Q & A with John Bagnasco, author of “Success With Succulents”

By Shelley Pierce | March 18, 2018
Image by The Quarto Group
by Shelley Pierce
March 18, 2018

John Bagnasco has been an integral part of the gardening industry for more than 45 years. After working for many years at nurseries and garden centers in Michigan and California, Bagnasco joined Creative Promotions in October 2000 as a senior magazine editor and radio personality for Garden Compass. He is currently the president and co-host of the nationally syndicated Garden America Radio Show, which reaches 1.1 million listeners every weekend. He is also the president of www.GardenTube.com, a YouTube-type site for gardeners. Additionally, he is a managing partner in SuperNaturals Grafted Vegetables, LLC., has also taught horticulture classes, and is a rose breeder who introduced over a dozen new varieties. He was host of the DVD The Essential Guide to Roses. Baganasco’s other books include Planting Designs for Cactus and Succulents and Plants for the Home Vol I.

In Success With Succulents, co-authored with Robert Reidmuller, readers are provided with tips and techniques to get the most out of their desert dwellers.  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies of this Quarto Group book.


1. What is the allure of succulents for you?

I’ve been fascinated with all types of plants during my career. Especially with their ability to adapt to some of the harshest environments. I admire succulents for their stamina, but it is their fantastical shapes, sizes and odd and alluring flowers that really piques my interest.

2. What are some of your favorite succulent varieties and why?

The range, hardiness and versatility of agaves, along with their specific life spans attracts me. Also, any type of mimicry plant or those with phenomenal flowers. Epiphyllums, kalanchoe and Starfish cactus have flowers that beg for attention. I also like the foolproof hybrid forms of sansevierias. New hybrids of echeverias and aeoniums are beautiful. Maybe a shorter answer would be to list my least favorite types, but it would require a lot of thought.

3. Is it difficult to attain success with succulents and how does your book help us to be successful?

Even the worst cook can boil water and dump in some ramen noodles. The analogy can be carried out to those who claim to have “black thumb.” If you can’t grow a Sansevieria, it’s because you don’t want to. While they are extremely tenacious survivors, many other types of succulents are not much more difficult to maintain. Our book offers simple instructions and tips for those who want to get beyond the “boiling water” stage of succulent care.

4. When it comes to plants, the more wacky and weird the better for me. Are there any unusual nuggets of joy mixed in and can you tell us about them?

Whose face hasn’t smiled at the sight of an Old Man cactus with googly eyes affixed or been fascinated at the grafted color tops of the Moon cactus? Many of the plants and animals of Madagascar are threatened, but easy to grow and maintain if they can be acquired. Succulents from this isolated habitat are about as weird as they come in the plant kingdom. Seeing a Pachypodium blossom for the first time is especially gratifying.

5. Just how many varieties of cacti and succulents are in existence and was it tough whittling your book down to feature 100 of them? How did you decide what made the cut? What can readers expect from the 100 plants that you profile?

There are almost 2000 species of cactus alone and many hundreds more varieties in those species. Non-cactus succulents may be tenfold this number. Our book describes 100 types that gardeners are most likely to come in contact with and provides information on how to extend this hobby. Suffice it to say that unlike Alexander the Great, an enthusiast will never have to bemoan not having any more varieties to obtain.

Win one of two copies of “Success With Succulents“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, March 25, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What cactus or succulent variety is your favorite?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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  • christy gerhardt
    Comment added August 5, 2018Reply

    succulents are so varied, their flowers are beautiful, and they are so easy to care for. right now my favorite is red rhipsalus....it's little white beads look tremendous when it's a big specimen in a hanging planter.....

  • Deb Tosoni
    Comment added March 19, 2018Reply

    I love all the types of sansevieria! So diverse, yet all lovely!

  • Carol Yemola
    Comment added March 19, 2018Reply

    I really like Hen and Chicks. They come in a variety of colors and make a unique ground cover. I also like them planted in odd containers like an old boot.

  • Charlene
    Comment added March 19, 2018Reply

    It if extremely difficult to identify my favorite succulents because there are so many beautiful plants. I really like flatjack

  • Ed Yemola
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    I have about 10 cacti that I raised from seeds. They are about 10 years old now and there are about 4 different kinds.

  • Kathleen Fosha
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    String of pearls...have you seen the photo of the string of pearls cascading from a raised pitcher over a bed of succulents ?

  • Gail Arnn
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    I really like the blue African aeonium succulent. So pretty!

  • Karen A.
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    For outside I like hens and peeps.

  • DEBBIE RETTMANN
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    Too many favorites, but to name a few.....Christmas cactus, Hen & Chicks, Jade plants, Aloe, and one my mom had from Arizona, Ocotillo, as well as many other varieties!!!! Thank you, Gardening Know How, & John Bagnasco, for the chance!!!

  • Joanna
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    I really like too many to name, so I will just name the Jade family of succulents.

  • Joanna
    Comment added March 18, 2018Reply

    I guess I like the varieties of the Jade plant family.

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