Tag Archives: string of pearls

Succulent Plantings…When Summer Heat Sizzles!

Cork Bark and Succulents - Echevaria, Variegated Jade, Rhypsalis, Cryptanthus, Haworthia, String of PearlsWhile parts of the country are enjoying an unusually cool summer, here in the heart of the south the temperature and humidity can still soar. Unfortunately, even nighttime temperatures rarely provide respite from the unending heat, though, thankfully, we (and our plants!) have had a couple of welcome breaks this year.

Succulents: Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle', Rhypsalis, EchevariaWhile there are plenty of tough, heat tolerant plants that, with the proper maintenance, work very well in our landscapes, this post is going to concentrate on succulents, with examples of some recent container plantings.  Look HERE for more succulent arrangements we’ve done in the past too.

Three bright yellow pots provide a temporary home as a centerpiece trio, then these plants will move outside for the rest of the season. The curly little number here is an interesting, and new to the plant scene (at least for us), succulent-like plant (It’s actually a bulb.) called Albuca spiralis  ‘Frizzle Sizzle’. Native to South Africa, its growth actually slows during the heat of summer, and it must be kept on the dry side during this resting period.  As we move into the colder winter months, it will begin to grow again and should make a relatively easy indoor plant for a  bright room inside.

Succulents: Echevarias, Rhypsalis, Variegated Jade, Sedum and Pilea 'Aquamarine'The basket planting shows a tiny leaf blue-green succulent-like plant that is actually a Pilea called ‘Aquamarine’. It has fast become a favorite for succulent and other arrangements in containers. The tiny leaves grow quite quickly, mingling with other plants and eventually trailing, seemingly indefinitely! This mixture also has echevarias, workhorse succulents that can grow to enormous proportions.image

The square brown planter is home to a variety of succulents, including a number of Hechtia glomerata.  It’s  in the Bromeliad family and native from Texas down into Central America. Species of Hechtia are terrestrial and inhabit dry, rocky places and often seen growing  on vertical walls along rivers, where the soil drains exceptionally well. Hechtia is a plant that’s new to us this year. We’ve noticed it has  the spiny edges on leaves that some bromeliads are known for.

Tillandsia ( Air Plants), Succulents (Hechtia glomerata) and RhypsalisSucculent plants and air plants, Tillandsia, are  perfect partners, as you can see in this cork bark composition. Here’s the Hechtia again, with another plant called Rhypsalis. Rhypsalis is another fascinating plant. It’s actually in the cactus family and most are native to Brazil. Its name is derived from the Greek word rhips, which means wickerwork and refers to the slender, flexible, reed-like stems.
Rhipsalis are primarily epiphytic, meaning they live in trees, but some also grow in  the cracks of rocks. Quite a versatile little cactus! It doesn’t have spines like a conventional cactus; instead the stems seem almost flattened and branch frequently. Flowers are among the smallest of cactus flowers and usually white, though some may be tinged with yellow or red.

Succulent Planter with Hen and Chicks, Echevaria and CryptanthusThe wooden bowl shows an old favorite, sempervivum or hen and chicks, a well known succulent and widely available in many rosette colors. One thing we’ve learned about “semps” is they really do appreciate a bit of shade in the afternoon here in Birmingham. Maybe it’s our constant humidity. At any rate, a touch of shade seems to help.

Succulents and Cactus in a Marble DishAnother cactus called ‘Old Man’ and a little succulent called Haworthia are at home in a small marble container. There are no drainage holes in this piece, so careful watering must be done sparingly.

Succulents in Cork Bark - Close-Up. Rhypsalis, Variegated Jade, Echevaria, Cryptanthus, HaworthiaFinally, a long, very narrow piece of cork bark is home to a varied selection of succulents including Portulacaria afra, sometimes called miniature variegated jade plant though it’s a different species.  Its small, cream-variegated leaves on reddish stems are striking combined with the echevarias, haworthias, Cryptanthus, and  Senecio rowleyanus or string of pearls (not shown in this picture). With  bright light and a light hand with water, this planting should  flourish.

These plantings are just the tip of an amazing succulent iceberg. We’re constantly on the lookout for others to expand our design repertoire. So far we’re having a grand time!


Brassidium Orchids – These Are Beautiful “Spiders” in a Beautiful Display!

Brassidium orchids and succulentsJamie put together this stunning display the other day at the front of the shop, using  a beautiful mix of containers and plants. The picture doesn’t do her designs justice,,,a  pony tail palm underplanted with succulents; another succulent planting in cork bark; and a gorgeous arrangement of a standing cork bark planter with brassidium, or spider, orchids.

Brassidium orchid display - succulentsBrassidium orchid blooms - closeupThis closeup picture of the succulent plantings shows both the diversity of this group of plants and why we enjoy working with them so much. In addition to the drought tolerant ponytail palm, there are echeverias, string of pearls, string of bananas, crassulas, and variegated trailing jade plant, all right at home in her design.

The spider orchids are so exotic looking with their long, long stems holding spidery-looking flowers all along their length. These flowers actually evolved to attract a certain female parasitic wasp that lay their eggs on spiders in their webs. Since the flowers look like spiders, The wasp lays the eggs on the flower and is covered with pollen. Not getting the spider it’s looking for, it moves on to the next “spider”, thus pollinating the plant. Pretty amazing stuff.

As I’ve pointed out in other posts, the key to figuring out how to grow a plant is finding out where it’s native habitat is, and a previous post on bromeliads highlighted this. Brassia orchids are native to wet, tropical forests of Central and South America. They are named for the 19th century British botanical illustrator, William Brass.

Orchid hybridizers have crossed Brassias with Miltonia and Ondontoglossums to create some incredible hybrids, many of which are fragrant and have very large, spidery flowers.

How to grow your Brassidium orchid:

They require very bright light but not direct sun. Please don’t expect them to be happy in a dark, interior room! In the tropical forests they receive diffused light through the trees.

Keep your Brassidium orchid moist during the growing season. This is the period when the pseudobulb develops and flower spikes appear. After this period, when in flower, don’t overwater; the fat pseudobulb at the base is helping hold moisture. Water once a week or when the pot begins to feel light.

Brassidium orchids appreciate humidity, temperatures between 65F and 75F during the day, and good air circulation that can be provided by a fan. Since our homes tend to be dry, if you’d like to keep your brassia happy, add a shallow tray of pebbles in water that the pot can sit on (but not in the water). This  will help raise the humidity to the 50%-70% these orchids prefer.