but because Florida has such a rainy, humid climate, you have to use well-drained media such as course sand and pea gravel along with some organic matter. Get rid of your mulch because it holds in too much moisture and encourages succulents to rot. Same goes with richer soil mixes.
You didn’t say where you had planted your succulents, but containers or a nice rock-garden setting are two excellent choices. Aloes, agaves, dyckias and kalanchoes work well in raised, well-drained landscape beds. More tender succulents fair best in containers scattered around your outdoor living area. Most succulents like bright and indirect sunlight, and require just a low amount of fertilizer during their active growing cycles, which is spring and summer.
Then comes the creative part -- designing your succulent garden. There are thousands of varieties, shapes, sizes, textures and colors to explore. Select your favorites, group them as you please, and don’t go overboard on adding supplemental water. They’re adapted to survive dry conditions. Follow these easy tips and you have a very good chance of succeeding at succulents!