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Moosa Creek Blog

Native Succulents

Creekside Chat

 Succulents are very fashionable in low water landscaping. Succulents are plants which adapt to very arid conditions by swelling with seasonal rainwater for survival during the summer. Cacti are a subgenus of succulents that have areoles, or little bumps where grow adapted leaves and flowers. Succulents can have amazing flowers, from startlingly bright colors to small tubular bells that hummingbirds love.

Not all succulents enjoy full sunshine. Many occur naturally in the shade of rocks or other plants, or on northern, protected slopes. Some of them need more supplemental summer water while some bask in the heat and the dry.
A favorite succulent is Dudleya, or Live-Forever, which has several forms. Catalina Island Live-Forever has grey chalky leaves like a sea anemone. Chalk Dudleya and Coast Dudleya are lovely rosettes, and the long, narrow leaves of San Diego Dudleya rightly give it the name Ladyfingers. All Dudleyas will do well in full sun, but enjoy afternoon protection inland. 
Structurally, yuccas make a centerpiece for any dry garden. Our Lord’s Candle with its narrow, supple leaves is an iconic feature of San Diego. It is pollinated by the California yucca moth. In contrast are the blade-like leaves of the tall Spanish Dagger. A famous yucca is the Joshua Tree, with its woody base and clusters of thin leaves that surround panicles of white flowers.
San Diego Barrel Cactus is listed as rare and endangered; this small spiny ball covers itself with bright yellow flowers. Beavertail Cactus has small dots of tiny spines all over its paddles, while prickly pears such as the 1’ dwarf Baby Rita has longer thorns, which are just adapted leaves. Both have stunning purple-red flowers.
You don’t have to wait for 100 years to see the Desert Century Agave bloom, but when you see the tall and awesome flower spike it will be the last hurrah for that plant. Fortunately those flower stalks host the seeds of many more majestic yuccas.
Augmenting your low water use garden with native succulents can make a dull landscape into something architecturally beautiful and helpful for wildlife as well.
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