Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer isn't for planting

Gardeners in cold weather climates don't plant in mid-winter when there's snow on the ground or the risk of freezes in the forecast.  In hot, dry summer areas like mine, it's similarly inadvisable to plant in mid-summer.  Frankly, I believe it's inadvisable to plant anytime between the end of April and mid-September here, not that my self-imposed rule has ever stopped me.  Even when I take precautions - deep-soaking planting holes prior to placement, watering more often, providing shade during heat spells - plants added within that window frequently fail.  As our recent monster heatwave once more reaffirmed, established plants struggle when temperatures shoot up into the stratosphere and new plants don't usually stand a chance.  But what's a plant addict to do?  In my case, I try to focus on planting up pots and, more specifically, planting succulents in pots.  It's easier to move pots in a heatwave emergency and, if a potted plant dies, the empty container can be tucked behind the garage or in some other innocuous location, eliminating a constant reminder of the loss.

So 'tis the season for planting and replanting succulent containers!  Last weekend I replanted a large metal wok on my side patio.  It'd looked pretty sorry for months and needed a fresh start.  I picked up 4 'Lemon Ball' Sedums at my local garden center and filled in with succulent cuttings from elsewhere in my garden.

Sedum 'Lemon Ball' is supposed to handle heat better than 'Angelina'.  I hope that proves to be true.

The variegated succulent is Aeonium haworthii Kiwi'.  Cuttings of it and the noID smaller succulent came from elsewhere in my garden.


Aeonium 'Kiwi', which I've previously described as my "gateway succulent," is everywhere in my garden so it wasn't hard to find pieces to cut.

I brought cuttings of Aeonium 'Kiwi' with me from my former garden when we moved 7 years ago

It's a great edging material

It's good at forming colonies

Unlike other Aeoniums, it holds up fairly well against the summer sun

Although it appreciates a bit of shade


The larger Aeonium arboreum shown with 'Kiwi' in the photo above is another of my go-to succulents when I have gaps to fill; however, it's more sensitive to strong sun exposure and goes semi-dormant during the hot summer months, closing itself into a ball shape to protect its central leaves.  Do you have a go-to plant you use to fill vacancies in your garden?  Do tell!  I need to accumulate more of them.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


24 comments:

  1. Kris, coincidentally, I Instagrammed that planting of thyme, Kiwi, and Quadricolor after our visit -- love it! That oscularia I was telling you about with the bigger leaves is Oscularia caulescens (https://www.anniesannuals.com/plants/view/?id=3272).

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    1. Thanks for the link, Denise. I checked the plant on Annie's site and discovered that it's one I tried - and lost - in 2015. Wrong spot maybe? I should give it another try as Oscularia deltoides is virtually impossible to kill here.

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  2. As I’m still building up my garden I haven’t paid attention to filling small empty spots, and now I need to. I think that Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ would be perfect. I wonder if it minds frost? I’m away from home on a touring holiday in South Australia just now, but while we’ve been away, there have been frosts of -7 C! I fear for the condition of some of my plants.

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    1. Minus 7C would be too much for Aeonium 'Kiwi' I expect, Jane. I looked up a listing provided by a well-respected grower here, which listed it as hardy to 24-30F, or approximately minus 1 to minus 4C. You could probably grow it in a pot with winter protection, though. I hope it's warmed up by the time you get back home. Enjoy your holiday tour!

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  3. Not sure I have anything that would hold up to your climate even when it is not going crazy. That border is just stunning. Such great shapes and color. I think I may have to go looking for Kiwi as it probably would work here. We've gone back to the high 70s and low 80s which is wonderful. Like you, I tend to want to divide and plant when I have time and energy so it is always depressing when the weather puts a stop to it. Last autumn was very hot and dry so it is hard to know if it makes sense to wait.

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    1. Fall is generally considered our best planting season, mainly because, technically speaking, the winter rain should settle everything in. But last year we got the smallest amount of rain I've ever recorded - my total since October 1, 2017 still stands at 3.8 inches. I heard some talk about the potential for another El Nino year but that was very iffy and I don't want to depress myself further by looking for an update.

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  4. Oh wouldn't I love to be able to grow Aeoniums in the ground. Some are more delicate than others though-San Marcos says 25-30 for Kiwi,but if I site it well and rig up a good frost cover maybe I could pull it through. My empty spot fillers at the present is a multitude of the shorter growing Euohoribias-most notably Ascot Rainbow and Blackbird.They don't seem to care if it's hot or cold and seem so get by with modest amounts of water.I use a lot of low-growing ornamental Oreganos too.

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    1. Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' fried here in the July 6 heatwave, Kathy! Of course, it may well come back - I'm not about to pull it, ugly as it is at the moment. In contrast, possibly just as a matter of the luck of their placement, Euphorbia 'Black Pearl' was relatively untouched and continues to proliferate like mad. Last year I was moving its seedlings into bare spots but now the plant is beginning to scare me. 'Kiwi' is more polite and tentative about its spread.

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  5. I just can’t begin to fathom having luxurious drifts of Aeonium like that. I stick one or two in the ground (to lift in the fall, or let die), maybe have one on a container, that’s it in these parts! We do share the no summer planting thing, though our dates are a little different, my cut off is mid June. The only thing I safely plant now are hardy succulents, although those risk not becoming established before winter. Containers are a sure thing. Succulents and bromeliads...that’s about it.

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    1. Just because I say the end of April should be my cut-off doesn't mean I actually follow that prescription, Loree. However, the first big heatwave of the season is usually a kick in the pants that puts me back in line, for awhile anyway - I tend to push my mid-September restart date too.

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  6. I'm going to nominate your fourth shot - the one with Aeoniums as edging - for a WW... it is a spectacular mix of textures and colors. I love it! I have NO luck with Aeoniums and only enough light for a few relatively shade tolerant succulents. My go-to groundcovers are Ajuga 'Black Scallop' and Alchemilla alpina, but frankly - there isn't a lot of space that isn't already covered by something bigger, so no big drifts of anything here. One could wish... ~ Anna

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    1. Aeonium 'Kiwi' really likes that particular spot, Anna. It gets cool morning sun and afternoon shade, which is perfect. I used a lot of Ajuga in my old garden and tried it here too (several times) but we're just too hot and dry now to use it on a large scale, although 'Blue Chip' comes back each year in one area in spring before beating a hasty retreat as temperatures rise.

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  7. Nothing I grow would probably live in your extreme heat. I like seeing your gorgeous plantings. I have seen that Aeonium for sale around here but it wouldn't last through our winters as much as I would like for it to.

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    1. No, Aeoniums won't handle "real" winters without protection, Lisa, so unless you want to tote it in and out of a greenhouse each year, I don't expect it'd be happy in your area.

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  8. Your wok is fabulous! Aeonium 'Kiwi' is a favorite of mine but they don't grow well for me after the first year or two. As with a lot of aeoniums here, the heads must be cut off and placed back in the soil or they'll get weird looking. My go-to plant for my dry shady areas is oxalis oregana (zones 7 - 9.) Not much help for your climate.

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    1. The Aeoniums eventually get goofy here too, Peter, usually after they bloom, but I expect I have an easier time getting them restarted - I just cut their heads off and push them back into the soil. I looked up your Oxalis. Sunset says it'll grow in their zones 23-24 so conceivably I could grow it, although the "regular water" guidance gives me pause.

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    2. It's native to summer dry/winter wet areas & I use it in my driest shade and it does fine. Although, it probably gets a little sprinkler runoff when other nearby plants get watered.

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    3. I may try it, assuming I can find it.

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  9. Succulents are so forgiving in your heat and drought, I imagine. Planted in variety, they have great color and texture, as your wok container attests.

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    1. In the last heatwave some of succulents actually burned (especially the golden Sedums) and others turned to mush (Senecio maddraliscae!), Eliza. That was a shock. Apparently, 110F sustained for hours was just a bit too much heat. I haven't removed any of these plants though as I'm trusting them to come back.

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  10. people often think succulents are tough but as you say above, they can burn and also die if not securely established. But as a fellow plant addict - what can you do? You know you should wait but aren't deterred by a measly should.

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    1. You're right. Each heatwave sends a new warning here (we're due for another next week) but it can be hard to ignore all the pretty things I see in the garden centers, especially when there are now all those empty spots in parts of the garden!

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  11. My cut-off used to be sometime in mid to late June. With the heat-waves and earlier onset of the dry season in the last few years, I've been trying to move that date to mid-May, if not earlier. The difference for me vs. gardeners with smaller plots in the PNW, even in Portland which is hotter and drier than my location, is that I have such a huge garden it's much harder to keep new plants adequately watered if planted too late. Not that I ever stick to those dates, despite my best efforts. I just divided and planted a pot of Sasa vietchii in a shady spot a couple days ago. It's already got curling leaves, though I expected some from cutting up the rhizomes. Luckily, the rhizomes are in active growth right now and the divisions should be fine, even if they look terrible, as long as I keep watering them.

    I've been evaluating my "filler" plants in the summer-dry, sunny areas and planning replacements. I'm done with 4-foot tall yarrow with bare bases and annuals that are brown and ugly by July.

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    1. Size does matter, at least when it comes to tending a garden, Evan. I never hesitated about summer planting in my old garden but it was not only a shady space in an area that benefited from ocean breezes but also dinky. It wasn't hard to keep on top of the extra watering new plants needed. So I can definitely empathize with your situation even though my current garden is considerably smaller than yours (just over 1/2 an acre). As to your last comment, I've been thinking more about adding shrubs to replace perennials too.

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