By Bonnie L. Grant
When it comes to making a little succulent dish garden, there are several “go-to” plants that simply scream charm and have the ease of care notable in the group. The choices are nearly endless and include the group cacti, which are also succulents. Aloe and jade are obvious options for succulents but you might try some unique specimens that are not often utilized and have special quirkiness all their own. Here are my Top 8 picks:
1. Lithops – Lithops are one of the more fun plants and add a surprise to any succulent container. They are called living stones and grow in arid regions with rocky terrain. Just the very top of the plant sticks out of its environment and what can be seen resembles pebbles. The visible structure doesn’t have apparent leaves but is often bifurcated as the plant reproduces. In perfect conditions, these even produce bright, cheery flowers.
2. Adenium – Desert rose is a special type of succulent. It has an almost tree-like form with a thick stem or caudex. This is its main water storage system and the caudex can swell or shrink just like anyone on a diet. The leaves are spatulate to oval, green with a grayish cast and stiff but not thick and padded like most succulent leaves. The best part is the flower. It produces a very showy, tropical pink bloom that will knock your socks off.
3. Rope Hoya – Hoya are a very large class of succulents. Rope hoya is a trailing plant, useful in hanging gardens. It has thick, fleshy leaves that stack neatly upon each other as they grow off long stems. Rope hoya is very adaptable to light conditions and has a slow, consistent growth rate.
4. Mammilarias – Mammillarias are actually a large group of cacti. They are also often called pin cushion plant and form nice, neat little mounds of flesh. While actually very common in trade, their form and colors can vary greatly. Most have silky hairs covering the mound with or without attendant spines. This family can produce some of the most brilliantly colored flowers of the succulents.
5. Aeonium – There are few succulents that produce such a perfect rosette as Aeonium. There are many sizes of Aeonium, from tiny quarter sized to dinner plate dimensions. The hues are also in a rainbow range, with deep plum, green and bluish tones.
6. Haworthia – Haworthia tend to look like miniature aloe plants with the long, flesh arms radiating out from a central point. The leaves are bit harder, however, and Haworthia are decorated with stripes and other markings. Each plant can have different leaf characteristics even within a species. The leaves are small and white.
7. Echeveria – Maybe I lied when I said Aeonium have a perfect rosette. Echeveria may knock those out of the park with deeply lobed rosettes, filled with neatly nested leaves. These plants tend to come in blue hues and look striking with red or crimson tipped succulents.
8. Euphorbia – There are many forms of Euphorbs with over 300 genera globally. They are also known as spurge and some forms are hardy enough to live outdoors in zones 6 to 7. Many types of Euphorbia have a form similar to cactus while others are more like trees or bushes. The sheer variety allows for many options in the succulent garden.