New backyard succulent bed

Last summer I blogged about an awkward planting bed on the north side of the house. It’s only two feet deep, it’s bordered/bisected by our two air conditioners and it has no automatic irrigation. Shortly after we bought the house 15 years ago, we planted calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and they eventually they filled the bed.


May 30, 2011

I love calla lilies when they’re in bloom, but that’s only for a month or six weeks at best. Afterwards, the foliage quickly gets ratty. Plus, in the summer callas go dormant so the bed is a sad sight. While this bed isn’t in a high-traffic part of the backyard—it’s around the corner where the vegetable beds, the gardening shed and the garbage cans are—I still wanted it to look reasonably attractive. I decided earlier in the year to complete redo it but because of the long hot summer I didn’t get around to it until now.

This is what the bed looked just a few days ago. Dreary and depressing indeed.


October 6, 2012 (left side)


October 6, 2012 (right side)

The first step was to buy the things I needed for this project.


Potting soil—the cheapest I could find at our local Ace hardware store


Very coarse sand in bags sold for flood control


Rocks for contrast and texture—215 pounds in total, for a princely sum of $16 (I was surprised, too, by how cheap the rocks were)

The second step was to dig up the calla lilies (I will plant them in the strip between our house and our neighbor’s), break up the compacted soil with a pickaxe and then mix in the potting soil and coarse sand (which actually looked more like very fine gravel). The soil is slightly mounded—you can’t really see that in the photo below—to provide a little bit of extra drainage. But drainage isn’t really a problem here. This bed is somewhat protected by the roof overhang so even in a heavy downpour it doesn’t get drenched the way a bed in the middle of the garden would.


Prepped bed with new soil

Then I experimented with placing the rocks and the potted plants until I was happy with the result. Yes, all the plants are succulents. Since the bed isn’t tied into our automatic drip system, I wanted plants which would do well with relatively little water. Plus, I had a lot of potted succulents already.


Placing the potted plants prior to planting (left side)


Placing the potted plants prior to planting (right side)

Here are the “after” shots of the two sides of this bed. I planted two agaves, three echeverias, a felt plant (Kalanchoe beharensis) and a bunch of aeoniums. The aeoniums aren’t very hardy (neither is the kalanchoe) but it’ll be easy enough to throw a couple of frost blankets on the bed when needed.


Left side after planting


Left side after planting


Right side after planting


Right side after planting

And finally a few close-ups of three of the most interesting plants I put in this bed.


Agave xylonacantha ‘Frostbite’. Purchased from Yucca Do Nursery this summer. This will be an absolute beauty in a few years.


Agave bracteosa × lophantha ‘Mateo’. One of the plants I brought home from Succulent Garden’s 2012 Extravaganza


Aeonium arboreum. I don’t recollect where I originally got this plant but I’ve been growing it in a pot for three or four years and it’s finally reached a nice size. It should do great in the ground.

I’m very pleased with the outcome of this project and can’t wait for the plants to fill in.


  1. Looks very nice. Hope the outlet isn't too hard to get to when the babies are all grown up! Would some of the Callas work over under the hedge? We took out the lilacs in front for the same reason as you took out the Calla's. Beautiful when in bloom for a brief time and the of the rest time just blah!

    1. I don't think we've used this outlet since building the vegetable beds but I should still be able to access it.

  2. Looks great! At first I thought: north side, won't that be too shady? Then I noticed that there seems to be a lot of reflected light here, so probably no worries. Can't wait to see that triple Aeonium take off!

    1. Alan, good point about the light! I meant to talk about that in my post. This particular bed gets only a few minutes of direct sunlight in the summer and none in the winter. However, our neighbor's house, painted a creamy white, acts as a giant reflector and fills this area with beautiful bright light from mid-morning on. I've been "storing" potted succulents on this side of the house all year and they've thrived so I figured they'd do even better in the ground.

  3. Looks beautiful already Gerhard. Can't wait to see your next blog when they start to mature and fill in the area.

    1. Laura, all of the aeoniums except the large A. arboreum and A. 'Sunburst' came from you. I should call this the Laura Balaoro Aeonium Collection :-).

  4. What a nice change. Your new kiddos will look great all year long and the rock placement is fabulous. Love it.

    1. I love rocks and was glad I found some that I liked. I plan on top-dressing the bed with rock mulch but that has to wait until I make it to the Lowe's (they sell bagged rocks in color called California Gold that I really like).

  5. Very nice, will look forward to seeing them grow and fill in through your posts.

  6. Wow, nice work there Gerhard! It looks so much better already! Although I liked the Calla lilies, the change you've made has done a big difference to the area.

  7. Wow, they are going to look really awesome! Love the rocks!


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