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Succulents take home top honors
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Given the recent economic conditions, there has been a lot of talk of “bean counters.” It was no different at the Hot to Trot Pot Competition in Hattiesburg. Beans were literally counted, and a kaleidoscope of colorful succulents earned the most.
The Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association created the first Hot to Trot Pot Competition at this year’s Hattiesburg Garden and Patio Show, a friendly competition showcasing Mississippi’s best mixed container designers.
There were several entries, and the public was invited to be the judge. Every participant got a bean when entering the show. They were asked to place their bean in the crystal jar next to their favorite contest entry. Their first inclination was to vote for the flowers they simply liked best, but they were always drawn back to a container of succulents, and in went the beans.
This year’s showing was impressive. There was an incredibly large container with a Japanese maple as the thriller plant and several pots of breathtaking tropicals. There were even some colorful combinations that would have made Monet proud. But the real stunner was a container of succulents by Thomas Keith of The Flower Bed Nursery in Lumberton.
The succulent container winner was a surprise to many of us horticulturists. We knew the succulent trend was out there but weren’t sure if the trend would be accepted in Mississippi or could win over the gardening public. We found that the answer was a resounding “yes.”
Thomas brought in what looked to be an Old World European-style, rusty-colored pot. The container held about 11 different succulents, from large-leafed kalanchoe, or paddle plant, to a fine-textured, lime-colored sedum spiller plant. There were blue-green crassula and orange sedums that complemented the other foliage colors as well as the container.
The succulent trend is exploding in popularity. But there are still those who do not want a desert style mixed-container on their porch, patio or deck. They may be forgetting the importance of drought-tolerant plants. This past June, when we were without rain for nearly a month, I struggled to keep container plants alive and would have appreciated having some succulents.
Succulents are tough-as-nails performers because they store moisture in their roots, leaves and stems. Drought-like conditions can wreak havoc on most container-grown plants, but not succulents. They require very little fertilizer, and constant deadheading is not required to keep them thriving. Just give them a little water and food, and sit back and enjoy.
If succulents are not available at your garden center now, they certainly will be next spring. Choose a large container with drainage holes. Purchase a planting soil that is light and airy and will drain well. If you don’t buy one with time released granules, go ahead and mix in some before planting.
When arranging your succulents, don’t be afraid to be bold and adventuresome by varying your leaf textures and colors. Choose a large one as your center plant, some that cascade, and most as pocket or filler plants. Be an art director in your garden with different varieties of succulents. Your neighbors will be green with envy.