I was at IKEA yesterday to buy a book case, and as is usually the case I ended up checking out the succulent selection. Even though most succulents are tough as nails, the constant handling by customers—who aren’t always gentle, I’m sure—and the lack of watering eventually takes its toll. Yesterday, however, IKEA had a new delivery of perfect-looking succulents. They were still on a rolling cart and hadn’t been set out on the shelves yet. I managed to extract a few that caught my eye from the cart.
|My haul from yesterday. |
Top: Gasteria x ‘Little Warty’ (left) and Sedum nussbaumerianum (right).
Bottom: Sedum morganianum ‘Burrito’ (left) and Echeveria harmsii (right)
Succulents at IKEA are $2.99 for a 4-inch pot. That’s a great price and a savings of at least 25% over what box stores charge for 4-inch plants. Their selection varies constantly and you never know what you’re going to find. That’s the fun part.
|Echeveria harmsii (left) and Sedum nussbaumerianum (right)|
The downside is that the plants are not clearly labeled; all the container says is “Succulents Assorted”. That isn’t an issue if you keep your succulents inside. However, if you plan on putting them outside or even planting them in the ground (like me), accurate identification is desirable in order to determine what the plant’s cold hardiness is. Just knowing that a plant is a sedum, for example, isn’t enough because there are sedums that barely tolerate 32°F while others are hardy to far below freezing.
|Echeveria harmsii (left; hardy to ~20°F) and Sedum nussbaumerianum (right; hardy to ~28°F)|
So how do I go about identifying succulents? The answer is simple: the Internet. My first stop for succulents from IKEA is the Plant Library at Cactus Shop. This web site is operated by Altman Plants, a large wholesale succulent nursery in Southern California. They supply the succulents you see at box stores like The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Orchard Supply & Hardware, Target and Walmart. While I’m not 100% sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if IKEA’s succulents came from Altman as well.
|Echeveria harmsii (left) and Sedum morganianum ‘Burrito’ (right; |
hardy to ~30°F)
If the Cactus Shop Plant Library doesn’t yield a positive ID, I browse the web sites of large online succulent vendors such as Garden Life (the official online retail source for Altman plants), Succulent Gardening, csucculent.com, JadePoint or Roraima Nursery (they’re in Australia, but it doesn’t matter since I’m only trying to ID plants, not make a purchase).
|Sedum morganianum ‘Burrito’ (left) and Echeveria harmsii (right)|
Finally I go to Dave’s Garden, one of the largest online gardening communities. Their PlantFiles database contains information and photos for close to 200,000 plants, contributed by over 40,000 gardeners. (I should add that on Dave’s Garden some features are free while others can only be accessed by subscribers.)
Between these resources I’ve been able to ID most of the succulents I’ve bought from IKEA and elsewhere.
|Gasteria x ‘Little Warty’|
Sometimes you come across more information than you really need or are willing to digest at that moment. For example, I found out that the gasteria I bought yesterday is an Australian cultivar named ‘Little Warty’, which is a cross between Gasteria batesiania and Gasteria ‘Old Man Silver’. ‘Little Warty’ is closely related to similar cultivars ‘Lime Warty’ and ‘Lizard Warts’ and is one of the ancestors of a gasteria x aloe hybrid called Gasteraloe ‘Green Ice’. Is your head spinning yet?
|Gasteria x ‘Little Warty’|
I bet that’s more than you ever wanted to know about this particular plant! It’s even more than I needed to know. After all, I just wanted to find out how to care for it. It turns out that practically all gasteria species and hybrids have the same cultivation requirements in our climate: light to full shade, hardy to 30°F. My gasteria will live in a sheltered spot on the front porch and be covered up during frosty nights.