Martin Quigley, director of UC Santa Cruz’s Arboretum & Botanic Garden, is back with more tips on climate-friendly planting. This time, he tackles succulents, everyone’s favorite office and garden plant, and outlines why they are excellent choices for our Mediterranean climate. And he takes us backstage at the Arb to show us how he “makes” plant babies. You can do it, too.
Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.
There is no excuse for killing succulents, says Martin Quigley, director of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden.
They are basically the cats of the plant kingdom: independent, self-sufficient and tidy.
Instant joy (without a litter box).
Oh, and they root magically from cuttings or sprout easily from seeds — which means more plants for you and endless free gifting possibilities.
All you have to do is ignore them most of the time.
Just put them in the ground or a pot and resist watering them, Martin says in our 8-minute video.
“You should water these plants only five or six times a year if they are in a pot,” he says. “If they are in the landscape, you need never irrigate them.” Hint: The less you water them, the more colorful they become.
Martin — dry wit and accompanying flair included — literally walks us through the gardens and into the “not-on-the-tour” back rooms where the old cacti live and where he and his staff propagate succulents to sell in the garden shop.
He explains that with our changing climate and longer dry season, we need to plant drought-loving plants, and he says succulents are an excellent choice for many Central Coast gardens.
In the greenhouse, he points out colorful echeveria (famous for stunning rosette shapes, which makes them look like flowers with exceptionally plump leaves), cacti, agave, aloe, euphorbia and crassula, and offers a mini lesson in succulent propagation.
It’s easy and satisfying, he says, as he digs his fingers into an echeveria and pulls out a pup. He then reminds us not to put our newly cut succulents in water, like we would cut flowers from the garden. Succulent roots, like all plants, he tells us, need oxygen to metabolize.
The detached leaves already have enough water nutrients to produce plantlets. So once plucked or cut, let them dry out on a flat surface, he advises.
In a few weeks, as he shows us, roots and whole new plants will form on their own. That’s when you plant them into pots or dish gardens, with well-draining soil or into your rock garden.
Watch the video to learn more. It’s the second he has made for Lookout highlighting planting for our changing climate.
Happy (climate-appropriate) planting.