Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Succulent Medley for the Novice Gardener

Succulents are hardy plants and lend themselves well to container gardening. The reason I chose to feature them are that they are almost care-free, need little water, lots of sunlight – and little else! They are a good start for a novice gardener, and you can see really quick results with them. And most visitors will love them! They make lovely pieces for table garden arrangements, or to simply decorate your balcony!

What you need: Succulent cuttings (they grow from stems/leaves as well), a container, potting soil and gravel/sand, a little knife for digging, a small ceramic figurine and some shells/stones for decoration (these are optional).

Succulent container needs

Container gardening for succulents

You can choose just one or two plants if you don’t have access to more, and feel free to use any type of container. I already had a pot with a Nephthytis (the little green plant that you see in the middle of the pot), so I didn’t remove that. A note about Nephthytis: Nephthytis is very hardy, and survives well in the sun, even though it’s usually kept as an indoor plant, so it’s fine to keep it with the succulents. As the plant grows, you may have to trim it a little bit, to retain the look of the container.

Preparing the container:  Loosely block the holes bottom of the pot with small stones, so that the water does not run through completely when you water it. Layer it with some gravel and sand, and then potting soil. Succulents do not need a lot of compost or moist soil, so don’t be too afraid to use a lot of mud. I used an old butter knife to dig – its convenient for small container gardening – but if you feel you need a more fancy tool, more power to you :).

The Container with the potting soil and some Nephthytis

Planting: The fun part starts now! Dirty your hands and use gardening gloves if you love your finger nails.

Just dig in a narrow patch with the knife to plant the succulents. Feel free to break the stems (not too close to the top ) if they are too big, and just place in the soil. Press the soil gently around the stem, to hold the new plant, and spread some of it around loosely.

Planting the succulents

Almost done

You ‘ll notice that I ‘ve placed the plants to contrast the colors  and you can do the same if you wish. Ornamental green arrangements thrive on aesthetics, and are an art by themselves!

You can cover the soil with some shells or stones, and place your little ceramic figure, or leave it as it is. Now, spray some water to refresh the plants, and you are good to go, after a cleanup of course! :).

Freshly planted succulents

There, that was a lot of fun!

Succulent Medley

Succulent Medley in my balcony

Care for succulents:

You need not water succulents very often, and in fact, they lend themselves well to even containers that do not have drainage (although drainage holes are always preferred, you can even plant succulents in chipped ceramic mugs, or little bowls). If there is no drainage, just spray the succulents occasionally with water, don’t pour the water in. In Bangalore, succulents always prefer direct sunlight, and I ‘ve seen that the more they are in the sun, the better the color is. Well-drained soil, and just the right amount of water also prevent rotting of the roots (though this is rare), and mealy bugs/ fungus.

How to do a Balcony Make-Over

My first inspiration to “do-up” the balcony came right-after we visited a friend who had a lovely sit-out  attached to the living room. Also inspiring were my neighbors, who are accomplished gardeners, and maintain a beautiful green space.  Up until then, I had a few petunias and ornamental plants, randomly arranged from the nursery, and which were generally at my mercy for watering. The tiny balcony was also full of clothes and all things sundry.  I decided that it was high-time to take action, and then started my “Operation Balcony Makeover”! It’s been a couple of years now – and I am no less inspired than I was then!

Here are some tips for a balcony make-over:

  • Do not make your balcony a dump yard. Trash things that you do not use regularly – rags, cardboard boxes …. and anything else you can get rid of.
  • Get an Instant pick-me-up: Get a good mix of flowering and green ornamental plants. The nursery is usually nice enough to let you know, if you are unsure about what to buy. A word of advice: Don’t buy anything very expensive – till you are sure that it would definitely grow in your space. If you are the I-must-grow-my-own-plants kind, then well, you will just have to wait till you go from seed to plant to flower – and plan the makeover well in advance!
  • Get planters – plastic ones if you are on a budget, to hide the unsightly black pots from the nursery.
  • Get creative with your arrangement – and  keep making small changes, depending on the mood and the season!
  • Some pretty and comfortable furniture helps if you intend to have a morning coffee, or an evening glass of wine on your balcony, or use it as a reading nook. Choose weather-resistant furniture if you have a completely exposed balcony.
  • Maximize space utilization – if you have a small balcony, as is mine, use the walls for hanging pots and plants.
  • Take care of your plants – nothing looks worse than neglected plants . Get some fertilizer/plant food as well for your flowers to bloom well.
  • If you are lucky to have house-help, instruct them on the cleaning and watering, for the days you are not around, and chip in once a fortnight for a complete cleaning job. Keep your balcony spotless and clean – and see how your little green space uplifts your day!

Here are some pictures of my balcony after the make-over:

White Chrysanthemum

Balcony Corner

The Balcony post the make-over

Balcony Coffee Table

Succulents on a wall

Succulents on a wall