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When to water succulents … rules of thumb are made to be broken

It seems simple enough. Put plant in ground. Water plant when it’s thirsty. Watch plant, and your smiles, grow wider and taller. Hooray for plant!

When it comes to when and how much to water, however, what would seem like an elementary exercise inevitably turns out to be more involved. But don’t fret. You got this; we know it! A good place to start is to water thoroughly when the soil is completely dry to the touch, and not just at the surface but down by the roots. This is especially true for a plant during its active growing season (more on that below). When in doubt, procure a water meter.

As a rule of thumb, figure on watering your succulents at least once every two weeks. While that rule is rather pliable, subject to factors we’ll run down in a bit, we can’t stress enough that it’s better to underwater succulents than to overwater them. They will more easily rebound from lack of nourishment than from too much. You will learn a lot about your succulents and what they want simply by observing them and their responses to weather and watering.

  • Firm, plump leaves indicate a happy plant.
  • Squishy, mushy leaves likely mean it has received too much water. Discoloration might even be noticeable, such as black spots on the leaves or stem. In those cases, something may definitely be rotten in the garden.
  • Shriveled, wrinkled leaves tell you it’s time to fill up the watering can. However, if it’s only the very bottom (oldest) leaves that are thin and shriveled, and the rest look good, then that is completely, totally normal. In the case of a dehydrated aloe, the leaves will fold, or curve, up. The rosettes of drought-stressed echeverias may be appear closed up.
  • A caveat related to dormancy: Succulents, some more than others, anticipate a resting period of little to no growth, thus little water and zero plant food required from you. For example, aeoniums and dudleyas are especially known for snoozing during summer. Hence, they may appear rather tired, but that doesn’t mean you should water them like crazy to wake them up. Let them chill during dormancy, with very occasional waterings. Other winter growers/summer resters include aloes, crassulas, cotyledons, gasterias, graptopetalums, kalanchoes, haworthias, portulacarias, and sedums. Summer growers/winter resters include agaves, echeverias, euphorbias, lithops, and sempervivums.
  • Whereas succulents rotting from too much H2O may not be salvageable, parched plants should perk back up after one or two good drinks.

Sometimes, though, your succulent could be thirsty not because it hasn’t received any water in ages but because it’s poorly rooted or has lost its roots to rot, preventing water from getting to the leaves. If that happens to you, you’re going to need to cut the rotted section off and go about trying to re-establish new roots.

Now back to that rule of thumb, because a friend or neighbor or online acquaintance will inevitably swear by a different schedule. The frequency of watering (or infrequency, as it were) is awash in considerations other than active growth/rest periods, such as:

  • in the ground or container
  • pot size
  • soil mix
  • exposure
  • temperature
  • humidity
  • recent rain
  • airflow
  • slope or flat grade, or something in between
  • organic mulch or inorganic mulch, or no mulch at all
  • proximity to hardscape or inorganic elements such as boulders or water fountains.

 

Not to mention the plant varieties themselves. Like us humans, they don’t share a uniform metabolism rate. Their native habitats don’t all receive the same amount of precipitation or experience an equivalent temperature range.

Indoor plants, insulated from the withering effects of excessive direct sun, can go longer between waterings than their outdoor counterparts. All other things being equal, the same holds for plants in the ground versus those in containers. The former, their roots being underground and better insulated from heat, require less frequent waterings than plants in pots. Indoor plants, especially those that are established, will be fine with dry soil for several days. You might even say many days. Again, get a good look at the leaves. If they are taut to the touch, you can wait another day.

This whole watering thing may now seem to resemble something complicated rather than simple. Like springing open a can of worms, and we’d rather those worms stay under the soil. As noted earlier, becoming a skilled plant steward starts with becoming a good observer. With experience, you’ll be able to confidently incorporate all those various factors into a successful plant care plan, with nary a bead of sweat. Or buy a water meter. If after doing so, your plants appear overwatered, adjust the period between soakings.

Below, watch our CAN DO! Plant Parenting video on watering.

 

 

 

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Summertime, and the livin is easy…with succulents

Ah, summertime. It’s almost here. If you’re hunting for ideas on what to plant from the succulent & cactus world, we’re here to help. You may know from magazine photos, or from Instagram, or from your own garden that the sheer number of plants to choose from can be overwhelming. So many good ones!

As the largest grower of succulents & cacti in the world, we at Altman Plants know this all too well. Below we present five succulents of summer that sing in temperate gardens or year-round in pots.

Before we get to our summerific five, let’s briefly touch on some plant design principles. It’s pretty much always a #winning idea to avoid creating planters or garden beds that resemble a “I gotta have that one too; I don’t care where it goes” mindset. While fun in the moment, that can lead to jarring, juicy messes.

  • Plant to scale: Don’t fill a huge yard with only ground covers or shoehorn a century plant agave into a tiny porch.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat: Repetition encourages harmonious flow and drama.
  • Contrast colors, in an appealing way: Get comfy with a color wheel!
  • Spread harmony through textures & shapes: Find varieties with similar attributes as well as spots for contrasting plant forms.
  • Color. Be judicious: You don’t need to spotlight every shade. Massing color (pockets of reds here, yellows there) is visually appealing.

 

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ US PP29,584

The colors that this gorgeously opalescent icy star picks up are something else — pinks, purples, blues. Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ US PP29,584 is a patented Altman Plants original hybrid. Park this hen-and-chicks star near succulents exhibiting those colors and even oranges. Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ produces concentric, “snowball”-style rosettes of chunky, fleshy, lightly colored leaves.

Flowers hang from gracefully arching stalks in later winter to spring. A robust, clustering grower, it’s an excellent choice for use in a dish garden or as a potted plant on the patio. Not only those, but would also serve superbly in a summer wedding bouquet or centerpiece. We’re also thinking moonlight gardens — ooh, that soft nighttime glow.

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ would be a stellar fit for a celestial decor theme or as the ornamental living treasure in a decorative crystal or stone planter. As far as the daytime scene goes, it can put up with a reasonable amount of heat — we’ve seen it flaunt its sun-tolerating magic — but protect the plant from frost. Rosettes can reach 6 inches in diameter.

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ is available at shopaltmanplants.com or wholesale at cactusshop.com.


Melocactus azureus

We humans prefer not to be blue, but it’s quite a spiffy look for cacti. Hailing from Brazil, Melocactus azureus sports a globular, noticeably ribbed frosty blue body that’s protected by variably colored spines — silvery white to reddish brown.

When the cactus reaches maturity, which could take more than a decade, fetching little pink flowers emerge from its cephalium. Its what? A cephalium is a peculiar woolly mass associated with Melocactus species that forms a distinctive cap of sorts on top of the plant. Far out (or far up, as it were)!

While you wait for that, enjoy its beautiful blue epidermis and symmetry. Even without the funky, woolly “cap,” the view of Melocactus azureus from above is rather attractive. Even a little mesmerizing. Go ahead, try it.

Native to semitropical environs, Melocactus azureus really loves life (best growth & appearance) when the temperature stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because of that, we recommend this one in its own container on the patio or a sunny windowsill. For nifty pairings, locate it near plants expressing shades of orange, coral, or light pink. Or, thanks to its spines, tie it into plants with darker reds like burgundy.

Its growing season runs from April to October. Watch the water during the cooler months. Stems will grow to 8″ in diameter and to 12 to 18″ tall.

Melocactus azureus is available at shopaltmanplants.com or wholesale at cactusshop.com.

 

Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus)

Thank Mother Nature that not all living things are as delicate as us humans. In summer, we pine for anything that cools us off — beaches, pools, lakes, and all manner of covered, artificially cooled rooms. Not golden barrel.

There’s not a whole lot of mellow about the golden-yellow sphere officially known as Echinocactus grusonii, which belongs in the orbit of any plant geek who desires a space light on fuss but deep with dramatic appeal. The color, texture, and shape of golden barrel lend interest, definition, and contrast to any composition.

Comb through a magazine full of professionally designed desert or waterwise gardens and you’re going to see plenty of golden barrel. For maximum effect, group it in threes.

Sunshine, occasional soaks, and room to grow are about all it desires. It can even tolerate some frost for a brief spell. Golden barrel can be kept smaller by being housed in a container, for those without room to let plants stretch their proverbial legs.

Growing to 3 feet in a diameter in the ground, this eye-popping, spiny orb belongs to the barrel cactus family. Curiously, it also goes by the monikers of “mother-in-law’s chair” and “mother-in-law’s cushion.” We can’t recommend repurposing it as a sitting device, though. Water it when the soil is thoroughly dry to the touch.

Echinocactus grusonii is available at shopaltmanplants.com or wholesale at cactusshop.com.

 

Euphorbia anoplia (Tanzanian Zipper Plant)

So named because of the zipper-like patterns along the margins of its angled columns, Euphorbia anoplia looks something like a spineless, underwater cactus. But it’s not a cactus! Euphorbia anoplia forms a colony of leafless ribbed columns, which are green to light green, with the zipper markings a darker green. The plant produces small dark burgundy flowers at the column tips, as if the columns are bespeckled by quirky little berries.

Euphorbia anoplia is a summer lover, responding well to warmth, with its active growth period in the late spring and summer months. It wants bright light for best appearance, and should be allowed to rest during the coldest, wettest part of winter, with less water given.

Tanzanian zipper plant is perfect for an underwater theme in a rock garden. It will also thrive in all sorts of pots…maybe even a cute ceramic mug. Columns can rise to around a foot tall and spread 1 to 2 feet.

But do take some precaution around it. All euphorbias contain a white sap that can be irritating to eyes and mucous membranes. If contact is made with this white sap, take care to not touch face or eyes before washing hands with soap and water.

Euphorbia anoplia is available at shopaltmanplants.com or wholesale at cactusshop.com.

 

Agave ‘Blue Glow’

Agave ‘Blue Glow’ is a sharp-as-can-be sword plant standout. It’s one of those stunners that prompts people to say, “OMG, I didn’t know agaves could rule this much!” The blue-green leaves are outlined by yellow and red, with red tips. This moderately sized hybrid grows to just two feet high and three feet wide, making it a super choice for smaller spaces.

A key point, ha, about Agave ‘Blue Glow’: It’s a solitary grower, so there’s no need to fret about the possibility of having to dig up a bunch of pups in the future. Just make sure you leave some wiggle room around the plant site or container. You don’t want someone’s shins encountering the stiff leaves as he or she turns a corner.

Agave ‘Blue Glow’ is a star, so treat it like one, as a focal specimen in areas where height or girth is not desired or needed. This could be a landscape bank surrounded by yellow, gold, or orange soft ground-cover succulents. You could also mass it in a grouping, especially as a complement to a taller and wider agave or other plant.

Give it full sun near the coast or in temperate zones to part sun in hot areas.

Look for Agave ‘Blue ‘Glow’ at Altman retail partners such as the Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart, as well as at independent retailers that carry Altman Plants-grown succulents. Possible container sizes range from 8″ to 15 gallons.

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All Wrapped Up: We have you covered for spring, Mother’s Day

Whether a gift for the person who’s been there for you from the very beginning or something peaceful to herald the awakening of spring, we have you taken care of this season

Mom dropped us some juicy hints. Imagine being wrapped in warm, comforting hugs, like the ones from Mom herself. The cuties in our Love Grows Rosette Succulent Collection arrive in wood-design-wrapped 2.5″ pots. Their larger cousins live in lovingly stickered 3.5″ digs. Both come with an Altman-designed to/from card.

Remind her on Mother’s Day and every day after of what she means to you with our Love Grows Rosette Succulents Collection.

Whichever complementary match of adorable easy-care succulents arrive, they will make a heartwarming gift that lasts long after the sun sets on Mom’s special day.

Wild about your wife? Well, duh! Treat her to our wildly colorful Tie Dye Modern Hippie Rosette Succulent duo, available in mere days at shopaltmanplants.com. Tell the kids you got this one. Of course, this sweet pair should appeal to the free spirit in all of us. Did you follow our six-panel reveal on Instagram? If not, there it is, relaxing above some fleshy kindred spirits.

View our Gift Collection of succulents at shopaltmanplants.com.

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Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’: Chill out with this rosette succulent stunner

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ produces arching stalks of coral/yellow flowers in late winter to spring

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ mounds to create lots of pretty little babies.

“We just survived winter and you wanna gush about an echeveria named ‘Arctic Ice’?” You betcha! This opalescent white beauty will freeze you and other succulent seekers in their tracks…in the best possible way, like the sight of a fluffy arctic fox would.

While no fluff ball, the hen-and-chicks standout — one of our newer patented hybrids — produces concentric, snowball-esque rosettes in lovely mounding style. Its luminous white foliage is liable to throw off soft undertones of icy blue or soft, light purple, depending on factors such as lighting.

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ would make a superb choice for a wedding bouquet or table centerpiece. Click on the linked video below to watch our succulent whisperer Tom “shiver” with delight about this icy gem.

Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’ is available at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

Succulent wizard Tom Jesch of Waterwise Botanicals and Altman Plants talks about Echeveria ‘Arctic Ice’, a patented succulent hybrid developed by Altman Plants.

 

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Echeveria ‘Lola’ and painted lady echeveria look similar for a reason

Echeveria derenbergiiWe recently posted a photo to our Instagram of a cute-as-can-be trio of Echeveria derenbergii, a species lovingly referred to as the “painted lady” echeveria. Painted lady is a quick-to-clump hen-and-chicks species from Mexico that forms small rosettes of triangular green or green-blue leaves with pointed tips. It bears a clear resemblance to another lovely “lady,” the succulent enthusiast favorite Echeveria ‘Lola’, introduced decades ago by famed hybridizer Dick Wright. There’s a reason for that, which we will get to shortly (have a guess as to what that is?). Someone commented on our post that she had thought these three little echeverias were ‘Lola’. Which prompted us to look at a whole bunch of photos of the two plants and do some reading and querying. The comment was totally understandable. There are so many species, hybrids and clones out in the collective “wild” of the nursery trade and hobbyist culture. Pretty much all of us are bound to get confused or unsure from time to time, especially when trying to make definitive IDs from photos.

So, the reason for ‘Lola’s’ resemblance to painted lady? Well, that’s because E. derenbergii is most likely one of the two parents of ‘Lola’, the other being Echeveria lilacina. You will see this as the credited parentage for ‘Lola’ in many online sources, but not all. Some say it’s E. lilacina and Echeveria ‘Deresina’, which is a hybrid created by Alfred Gräser (of ‘Perle von Nurnberg’ legend) involving derenbergii. So not wildly different. And then a well-regarded online resource on succulents lists the reported parentage as E. lilacina and E. ‘Tippy’, another hybrid of Wright’s. But it gets sticky. While it credits Wright for being the source of ‘Tippy’ having come from E. agavoides and E. derenbergii (there “she” is again!), this resource questions whether ‘Tippy’ truly could be a cross of agavoides and derenbergii.

We’re now going to step out of that thicket, hoping you’re still with us, and just make a case for ‘Lola’ being a “descendant” of derenbergii. The low inflorescences of ‘Lola’, with fewer flowers than some other echeverias, is a derenbergii trait, and seems to express in later generations. (By the way, have you noticed just how low the flower stalks of painted lady are? Super low.) The somewhat larger, slightly more open corolla (petals) is another. The shape of the leaves is similar to derenbergii, and when coupled with the more spatulate leaves of lilacina, appears to account for the leaf shape of ‘Lola’. The rosette form, somewhat shaped like the anthesis of a rosebud, the time at which it is beginning to open, is also expressed in derenbergii. And then there is the similar coloring.

So there you have it. With all the different species, cultivars and hybrids available today, it is quite easy to confuse or mistake one for the other based on a photograph. Especially when you factor in things like differences in growing conditions from one plant to the next, or even just the lighting of an image. That goes for whether you are just starting out in the hobby or are a professional nurserywoman or man. In this case, we have two echeverias that are almost certainly related, but the precise “how” is not universally accepted.

Echeveria derenbergii and Echeveria ‘Lola’ are both available at shopaltmanplants.com or cactusshop.com (wholesale). We love succulents no matter their pedigrees!

Both varieties are among those you may receive with our Valentine’s Day Rosette Succulent Collection, an online exclusive, at shopaltmanplants.com

 

 

  
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Treat your valentine to succulent sweethearts

Alluring. Enduring. Low maintenance!
Like your special someone, succulents really are something else. Let your love grow this Valentine’s Day season with our Valentine’s Day Rosette Succulent Collection. These living treats are even sweeter than candy hearts or chocolate and they last a whole lot longer.

Each two-pack ordered comes with a specially designed to/from card — we’re aiming to make this a piece of cake for ya! Varieties vary, in that enticing, ooh-I-can’t-wait-to-see way. Check out both styles, in 2.5″ or 3.5″ sizes. 

Few “giftable” things embody lasting affection like succulents, if we do say so ourselves. The rosette-forming sweeties in our 2 1/2″ two-pack come in decorative wood-style pot wraps. 

Succulents may not be as huggable as teddy bears, but they’re just as lovable. For our 3 1/2″ two-pack, two rosette beauties come in pots adorned with the sayings “Love Grows Here” & “Let Love Grow.”

Our Valentine’s Day Rosette Succulent Collection, an online exclusive, is available at shopaltmanplants.com

PS, make no mistake…we are pro-chocolate too! 

 
  
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Unleash your succulent spirit indoors

As spring weather approaches in some areas, a cool and dreary winter trudges on in others. It is hard to put on our creative gardening cap when the front yard remains dormant and lifeless.

Have no fear! Spruce up your home and decorate indoors with succulents.

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A cactus with a magnificent pop of yellow

We’re keeping the holiday spirit alive into the new year by going with balloons — balloon cactus, that is. This gorgeous globular bluish-green species is native to southern Brazil and other select South American locales. The view from above is spot on: pale yellow spines radiate from the rusty gold middle atop and down the center of the attractive ribs.

Flowers appear spring to summer, even into fall, providing a yummy pop of yellow on yellow. This one is relatively indoor friendly — a single stem can reach 6 inches in diameter, but over time, clumps may spread to 2 feet or more across.

In the linked video below, our cactus whisperer Tom highlights the beautiful glow effect when the plant’s bristle-like spines are backlit by the sun.

Notocactus magnificus (balloon cactus) is available at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

 

 

 

 

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Succulents are right at home during the holidays

This is a tradition-rich and family-heavy time of year for many, with Christmas Day less than a week away & New Year’s Day less than two. There are songs about a sleigh ride and a partridge in a pear tree, toy soldiers as tree ornaments, and pie for dessert. And perhaps a big family game of dominoes. We hear about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and for some, there might be a blizzard or snowstorm alive outside. Below are succulents that will remind you of this festive season. 

Get all the succulent cheer you can handle at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

Crassula lycopodiodes (watch chain), Aloe ‘Christmas Sleigh’, Crassula tetragona (mini pine tree), Sedum Firestorm & Aloe ‘Blizzard’

Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate Soldier’ in its birch-style wrap

Aloe variegata (partridge breast aloe)

A champagne flute of Sedum adolphi (golden sedum)

Aloe ‘Snowstorm’

Crassula rubricaulis ‘Candy Cane’

 

Adromischus cristatus (key lime pie) & Kalanchoe luciae (flapjacks)

Santa and Crassula tetragona (mini pine tree)

Echinopsis subdenudata ‘Dominoes’ in its festive, Grinch-inspired wrap

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Aloe, Holidays!

 
 
 
Hard up for holiday gift ideas this season? We know how difficult it can be to settle on the right gifts for the very favorite humans in your life. Luckily, we have a handful of unique, colorful and adorable possibilities for you to consider. So sit back, or lean forward, and say “aloe” to our little Altman Plants-hybridized friends that are part of our 2018 Holiday Collection at shopaltmanplants.com.
 
These three following varieties are particularly appropriate for container gardening and windowsill culture. They are all low-maintenance, waterwise plants that give us a reason to look forward to peeking at the nooks and crannies of our homes each day, for a glimpse of new growth or emerging flowers. Through the holidays, the order minimum for free shipping at shopaltmanplants.com is $50, down from the customary $75.
 

Aloe ‘Blizzard’

Aloe ‘Blizzard’

Aloe ‘Blizzard’ is a patented (US PP21,408), one-of-a-kind, perfect storm of variegation, attractive blooms, and compact size. Our breeding team wanted to create a white aloe that grew faster and more upright than one of its parents and with brighter color. Great for a windowsill, Aloe ‘Blizzard’ boasts bright white/deep green tones, tubular coral flowers, frequent flowering periods, and a pleasing penchant for multiplying.

Aloe ‘Christmas Sleigh’

Aloe ‘Christmas Sleigh’

Good ol’ St. Nick can only dream of this clumping hybrid succulent serving as his sleigh. It certainly would require fewer than nine reindeer. Aloe ‘Christmas Sleigh’ abounds with red teeth on the margins of its dark green to blue leaves, which also have red bumps down the middle. Reddens up in bright light and cool temps. Terrific as a small container specimen or as focal point in a dish garden with non-Aloe succulents.

 

Aloe ‘Snowstorm’

Aloe ‘Snowstorm’

Aloe ‘Snowstorm’ features irregular, dense white banding on green leaves, with “flurries” of white teeth on the margins. It’s like wild powder snow on a star-shaped verdant green ground cover. Free flowering with spikes of orange tubular flowers, loved by hummingbirds. Whereas the nominally similar Aloe ‘Blizzard’ is all about upright, tightly clustered growth, the leaves of ‘Snowstorm’ are wider and comparatively flat. Prefers excellent drainage provided by porous soil. Water thoroughly when dry. Can be grown on a patio or in a garden in frost-free temperate areas, or displayed on a windowsill or other brightly lit spot indoors during cold season in less temperate areas. Green coloring takes on chocolate tones in the sun.

View these and the rest of our Holiday Collection succulents at shopaltmanplants.com (retail) or the Cactus Shop (wholesale).

 
 
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