It was a pretty darn rainy winter this year, but the rainy season seems to have passed and now we’re onto a sunny summer-like spring here in Cascais, Portugal.
My collection of succulents and cacti fared quite well, even the ones that were planted out with regular potting topsoil with literally zero pearlite, coarse sand, or any other element for increasing drainage.
Yes, some pots and planter beds fared quite a lot better than others (those with good drainage and those which those evil snails aren’t so attracted to!), but overall, I’ve got nothing to complain about, and most of my plants, even those that were over-watered by the rain, will completely recover.
There was a flower bed I planted out in July last year that needed a complete rehabilitation because it had a slew of aeonium arboreum and kalanchoe blossfeldiana that grew a massive amount over the winter months. To catch you up here’s a look at that flower bed when I first planted it out in July:
Then here two months later in September:
Impressed at the growth? Well that’s nothing compared to the mess that happened over the winter. Have a look at this madness:
Hardly looks like the same arrangement? I know.
Aeoniums do look very different in the winter months than they do the rest of the year round, so that accounts for some of the difference. Aeoniums spread out/open up when there isn’t as much light available to them due to overcast weather, so they can gather as much sunlight with increased surface area as they can. These particular aeoniums lose a lot of their purple colouring as well.
That being said, aeoniums’ growth season is the fall to spring months, so they naturally got quite a lot larger as well. These babies created an onslaught of heads that I could then cut off and propagate, which I did a few times when the forecast gave me about a week without much of a chance of rain. I placed these on another planter bed, and am still waiting for them to root.
The kalanchoes also did so ridiculously well I was able to take a few cuttings off them to place elsewhere in my garden (they ended up here in case you’re curious), and to move some completely because of the overwhelming growth.
There were a number of things I wanted to accomplish when I re-planted this bed out. My goals were as follows:
- To prettify the arrangement again,
- To pair back the number of plants I used, keeping larger ones, but having fewer,
- To give plants that hadn’t grown as much as others sufficient light and room to grow (I did this by making sure the kalanchoes were in front of the aeoniums, but behind the aloes and other small succulents),
- To tackle any pests (there were oh-so-many mealybugs!),
- To elevate the soil to be more or less flat with the top of the bed so my shorter succulents could easily be seen,
- To add sand to the soil mix to allow for better drainage, and finally,
- To add some top dressing to the arrangement, to make it prettier, help drainage, prevent rot of lower succulent leaves, and to make it easier to pick out the few weeds that managed to grow.
Here’s what the end result looked like:
Plants used are the same as before but I’ll list them again just in case:
- Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (red, orange, purple, pink, & yellow varieties)
- Aeonium arboreum
- Crassula argentea hummel “Sunset Jade”
- Peperomia ferreyrae “Happy Bean”
- Rhipsalis baccifera
- Alworthia ‘Black Gem’
And here are some close ups:
I know these will probably get a lot bigger in the upcoming year, and this planter bed may need to be fixed up every 6 months to a year from here on out, but that’s no problem with me.
I’m hoping the jade and aloe in particular grow in a way that they’ll knit together well, and now that they’re up front and center, I’m hoping they actually grow a lot faster than last year, rather than the kalanchoe and aeoniums doing most of the growing.
I think and really hope I’ve left enough space this time for the larger plants to grow for a few months without getting in each other’s way, stunting the individual plants’ growth, but I can clean things up if they start to look too packed in again. I’ll probably continue to do update posts on this bed to share how it’s going, as I think it’s interesting seeing how the same arrangement transforms over time.
The mealybugs I tackled by using a high pressure hose to spray them off once I’d taken out all the plants in the bed and identified those with infestation problems. I will keep an eye on these and if they start to re-appear, will begin to spray them with pesticide.
The plants are definitely safer now, as they’re less densely packed in / overcrowded, which should help air and wind get through, reducing the chance of these types of outbreaks from happening again. But always good to be on the vigilant side, and if I see ants, I definitely know there’s a mealybug (or other pest) problem once more.
The rock on top is a volcanic lava rock. I bought it because I heard cats dislike digging in it to use as a litter box, and though I can attest to it not being completely fool proof and working 100% (one of the cats who frequents our garden, Athos, has used a different section of the garden I covered in lava rock as a litter box), it does seem to not be their favourite texture to walk on, so I’ve noticed a lot less disturbance of spaces cats typically frequented for relieving themselves. Maybe over time they’ll avoid this texture completely, unlike the regular gravel we have elsewhere.
The sand I mixed into the soil at around 30% of the total, because this spot gets a lot of sun and dries out relatively quickly. In other spots, I kept soil and sand at around 50/50 split, especially for shady bits that take a lot longer to dry out than this planter.
That’s about it for the update on this particular planter! Let me know if you have questions for me, or if you have tips for me. Would love to know how you think this arrangement is coming along and what your thoughts are on the changes I’ve made to it over time.