If your garden or patio has been affected by the latest water restrictions, or if you simply want to drought-proof your green space – growing a water-wise succulent garden is a fantastic idea. Here’s why!

 Growing plants in our dry South African climate with limited water is difficult. Plants tend to perish from the heat and don’t survive long in low water conditions. However, you can still maintain a charming green space if you grow succulents and cacti instead of traditional houseplants.

 Succulents are the ideal candidates for almost any patio, garden or holiday home. They come in various colours and sizes and are resilient enough to withstand high temperatures. Best of all, these water-saving powerhouses require very little water and maintenance to flourish. 

 Not only do these hardy plants look good all year, but many of them are also proudly South African in origin. There are roughly 10 000 different succulent species worldwide. Additionally, a whopping 47% of succulents are indigenous to South Africa. Succulents are some of the most resilient plants you can grow and are already perfectly suited to life in sunny South Africa.

“Even though succulents are built to thrive in harsh conditions, every species is different. The Houghton Bonsai and Succulent Show taking place in Johannesburg  from 4 – 6 November hosts a variety of experts ready to help you select the correct plant for your landscape.”

Keith Witelson, treasurer of the Johannesburg Succulent Society (JSS), believes succulents are a terrific addition to any space, but while they’re hardy, they’re not impossible to kill. It is a good idea to learn the name and origin of your plant to better understand its unique needs. For those unaccustomed to the exact species they own, you can follow these basic guidelines to see your succulents thrive:

1.       Soil

Soil is an important ingredient in your water-wise succulent garden. Succulents require fast-draining soil with low organic matter in order to avoid fungal infections. Generally, you should avoid clay-like soils, soils with too much uncomposted organic matter, and soils that hold water without drying out. A good general mix is washed river sand (to get rid of the clay), regular garden soil, and perlite in equal parts. You can buy river sand from most hardware stores.

2.       Sun/shade

Not all succulents grow in full sun; many grow under the cover of “nurse plants”. These are larger shrubs that absorb the more damaging heat of the day. An easy way to determine a plant’s needs is to start in the shade and slowly move to the sun while observing how happy it looks in each environment. Too much shade will make your plants etiolate, which means they’re stretching out to get sun. This can often lead to an unpleasant form. The most important thing to remember is that roots should be kept cool where possible. If you are growing your succulent in a pot, make sure it isn’t sitting on a baking surface and has plenty of airflow. 

3.       Watering

Most succulents only require watering weekly, while some species can survive for months without any water. It is important to consider how much sun your succulents are exposed to as well as the type of soil. The type of soil can make a big difference in the watering schedule. Look for wrinkled and curled leaves and stems, and let that tell you when to water. Most succulents have a fast growing season in the spring and summer. Because of this, avoid watering excessively when your plant is dormant. When you buy a new succulent, be sure to read the tag that comes with the plant, talk to an experienced gardener, or ask the salesperson how to care for it. 

4.       Repotting

Succulents should not be repotted too frequently. A repot damages the roots and increases the chances of a fungal infection (rot). You can water well for succulents with deep or fleshy roots to allow the plant to absorb lots of water. Then dig it up, and leave it to dry in a shady spot with good ventilation. After finding the perfect spot, repot it after a week to ensure that any root damage has calloused over.

Growing a water-wise succulent garden is a great way to reduce your water bill while maintaining your green sanctuary. By switching to succulents, you will be amazed not only by how great your garden looks but also by how much water you can save for your household’s benefit.

Visit the Houghton Bonsai and Succulent Show to learn more about succulents, bonsai and orchids. The show is one of Johannesburg’s fastest-growing horticultural events for anyone interested in bonsai trees and popular and rare succulents. The event attracts thousands of visitors to Killarney Mall to learn about, view and shop for bonsai and succulents for their homes. The event is held from 4 – 6 November 2022 at Killarney Mall (60 Riviera Road, Killarney, Johannesburg). You can find out more at https://www.bonsaiandsucculentshow.com/.



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