The Green Thumb: Cool as a succulent
by Patty Aukland / For the Tracy Press
Jul 04, 2013 | 556 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I love succulents. They are cool to look at and come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, leaf colors and growing habits, and they are easy to grow and propagate.

Succulent plants, including those from the cactus family, have highly specialized anatomy to enable them to survive prolonged drought. Succulents may store water in various structures, such as leaves and stems. (A cactus is a succulent plant, but not all succulents are cacti.)

Succulents thrive in containers, such as the classic terracotta pot and other ceramic, metal and wood containers.

I have succulents growing in all sorts of things. Many of my succulent “pots” aren’t really made to grow anything in them, but if it can hold dirt and water, give me a hammer and nail to poke holes in the bottom and I’ll grow a succulent in it.

I even have a gold-tooth aloe in a tin vegetable can that has a colorful label. I think nothing is cuter — and more willing to grow — than a plant in a can that has a picture of the Jolly Green Giant on the label.

Some of my favorite plants are growing in colorful little tin pots from the dollar store, too.

Trailing plants, such as burro’s tail, chartreuse sedum, string of pearls, fish hooks senecio, stacked crassula and pork-and-beans, look great in hanging baskets or tall containers.

Cacti and other succulents make great indoor plants. My living room gets morning sunlight and has areas of bright sunlight, indirect light and filtered light that showcase Christmas cacti, tall mother-in law’s tongues (Sansevieria), blooming kalanchoes, different types of aloes and donkey’s tail.

Try using your imagination when growing succulents in the ground, by intermixing them with rocks, driftwood or metal sculptures among aptenia or sedum ground covers.

Solar lights can be used to highlight plants with unique silhouettes. Anemone, mini pine trees, agave, any type of aloe and even barrel cactus can be emphasized by backlighting to reveal dramatic shadows against a wall.

I hope this column has sparked your interest in growing cacti and succulents. Now I will answer the age-old question: Why did the cactus cross the road?

Because he was stuck to the chicken.

• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s University of California-certified master gardeners, including Patty Aukland, who is also a live-goods merchandiser. Master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or

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