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The Central Valley climate can be a difficult place for succulents to thrive due to hot, dry summers and wet, freezing winters. However, it’s not impossible!
 
Drought Tolerant Does Not Equal Full Sun

Here’s a guide to a variety of succulents hardy enough to grow in full sun or light shade for the Central Valley -- a common question asked at the nursery.

First of all, it’s important to make the distinction that drought tolerant is not synonymous with all-day full sun.  If you need plants that can handle full sun, it is good to shop in sections of the nursery where the plants are already living in full sun (i.e., outside benches and not in a greenhouse or shade house). Those plants will then already be acclimated and will have an easier transition to their new home. 

The low water needs of succulents are a good match for the Central Valley, the full exposure simply does not. By mixing full sun California natives such as Buckwheat, Monkey flower, and Sages with succulents that can provide some shelter for your succulents, you can establish a lush and fool-proof landscape that will thrive in your area.

Here's a list of some specific plants that will work in the Central Valley.

Full sun: (direct sun 8+ hours a day)

Agaves & Dasylirion
These genera are the living sculptures of the garden and hardy too! Be sure to research the size at maturity, and plant far from sidewalks and pathways to prevent injury and unnecessary pruning.
Agave americana, A. geminiflora, A. parryi, Dasylirion longissimum, D. wheeleri

Cacti
Coveted for large and vibrant blooms, these desert jewels are not only aesthetically interesting, but are important for birds to perch on for a rest.
Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus) a great specimen for the glowing yellow spines.
Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro Cactus) a fast growing columnar cactus that can reach up to 20’! Plant as a property border and enjoy the large white blooms in July often enjoyed by bees.
Opuntia spp., Mammillaria spinosissima

Hesperaloe parviflora
Hardy to 0 F, the yellow or pink blooms are long lasting and loved by hummingbirds. This plant thrives in full sun and reflected heat. Also safe around children and pets, as it’s not spiky.

Groundcover types:
Delosperma spp.
Extremely frost hardy, these low growing groundcovers will offer blankets of color late spring to midsummer. Some of our favorite cultivars are Delosperma nubigenum, D. ashtonii 'Blut' and Delosperma 'Oberg'.

Portulacaria afra (Elephant’s Food)- a lush shrub that can get up to 12’ tall! Hardy to 25 F, this is a great filler or foundation succulent for the garden.

Senecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalk Sticks)
This blue groundcover will form a dense mat at 18” tall. Looks great mixed in with California Poppies!

Light Sun: sun for ~4 hours but protected from full exposure all day.

Find a microclimate in your yard where shade already exists in the afternoon. For example, an oak tree that provides shade but also lets light through. Afternoon sun (2pm-5pm) are the hottest times of the day and when your succulents want relief.

These plants look their best when protected from the afternoon scorching summer sun:
Agave 'Blue Glow'- named for the glowing margins when backlit, this small Agave reaches maturity at 3’x3’
Agave attenuata- a soft Agave that offers the structural element to the garden without the injury
Cistanthe grandiflora- a garden favorite for the fuschia halo of blooms and lush appearance
Echeveria x imbricata- surprisingly vigorous and hardy, this Echeveria will offset quickly in the garden.
Kalanchoe beharensis- hardy to 30 F, this tree-like succulent can reach over 10’ at maturity. Soft, furry, and wavy leaves lead this succulent to be the specimen of the landscape.
Kalanchoe orgyalis
Sedum 'Angelina'
Sedum nussbaumerianum
S. rubrotinctum
S. spathufolium 'Carnea'
All species listed are frost hard to 30F or lower.

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Succulent Gardens by Succulent Gardens - 2M ago

Dudleya have been getting some attention in the press lately due to an unfortunate run of poaching incidents along our California coastlines.  But Dudleya have been studied and admired for decades by native plant enthusiasts and succulent enthusiasts.  Their brilliant white farina and their ability to survive in tough conditions along our California coastline are just a few things that draw admiration for Dudleya.

Background

Dudleya is a genus of succulents endemic (only native here!) to California and Mexico.  In their natural habitat, they cling to rocky outcrops and bluffs along the coast.  They are very slow growing in nature, so if you see a large clump, it may be more than 100+ years old.  For this reason, their common name is Live-Forever.  

Landscaping with Dudleya

In the garden, Dudleya offer large rosettes that stand out due to their white powder called farina -- which protects them from harsh weather conditions such as wind and sun.  When in bloom, their long red or pink flower stalks shoot up yellow and pink flowers and offer pollen to local wildlife, making this plant a stunning specimen in any succulent garden.

To achieve a natural look, plant a single Dudleya brittonii next to a rock and tilt it towards the point of view of the passerby. This will allow excess water to drain off of the leaves and provide support for your new garden specimen. All of our Dudleya are grown by seed, so you may see differences in each plant due to genetic diversity.

Varieties

There are over 40 varieties of Dudleya found in nature. We cultivate a few different types of Dudleya at Succulent Gardens, and generally have them available in the summer months in 1 gallon and 2 gallon sizes. This year's healthy crop will include Dudleya brittonii (Giant Chalk Live-Forever) and Dudleya hassei hybrid (Catalina Island Live-Forever). We are currently working on increasing our numbers of Dudleya found locally in California including: Dudleya lanceolata (Lanceleaf Live-Forever), Dudleya farinosa (Bluff Lettuce), and Dudleya hybrids.

Dudleya Care

Dudleya should be planted in full sun on the coast and protected from afternoon sun in inland gardens. Dudleya should be provided with excellent drainage to prevent rotting. Deeply soak plants when soil approaches dryness. In summer, avoid overhead irrigation and water just once a month. You can expect plants to look smaller and shriveled up in summer months, but will perk up with the cooler temperatures and more water in winter and spring.

In spring, large flower stalks will rise above the rosettes which can be pruned when dried out or if aphids appear. Save the small dust-like seeds and sprinkle over flats of moist soil to propagate. 

Resources relating to recent poaching

Succulent-Smugglers Descend on California


California’s succulent smugglers: plant poachers seed Asia’s desire for dudleya


Plant smugglers take ‘massive’ toll on California's Dudleya farinosa succulent species

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Succulent Gardens by Succulent Gardens - 5M ago

Succulents develop dazzling colors as a response to colder temperatures as well as other environmental stresses like changes in water and light during winter months.

Plants produce different pigments during these environmental changes to protect themselves from the elements.

These pigments, such as chlorophyll (green), carotenoid (yellow to orange) and anthocyanins (reds to purples) play an important role during the process of photosynthesis.

(Top Row): Crassula 'Campfire'
(Bottom Row): Echeveria elegans

The plants on the left have been growing outside, exposed to the elements and extreme temperature fluctuations. The plants on the right have been been grown in our greenhouses with less exposure to colder temperatures.

Chlorophyll (green)

Most succulents will turn green in the shade because chlorophyll is responsible for capturing sunlight to keep the photosynthesis process going. 

Anthocyanins (red / purple)

As plant is exposed to extreme temperatures or increased sun exposure the cells of the plant contain more anthocyanins.These anthocyanins protect the plant against overexposure to UV light as well as extreme temperature changes. Anthocyanins are more stable in colder temperatures. This is why you often see succulents color up in the winter months. 

Carotenoid (yellow)

Throughout the summer season when photosynthesis is occuring at a great rate, large stocks of pigment that appear green (chlorophyll) are produced and carotenoid is concealed. However once the temperature drops and photosynthetic activity decreases, the production of chlorophyll decreases as well and under the influence of carotenoid one can observe more yellow in the succulent.

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As the days get shorter and colder, some of us retreat indoors to a hot cup of tea and a good book. 

For those looking for a deep dive on succulents - specifically by genus -- here is what we have been reading in order to continue to learn about these fascinating and compelling plants.  Some books are out of print, so you may need to do your homework to get your hands on a copy.

Aeonium Agave

Agaves of Continental North America - Howard Scott Gentry (2004)

Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide - Gary Irish (2000)

Aloe

Guide to Aloes of South Africa - Ben-Erik Van Wyk and Gideon Smith (2012)

Crassula

Crassula: A Grower's Guide - Gordon Rowley (2008; out of print)

Echeveria

The Genus Echeveria - John Pilbeam  (2008)

Echeveria Cultivars - Lorraine Schult and Attilla Kapitany (2005; out of print)

Sedum

Sedum: Cultivated Stonecrops - Ray Stephenson (2005)

The Plant Lover's Guide to Sedum - Brent Horvath (2014)

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Get the Most Out of Your Succulent Extravaganza Experience
We love this time of year!  Not only do we get to see many of our friends, but we also get to share the latest in all-things gardening.  To get the most out of your time with us, be sure to download the full schedule of events ahead of time.  Pick out the events that you want to attend, and see if there are any workshops that peak your interest. Come with questions, we want these sessions to be as helpful as they can be.

Pro-Tip: Start Early - Join us at 8AM for a behind-the-scenes look at our nursery with a guided tour - you'll be glad you did!  

Don't forget to dress in layers, the Extravaganza will run rain or shine, and we want you to be comfortable.  We'll have a food truck available for lunch, or, our personal favorite, bring your own picnic. To make shopping easier, bring a wagon or cart to transport your succulent goodies.  Pack the camera and take shots of our beds for ideas to incorporate into your garden.  Arrive early or carpool, as parking is limited.

Feeling lucky?  End the day with the plant raffle, we've got a few treats to give away that we know you'll love.  That's it.  Now clear your schedule, invite your best gardening buds (pun intended), and we'll see you at the Succulent Extravaganza!

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Summer is rapidly approaching! And with temperatures on the rise, proper watering is very important for happy, healthy succulents.

There is a common misconception that succulents don’t need water or that they need very little. There is some truth in the “need very little” part since those chubby leaves store all sorts of reserves for the plants.  However, those reserves mean that they need watering less frequently than other plants.  Once those reserves have been drawn down a bit, the truth is that succulents like water, and they like to be watered deeply.

Frequency

If your succulents are outside or in a greenhouse during the summer, you will want to water them about once a week. The soil should approach dryness, but not stay dry for long periods of time.  

Technique

When watering established plants, ensure that the soil is saturated to the plant’s deepest roots. A general rule of thumb is to continue watering until water starts to come out of the bottom of the pot. Deep watering will promote healthy root growth, which results in healthier plants. Frequent, more superficial watering results in a shallow root system and a less-established plant.

Succulents do not like to sit in wet conditions for too long, however. So, drainage is important. In the ground, amending your soil with some pumice with facilitate drainage. In your container garden, a well-draining potting mix and a pot with a drainage hole will do the trick.

Here's an example of two identical haworthias, grown with different watering practices.  The left was watered lightly; the right was watered deeply until water ran out of the bottom of the pot.  The results: The haworthia on the left is smaller and has a less developed root system. The haworthia on the right has a strong root system, is full and has beautiful green coloring.

Timing

During the summer, the best time of day to water your succulents is in the early morning before temperatures rise. By avoiding watering in the afternoon when temperatures are at their peak, you avoid having hot water sit in the crown of your plant, potentially burning the plant.

If you cannot water in the early morning, you can water in the evening.  However, this is not a good practice during the winter.  Leaving the plants wet all night makes them more susceptible to fungal diseases during the cold months.  We err on the side of keeping our plants a little dry during the winter just to avoid such cultural issues.

Exposure

Remember that during these hot summer months succulents need a little more protection from the scorching sun, much like we do. Their leaves will burn when exposed to too much sun for long periods of time. We recommend keeping your succulents in a location that receives partial shade, like under an awning or a place with dappled shade from a tree. 

Water is essential for your succulent’s health. Good watering ensures healthy roots which ensures a stronger plant that will be more resilient to pests and disease. Also, water is important for the other living things in your garden. Many pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds rely on the water that they collect from our watering.

Water is life!

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