Horticulture Report

Feb 2018
Sherrie Eoff


All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. While some types of succulents have somewhat exacting care requirements, most are easy to grow because they evolved with special water-storage tissues that allow them to survive in environments that are too dry for most other plants. Cacti are fleshy plants that store water, making them part of this group. In order for a succulent plant to be considered a cactus, the plant must have areoles. Areoles are small, round, cushion-like mounds of flesh where spines, hair, leaves, flowers, and more grow from the cactus.

* Cactus and succulent plants are very easy to care for, and because they are drought tolerant, they can survive (not fl­ourish!) for several weeks at a time without water.

* Place your plant in an area well lit with natural light, such as on a windowsill or on a patio. Avoid intense, direct sunlight until plant has acclimatized to its new environment.

* Water when soil is dry to the touch, which is approximately every 7 – 10 days, indoors. Water less frequently during winter months, as this is the natural dormancy period of many plants.

* Fertilize with a half-strength general fertilizer once a month, if desired.


If you bought your succulents from a nursery or online store, the first thing you’ll want to do is repot them as soon as possible (or at least within 24 hours). Why? The small plastic pots and highly-absorbent planting soil that come with most succulents are not ideal. You’ll want move them into larger terra cotta containers with drainage holes and surround them with soil that dries quickly (more on that in a bit).

Succulents don’t thrive when they sit in wet soil, which makes a drainage hole very important. Cassidy Tuttle, the blogger behind Succulents and Sunshine and the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents, says terra cotta pots are the perfect options for beginners because the vessels dry quickly, they pull out water from the soil, they’re breathable, and they prevent water from building up. You can also plant succulents in ceramic, plastic, or metal containers—as long as there’s some sort of hole for drainage. Glass containers are okay too, but they’re not as easy to work with. “The quickest way to kill your succulent is to trap it in a glass bowl without drainage,” Tuttle says. “They do need water, but they like their roots to dry out really quickly. Being in a typical terrarium or glass bowl doesn’t really allow that.”

The size of your container should also be considered. You can control the growth of your succulents by planting them in a pot that encourages or discourages growth—they’ll “bonsai,” or take the shape and size of the container in which they’re planted.


Succulents do best in soil that doesn’t hold water, and you can give that to ’em in three ways. First, if you already have gardening soil at home, you can add pumice or perlite to your mixture, both of which you can buy at your local nursery. Alternatively, you can purchase succulent-friendly Gritty Mix soil, which mimics the natural soil they prefer to grow in. Your last option is that you can try making your own succulent soil at home by combining pine bark fines, turface, and crushed granite. These options ensure your succulents are growing in materials that pull the water away from them.


You can grow almost any succulent indoors as long as you give it enough access to bright light. Ensure their health and growth by placing them next to the sunniest window in your home for at least six hours per day. “South-facing windows are going to give them the most sunlight, all day long,” Tuttle said.


Knowing when and how much to water your succulents is one of the trickiest parts of caring for these plants. “Ninety-nine percent of taking care of succulent is watering,” says Darren Irwin, the founder and owner of The Succulent Source in Southern California. His rule of thumb: Water when dry; never water when wet, damp, or moist. “If they dry out completely in five days, you can water them every five days. If they dry out completely in two weeks, then water every two weeks.” When you water your plant, drench the soil with liquid, you’ll know you’ve watered the plant enough when water exits through the drainage hole. Let the succulent dry completely, and then wait a few days before watering again. We repeat: There should be no moisture or water in the container before you water again!

From Country Living website


Helleborus, also called Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, is one of the most attractive and longest blooming perennials for the part shade to full shade garden, especially DRY shade. They are deer resistant, great for mixed beds and borders, hardy in zones 4-9, evergreen, and late-winter to early spring flowering. In my garden they usually start blooming Feb. and will hold the blooms for a good 3 months. The color of the blooms does fade over time, but how many perennials will have blooms for 3 months!?!?

Mature clumps are about 12-24” tall and 24-30” wide, and may have 50 or more blooms per plant. Flower color ranges from white to plum, with in between shades of pink, rose, magenta, cream, yellow, and green. There are both single and double forms available. And the doubles are getting to be more affordable. Flowers are usually cup or bell shaped and either outward facing or drooping.

The leaves are thick and sturdy, resembling leathery umbrellas, adding nice texture to the garden and a prefect backdrop for bulbs and other perennials. Winter conditions can make the leaves rather tattered by spring, just prune old leaves to the ground in late winter. The blooms and new leaves will then look their best. Some species have stems that rise from the ground, with leaves all along their length, others have leaves that arise directly from the growing points at ground level.

Established clumps may produce lots of seedlings. These usually appear in early to mid spring and may be moved while small. The seedlings may take 2-3 years to bloom and may flower in shades different from parent plants. This is caused by cross-pollination by insects. Mature plants may be divided in spring or fall, but they resent it and are slow to recover.

“Christmas rose” starts blooming in Dec., while “Lenten Rose” starts later in winter. But most gardeners use either one or both as a common name for Helleborus.

“Like a chain letter, I will take a plant from this garden to the next and from the next garden to the one after that, and so on, until someday I am an old woman nurturing along a patchwork quilt of a garden, with cuttings and scraps from every garden I tended before”

Amy Stewart, From the Ground Up, 2001

My version on that quote would be: “Like a chain letter, I will take a plant from this gardener, and the next, and so on, until someday I am an old woman nurturing along a patchwork quilt of a garden, with cuttings and scraps from gardeners’ gardens that I have known”