A cactus and succulent window garden ‘just happens’ to many plant lovers.
They take a vacation to Arizona, and get their first cactus a Gymnocalycium Damsii (Jim-no-caly-see-um) commonly called Dams Chin.
They pick the Gymnocalycium because they had read it was the easiest cactus to grow and flower.
They order two or three other plants of the same family.
After being bitten by the cactus bug, the collecting fever sets in and 20 years go by.
The succulent garden collection grows to 500 cactus and succulent plants cover the windowsills, all growing to create the unplanned sunny window garden.
The surprise and delight arrive when their house plants bloom, not only during the spring, but all summer. And they bloom every spring and summer.
Their flowers, large for such small plants, range in color from white, with a little drop of chocolate-brown tipping each petal, to pink and yellow.
The cactus and succulents bloomed during the winter and soon a list of the easiest to grow is made.
The majority of succulents come from Mexico and South African deserts or bushlands.
However, some are found in the United States, Central, and South America, Arabia, all of Africa and the adjacent islands, including Madagascar.
All require lots of coarse sand.
Echcverias, commonly called “old hen and little chickens,” often become favorite plants for the indoor succulent plant window garden.
The Echeveria plant family is a large one, with colors ranging from pure white and green through the pastels to dark shades.
Most of these plants are of Mexican origin, although they are found as far south as Peru.
They vary greatly in appearance and habits, some being rosettes, others shrubby, some quite small, still others as large as cabbage.
The flowers often are beautiful bright colored waxy bells, which last a long time.
Those with smooth leaves do best in sun. Those with hairy leaves prefer some shade.
They like a potting soil made of humus (leaf mold) mixed with equal parts of garden soil and coarse (builder’s) sand.
Their pots should have drainage holes and the succulent soil well drained. Good ventilation prevents them from becoming drawn and whitened.
Succulents, like cacti, wear their family name first.
For instance, Echeveria elegans (Mexican Gem), one of the loveliest.
It has close rosettes of powdered, white, spoon-shaped leaves. The bright rose blossoms appear in early spring.
Like the Painted Lady (Echeveria Derenbergii), it does better and the coloring is more brilliant if it has plenty of light and sunshine.
Echeveria Derenbergii is a winter bloomer. It is easy to grow, and flowers profusely.
The blossoms are orange-red, borne on short spikes, and several spikes may appear on one plant.
Each whitish green leaf is tipped and edged with red. The plant requires fresh air and not too much moisture.
Echeveria amoena has small clusters of rose-color petals. Echeveria gibbiflora is a brightly-colored, mid-winter bloomer, the blossoms appearing in four months.
Another favorite family of succulents well represented in many window garden collections are the Haworthias, which include the so-called “window plants.”
Predominantly green, they run sometimes into pinks and yellows.
They are remarkable for their “window#” transparent markings and tips through which light can penetrate inside. Haworthia cuspidata is prettily patterned with lucent panes.
The pale, small blossoms, borne on long steins during early spring, do not amount to much, but the plants are lovely.
The leaves of the lace Haworthia setata are lined with transparent windows and are edged with white, bristly teeth.
These small plants like Haworthia reinwardtii can be used to good advantage in group plantings of succulent planters.
They make interesting winter centerpieces. Colorful small rocks and shells, placed among them, provide a naturalistic setting and also conserve moisture.
Haworthias prefer quite sandy soil with leaf mold, which their yellow roots can easily penetrate.
They do well in shaded, but well-lighted positions, watered moderately when dry.
When there is no moisture for an inch down, plants need water. Rainwater is best.
Sedums and Sempervivums
In the small-size “hen and chickens” group, small rosettes with little ones peeping out from the mother plant, retained by tiny leashes or rootlets, are the sedums and sempervivums – some of them hardy, all of them lovely.
They range through red, blue, pink, and lavender to pastel shades and green.
These are classed in the “live forevers” and I might add that they are truly “joys forever.”
They like to nestle their roots around cool rocks, and if grown outdoors during the winter (in the north) they should be lightly covered with leaves or straw.
I peeped in on mine the other day, and saw several pretty babies, peering out from the mother plants as pert as you please.
These are only a few of the many good growing succulents that are easy to care for and grow along with being a joy to any collector.
Too much cannot be said for this large group of plants, which are deservedly becoming better known each year.
Image: Ed Maughan