RED Robin! Thats how we remember the name of this snappy Hens and Chicks. Tightly growing leaves in a medium sized rosette to 3″ across. The interior of the leaves are bright red with green leaf tips. Multiplies quickly. Retains these bright colors well throughout the year- where as some can become rather dull in winter. Spring – Autumn it may shoot up a 5″ spike bearing pink/red flowers. The rosette then dies but there are so many offsets that you would never know. Move them around the garden like furniture. Easy. Give them to friends, knock squirrels out of the tree with them. Fun to grow. Interact with your sempervivums and all will be good. Full sun and regular summer water to remain vigorous and bright and showy.
Plant Type: Succulents & Cacti
Succulents offer dramatic shape and architecture rarely seen in our gardens. Whether hardy specimens for rock gardens or as dramatic seasonal plants nothing can beat their exotic structure. We include yuccas and succulent perennials in this list. There are several tricks to growing some of the more dramatic cold hardy Agaves in our climate. First, they should be planted as soon as the soil warms in spring. Tilt the rosette- this is best on a slope so that winter rain/ice will run out of the rosette and not gather and freeze- causing stress. Give them VERY good air circulation and take away any leaves from deciduous plants that have gathered in the rosette. Be careful. Some people use a blower, I’ve had luck with a can of air to clean office equipment. Save your hands from the spikes. Ouch.
Amend the soil for success
Normally we aren’t big fans of soil amending. It seems ridiculous for most native plants and its a huge carbon footprint when a truck has to bring you compost. In the case of cold hardy succulents amending is crucial in our climate because of our winter rainfall pattern. To site: Find a slope in full sun and excavate a large amount of the soil and save. Add medium to large boulders underground and on top. Incorporate 1/2″ minus or any other rough hued gravel into the saved soil and add a small amount of all purpose fertilizer and replace. Plant carefully, its not usual to see people using BAR B Q tongs and ovenmits to handle Cacti and Agaves. Plant hardy rosette forming plants at a tilt to avoid the accumulation of water/ice into the crown- it should be able to drain away. Plant, water in well. Most succulents grow when its warm so to establish them you should water them well in the first HOT summer they are in the ground. Roots will penetrate deeper as the soil temperature will be warm too. Let the soil dry completely between watering. For hardy Cacti and Succulents weeds and weed seeds can pose a difficult problem. Eliminating them is painful and tedious at any time of the year. Mulch with gravel and keep up on your weeding, especially in winter when you think least to do it.
Do not leave rocks/leaves in the rosette- it will cause winter rot
Remove all rocks and leaves from the center of the Agave before winter hits. The most efficient way is to use a blower and clean out the duff completely. If leaves are left in the crown they will rot the plant as they decompose. Agaves like to dry off between rainstorms. Put them in a fully exposed site facing south and do not let other plants over top them. This is also fatal. When desperate one of those cans of air to clean office equipment is also useful. Hold it no closer than 1′ from the plant (too close and it can freeze the plant as it is super cooled and can form ice) but at least a foot away you’ll still get enough of an air blast to knock just about anything out.
Winter aridity is the key to hardiness
If you plan on growing your hardy succulents in containers make sure that you don’t pot it into a container that is too difficult to move. Many succulents are very hardy to cold as long as they are dry in the winter. Most come from summer rainfall areas. They prefer moisture when its hot but dryness when its cold. Move containerized plant to a dry spot- under an eave or a cold greenhouse BEFORE winter rains begin and leaves start to fall. Dryness in winter can afford you almost 10ºF extra` degrees of cold hardiness. Keep them dry in winter. In the ground, this is where sharp drainage and amending pays dividends. Also, Agaves and hardy Cacti are actually tender until they have fully rooted out into the ground. The more roots you have, the better established the better the plant can resist cold and wet. Plant them as soon as it warms in spring and care for them for their first season. Again always let hem dry between irrigation. In subsequent years you can add one handful of all purpose prilled fertilizer each spring.
Location is everything
These plants all need to be sited carefully to succeed. Plant them in hot south facing aspects, on slopes, in hot rock gardens at the base of a hot wall. Even a thoughtfully placed boulder can absorb and radiate enough sun heat that it will offer benefits to these plants. Remember most of these plants are experimental in our climate. Our rainfall patterns that combine cold and wet are anathema to where they grow. Though they take preparation and thought very few plans offer as much bold structure and simplicity. They are worth it.
Climate Adapted Plants for Gardeners in the PNW
Sempervivum arachnoides var. pittonii
Cob webs cover this adorable and fast multiplying Hens and chicks. The hairy webbing is a successful strategy to stop transpiration of liquid from the leaves and cool the surface as well. 2″ wide rosettes create many offsets in a short amount of time. It makes a good small scale ground cover From spring to autumn it may produce a 5″ stem directly from the center of the rosette and bear rows of rosy pink flowers. That rosette then dies but it produces prodigious amounts of babies. Full sun to part shade in enriched, well drained soil with light summer irrigation. Without irrigation it will survive but shrink. Containers, rock gardens, gravel gardens. Good appearance year round.
Yucca (nana) hermmaniae
Adorable and rugged little dwarf Yucca from southern Utah. Tight round quills are decorated with filaments on the leaf edges. Not a friendly guy and very slow growing. Forming spheres of spikes to 1′ across and multiplying to produce colonies with pups. Full sun and very well drained soil of average to poor fertility. Requires excellent air circulation- no crowding. Plants that are smooshed with little air circulation protest heavily and it then takes a while for recovery. Open and free in rock garden conditions produces the happiest plants. At home nestled with boulders or as a finer texture element with Agaves. In time it produces adorable and conical shaped hoods of flowers- a gnome wedding. Excellent in containers- open, well drained containers. Light summer water during hot weather seems to speed growth. Locate away from paths. Owwie. Strongly deer and rabbit resistant.
Beaked Yucca does fantastically well in our climate and is one of the Yucca species that will form a dramatic trunk. Blue thin leaves radiate out in a perfectly round orb. Slowly rises to 8′ tall in our climate. Full hot all day sun in a warm position. Very well drained soil with light summer water during the hottest stretches to encourage growth. Occasionally, with age 4′ spikes appear holding large trusses of ivory flowers. Perfectly hardy to cold, way below 0ºF. Avoid cold wet sites- to really do well it needs heat and exposure. Not prone to bacterial leaf blight that affects other Yucca species. Good air circulation. Lives happily in large containers for eons. Focal point in many of the best gardens in our region. High deer resistance. Evergreen.
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