Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents June 2016 update

Many of you follow Candy “Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents” Suter, either on her eponymous blog or on her popular Facebook page (18,000 likes and counting). Because of ongoing health issues, Candy hasn’t been as active on her blog or in her own garden, but she’s still very much a succulent fanatic.

I visited Candy yesterday to help her with a very strange pest, and I’m happy to report that in spite of almost constant back pain, she is in good spirits and her garden looks great, a few weeds aside (who doesn’t have those!).

Before we get to the mystery pest, let’s take a stroll in Candy’s backyard.


Wherever you look, there are succulents, sometimes packed into objects that only loosely meet the definition of “container,” like this old Radio Flyer wagon:


Two gazebos serve as shade structures in the summer and as greenhouses in the winter:


Candy’s collection is chock full of different textures…


Echeveria gibbiflora

…and colors:


Aeonium ‘Mardi Gras’

It would be easy to take photos for an entire book on succulents!


Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae)

The raised beds against the backyard fence are full of—take a guess!—succulents.Some are quite large, like this clump of Yucca elephantipes…


…and this Arizona pencil cholla (Cylindropuntia arbuscula) and the columnar cacti behind it (Echinopsis pachanoi and Cereus peruvianus var. monstrosus):


This is all that’s left of a very large Opuntia engelmanii:


Candy still has this mature Opuntia robusta (with a Dasylirion wheeleri and another Yucca elephantipes next to it):


And another opuntia:


Opuntia monacantha

Against the house, aeoniums grow happily in a stock tank:


Other succulents (and friends) are happy in rectangular window boxes:


Brazilian edelweiss (Sinningia leucotricha)

Now we’re in the gazebo closest to the lawn:


There is a dizzying assortment of succulents growing in an equally dizzying assortment of pots:


Repurposed bird bath


Face pot with mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis sp.)


Coral aloe (Aloe striata)


Another stock tank


Ferocactus pilosus, perfection personified




Check out the size of this ruffled echeveria!


Joseph's Coat (Opuntia monacantha 'Variegata')

The front yard is divided into lawn (to the right of the driveway) and a xeric strip planted almost two years ago (see this post). The difference between then and now is astounding:



Because of her chronic back pain, Candy hasn’t been able to keep up with the weeding. She feels really bad about it, but I think all it takes is two or three people putting in a good morning’s worth of work, and the problem is taken care of. Any volunteers for a work party?


The planting strip leading up to the front door looks great as always:


The aeoniums are about to go dormant for the summer, but they’re still eye-catching. These look like a giant bouquet of flowers.


One of the reasons for visit was to help Candy clear this planting bed next to the front door:


This bed was mostly echeverias, and many of them were afflicted with a strange disease:


On some plants, these bumps were all the way to the top, causing the leaves to fall off at the slightest touch. Candy estimates that 90% of the echeverias in this bed were affected. We examined every plant set aside the ones that seemed healthy:


Candy will reroot these but keep them separate from the general plant population. The others went straight into the trash.

When Candy posted photos on Facebook earlier in the week, I was stumped, as were most people in the various succulent groups on Facebook. The growth made me think of aloe mites, but I had never heard of mites on echeverias.

Candy went to Green Acres Nursery in Roseville, and they immediately diagnosed it as crow gall. One of Candy’s followers on Facebook corroborated the finding. Crown gall is caused by a bacterial pathogen called Agrobacterium tumefaciens. It’s typically found woody ornamentals (such as roses) and fruit trees, but it can infect perennials. It is often transmitted through unsanitary practices (i.e. dirty tools) when taking cuttings.

Candy has no idea how long this infection has been going on since she hasn’t been able to monitor her plants as closely as she had in the past. The issue is moot anyway. Green Acres recommended removing all the affected plants as well as 2-3 inches of soil, applying an organic fungicide called Actinovate and then solarizing the soil until the fall. That’s what Candy and her husband will do. The timing is fortuitous because the hot weather will help cook the soil, destroying whatever is left of the crown gall bacterium.

I will let you know in the fall how it all turned out.

In the meantime, let’s all be better about properly sterilizing garden tools. Here is a good article with practical recommendations.



  1. Thank you, thank you Gerhard for your visit, help and the post is great! You are a darling to come and help and elicit help. I will be picking up some round up and hopefully my son Parker and husband Stan can help with the weeding. But I will never turn down a volunteer.

    1. I'm always happy to help and hang out with you :-).

  2. I'll volunteer in the summer! A good excuse to visit you, Candy!♡♡

  3. What a wonderful collection! I'm sorry I'm too far away to help out. As to the crown gall - yikes! That's a lesson to clean my tools if I ever saw one.

    1. I'll be much better about sterilizing my tools (i.e. I'll start doing it).

  4. What a great tour of your yard!!! Gerhard did a wonderful job of reporting all of it to us. I heard that you can't find Actinovate in the stores anymore, because the company was sold, and the man I talked with doesn't know what the new name is on the new product. Maybe you can find some still on store shelves somewhere though. Thanks Gerhard!!!---and Candy, your yard is beautifully done, with so many plants.
    Earlene Boyd

    1. Earlene, Candy's garden and collection of plants are wonderful. It's a special treat just to hang out there.

      Actinovate was developed by the BioAg Alliance, a venture between Novozymes and Monsanto. Actinovate is still very much available.


  5. Just love her enthusiasm, collection, and her garden!

    1. Yes!!! Candy is one of the nicest people you can ever hope to meet. She's enthusiastic, passionate, and sweet.

  6. Wow, that's a great collection! So sorry to hear that Candace's pain is keeping her from gardening as much as usual. Her garden still looks fabulous to me!

    1. More than anything else, this is proof that, in most cases, plants don't need us as much as we think they do.

  7. An inspiring collection! Glad the gall is not more widespread!

    1. There are many unanswered questions. Where did the gall come from? Why did it only affect the echeverias in this bed, nothing else? And is it really crown gall?

  8. Wow that is a stunner, crown gall in Echeverias?!?!? It has been plaguing my roses. It will be interesting to see if any in-the-ground Echeverias come down with this--at least I'll be on the lookout now.

    So kind of you to help Candace when she is not feeling well. Her garden is a wonder, still.

    1. That was my reaction about crown gall. I know roses are susceptible to it, but echeverias???

      We must have removed over a hundred individual plants. Some showed no signs of it, others had it all the way to the top and the leaves fell off at the slightest touch. Some species, like Echeveria harmsii, seemed completely immune. We didn't see a single E. harmsii that was infected.