I love adding new plants to the family. While buying larger specimens provides instant gratification, there’s something even more special about young plants,barely out of seedlinghood. I think of them as the botanical equivalent of babies and toddlers—so full of life and promise, virtually all their life still ahead of them.
Yesterday I received five young succulents I’d bought from a fellow collector on a Facebook group called Succulent Marketplace. He shipped them bare root, as is the custom with succulents. Regular gardeners are shocked when they see plants with their roots exposed like this, but it’s OK. Most of these roots are dead anyway.
Agaves and aloes re-root quite readily, especially in warm conditions. I simply put them in small containers filled with loose, well-draining soil mix and then placed them inside on a seedling heat mat. They should start making new roots very quickly. I’ll leave them on the heat mat for a couple of weeks and then check for root growth.
Agave havardiana, Agave striata var. echinoides, Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis
Aloe chabaudii—notice the yellow roots, these are still viable
In contrast, these roots are dead and can be trimmed off
I know that small juvenile plants like these don’t impress anybody. But check out the photos of adult specimens below and you’ll see why I picked them. This is where hope comes in—hope that these small plants will fulfill their promise and one day turn into these beauties.
Aloe chabaudii at Ganna Walska Lotusland, Santa Barbara, CA
Agave aff. striata at UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley, CA
Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis at Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Center
Agave deserti at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ
In light of our ongoing water woes here in California I’m continuing to add succulents to our gardening beds to replace perennials that require more water than I’m willing to give. But I want to soften the look by adding desert wildflowers around and in between them. In fact, I just received some seeds from Plants of the Southwest. My track record with seeds hasn’t been great so I’m going to be extra meticulous this time. But that’s a story for another day.