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Five picks for heat-enduring, non-prickly succulents

Posted on June 02 2017

Those who have found this particular outpost of succulent fandom are probably aware that succulents have their limits. For example, to decorate desert ground with any plant accurately answering to the name “succulent” is to expect or desire one very possible outcome: fried succulent. Personally, we much prefer going the “fried” route with cauliflower or chicken. Cactus, agaves, and aloes, this post is not intended for you. (Now’s a good time to acknowledge that plants generally don’t answer when called upon.) With summer here soon, we thought it would be cool to highlight some needle- and sword-free specimens that should do pretty well in the hotter spots of the garden. To be clear, not desert hot — we’re not about to completely deep-fry our senses. We are referring to areas that experience temperatures of 90+ degrees Fahrenheit (32° Celsius) without much if any marine influence.
Crassula arborescens (silver dollar jade)
[caption id="attachment_6621" align="alignright" width="442"] Crassula arborescens / Diego Delso,, License CC-BY-SA[/caption] Known for rounded, “silver dollar” leaves with red margins, it produces star-shaped, white to light pink flowers in winter and can reach four feet in height. While it can handle bright light and full sun, it is not a fan of frost. You’ll know you made a fine choice when you’re admiring it under a full moon. Porous soil with adequate drainage should prove satisfying. We’re also fans of ‘Ripple Jade’ (C. arborescens undulatifolia), which has a distinct, wavy quality to its leaves.  
Oscularia deltoides (pink ice plant)
Not the much-maligned form known for carpeting freeway embankments, this particular South African species is an attractive, tough, heat-loving specimen. It boasts great blue-green foliage, cherry red stems, pink and lightly fragrant flowers, and a generous blooming season when in sun. It is quite the looker during peak bloom, with the angled leaves providing year-round interest — if leaves resembling open mouths, including teeth, are interesting. (Um, duh.) It likes fairly well-draining soil, tolerates drought conditions, and isn’t picky about irrigation amount.   [caption id="attachment_6622" align="alignleft" width="369"] Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi / Forest & Kim Starr[/caption]
Kalanchoe fedtschenko(various)
Available in various variegated styles, this one not only digs the heat but also features beautiful, showy inflorescence, typically appearing in summer to fall, when mature. It is also adept at producing plantlets (more Kalanchoe!) from the fleshy, scalloped leaves. Foliage color is more lavender in sunnier spots and more blue-green with shade. It prefers bright light, ample airflow, and porous soil with adequate drainage. One of our faves, ‘Aurora Borealis’, has bluish-green leaves with scalloped, often blushed-pink margins, but it’s much happier near the coast if in a sunny spot.
    [caption id="attachment_6624" align="alignleft" width="319"] Pachyphytum fittkaui / Diego Delso,, License CC-BY-SA[/caption]
Pachyphytum fittkaui
When parched, the plant’s lime-green foliage goes a little orange, a little lavender, on the margins. Someone here at Altman says her Pachyphytum varieties have done surprisingly well inland, just needing some shade during the hottest part of the day (but don’t expect such results with P. oviferum). Pinkish-reddish flowers come in spring. The mostly cylindrical leaves grow in a rosette. Found on south-facing cliffs in Mexico, this one looks especially at home in rock gardens and prefers well-draining soil. Containers work too.  
Cotyledon orbiculata (various)
The specimens are a varied bunch, but they share proficiency for tolerating a good deal of abuse. Pig’s ear is a common one. The generally gray-green fleshy leaves have a powdery coating that helps reflect sunlight and conserve water. Some leaves are oval, whereas others resemble fingers — C. orbiculata ‘Flanaganii’ and var. oblonga 'Flavida'. The bell-shaped, orange-to-orange-red flowers droop from stalks that shoot up two feet. Give it some well-draining soil and some expansion room. So there you go: five specimens (not tallying up all appropriate variegated forms) to try in your hotter spots that don’t reward unintentional embraces with howls of hurt from the hugger. Of course, there are no guarantees in gardening, with plenty of different variables possibly accounting for a plant’s struggles or outright demise. We also want to be doubly clear that we aren't suggesting that this quintet should withstand blast-furnace conditions with nary a bit of stress.

Have your own recommendations or beg to differ with one of ours? Drop us a line.

[caption id="attachment_6623" align="alignright" width="461"] Oscularia (aka Lampranthus) deltoides[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6618" align="alignleft" width="305"] Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga 'Flavida' or C. orbiculata ‘Flanaganii’[/caption]


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