Look for succulents at your garden center.
SUMMER heat can be hell on patio planters, but you can still have a drought-tolerant display. Use succulents! These distinctive plants tolerate conditions that would fry ordinary annuals. What's more, you can carry them over as houseplants in the winter. Get inspired with the photos below; learn the techniques in a related article, Growing Succulents in Containers.
The planters below are designed by Lisa Brown, who works in our Burlington, VT, garden center.
Shallow containers flatter succulents: Lisa used a terra-cotta saucer for this planting. Because it has no drainage hole, she started with a half-inch layer of gravel and topped it with potting soil that's formulated for succulents. You can make your own by mixing 1 part builder's sand and 3 parts potting soil. Featured plants include a cascading senecio, kalanchoe, echeveria, haworthia (zebra plant) and spiky rhipsalis, which gets small yellow flowers on the tips.
"Because the saucer has no drainage, it's important to put this planter where it won't get rained on," Lisa says. "Too much rain will kill the succulents."
Create an outdoor centerpiece: Even a small container can support a variety of interesting succulents, including two types of kalanchoe, echeveria and a spiky dudleya. Decorative gravel covers the soil surface.
This planter has a drainage hole, so it's OK to leave it out in the rain. During periods of extended rainfall, consider moving the planter to a protected location until dry weather returns.
This sedum adds texture and color.
Stacked succulents: Use terra-cotta pots to create a playful pyramid of drought-tolerant plants. "I actually used a Christmas cactus in this one," Lisa says. "I hope it will bloom." Though not technically a succulent, this planter includes peperomia. "It likes to dry out between waterings — similar conditions to succulents."
Consider hanging baskets: Include some plants with a cascading habit, such as some types of sedum, string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) and donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites). To ensure that the plants thrive, this Sedona Hanging Basket is filled with fast-draining succulent mix instead of regular potting soil.
Pack 'em in: Because most succulents are relatively slow-growing, you can plant densely and have an abundant look right from the start. Featured plants: haworthia, echeveria and peperomia. This River Rock Planter from MyPotsandPlanters.com is sold with and without drainage holes. If you opt for no drainage, be sure to line the bottom with a layer of gravel.
Desktop display: Even office-dwellers who are forgetful about watering can nurture a succulent planter. The spiky dudleya in this planter can withstand a little neglect and remain perky.
No time for DIY? This handsome planter comes planted and ready to grow. This shallow planter, created by Beds & Borders, features sedum, echeveria and a near-black aeonium. A sunny site is all it needs.
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