This year, for a myriad of reasons, I have rapidly expanded my succulent collection, most especially sempervivums, which I just can’t seem to stop myself from buying. I bought and/or acquired by other means 25 new semps this year alone in addition to a few other related succulents, many of which are hardy and some that aren’t.
Despite the sudden influx of plants I have been growing semps (aka hens and chicks) for years. They are most likely one of the very first non-edibles I grew. Just about everyone starts with them and for good reason: the plants are virtually unkillable and require almost no care. Every beginner gardener should begin here.
What’s different this year is that I have begun to collect orostachys and rosalaria, two closely related, hardy succulents that I have never grown before. Both plants look a lot like sempervivums and are grown under very similar conditions. Most literature says they can tolerate very cold conditions but I am not convinced that some of these stranger varieties are as hardy as semps. The plants come in paler colours and have a slightly softer look about them. As a result, I didn’t want to throw them in among the semps but instead had decided to give them their own space to be showcased. I had a sudden brain wave one afternoon last week when I realized that I had just the perfect pot, a vintage, emerald green dish that I have never had much luck with. Having begun life as a dish meant to hold candy or trinkets it is shallow and only suited to diminutive plants with shallow roots that can also take a bit of drought.
To prepare the pot for growing, I drilled a couple of 1/2″ holes in the bottom with a masonry bit meant for drilling into terracotta or brick. I used very sandy, gritty soil — a potting mix meant for growing cactus is perfect. I top-dressed after planting with tufa chips, a very light-weight rock that is often used in growing alpine plants. I got a big ziploc baggie for $5 from Wrightman’s Alpines.
This is a sempervivum I potted up at the same time in a bonsai pot that has always been too shallow to grow anything else. I love this variety’s tight rosettes and mounding form. I can’t tell from the tag if it is called ‘Granide’ or ‘Grande.’ ‘Grande’ seems all wrong given that the plant is teeny, tiny.