Container gardening may be gaining in popularity, but as many enthusiasts are learning, planting in pots doesn’t necessarily mean less work than traditional gardening. Thirsty annuals and perennials require constant watering—sometimes several times a day—not to mention feeding and care, often leaving time-strapped gardeners feeling severely pot-bound. That’s why succulents are often the preferred plants in Toronto Botanical Garden director of horticulture Paul Zammit's container combos. “Succulents need far less watering, no deadheading or pinching,” says Paul. “They are also slower growing, resistant to pests and require very little aftercare.”
There are varieties for both shade and sun, and with their unique textures, hues and shapes, these easygoing plants offer as much visual punch as needier types. Keep in mind, though, that some succulents are prickly and can sting, so are not child-friendly. (Paul uses thick rubber gloves, and sometimes a long pair of tongs, to position prickly plants. He wraps some, such as Opuntia, in cardboard or several layers of newspaper while he places them.)
To show off the versatility of succulents, Paul has created several different combinations, and demonstrates how you can make your own low maintenance succulent arrangement.
Paul's key plants
Treat as annuals or overwinter indoors as houseplants, unless a zone is indicated.
- Epiphyllum spp.: Produce nocturnal blooms on flat, strap-like, toothed, cascading leaves.
- Sansevieria spp.: Available in a variety of hues; the upright, rigid, strap-shaped leaves can vary in width and height.
- Agave spp.: Available in various sizes and colours. The bold, striking, architectural foliage has a sharp tip—handle with care.
- Jade plant (Crassula spp.): A popular houseplant with thick branches and rounded, fleshy leaves. Outdoors, prefers bright, but not direct, sunlight.
- Echeveria spp.: Beautiful, low-growing rosettes with either smooth or ruffled edges; many also produce long-lasting, arching spikes of blooms.
- Rhipsalis spp.: Multi-branched, cascading plants; although they require bright light indoors, Paul has had success growing them outdoors in both full sun and part shade.
- Sedum spp. Also available in a multitude of shapes and colours; quick to multiply and easy to divide. Zones 2 to 5.
- Hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.) A popular low-growing filler for the edge of planters. Zone 1.
Tip: For best results, use lots of plants and pack them in tightly to get a lush look from the get-go. People often skimp on plants, says Paul, which can lead to a sparse, dull-looking arrangement.