Front yard succulent mounds finally mulched

In February we finally removed the front lawn and replaced it with two succulent mounds surrounded by decomposed gravel walkways. The rock we had originally chosen as the top dressing, California Gold, ended up being too pink for our taste. I started to dig it into the soil to a) improve the drainage even further, and b) make as much of it disappear.

In the three months since then I continued to look for a rock we might like better. I never found what I really wanted—something you might see in the desert, with sharp edges (no rounded gravel), in darker earth tones—but none of the rock yards in your area carry what I had envisioned. Unfortunately you can’t simply log onto Amazon and order a cubic yard of the rock product of your choice!

With summer just a stone’s throw away, I was eager to get a top dressing on to lock in as much moisture as possible after watering and keep the roots cool. After initially leaning towards a bluer stone, we finally opted for a product called “crushed Lodi rock.” Lodi rock is a rounded gravel, but the crushed 3/8” variety has a nice sharp edges. As you can see in some of the photos below, the colors range from light yellows all the way to dark blues and grays. The overall look is a grayish beige.

Here is what the beds looked like yesterday morning (“before”):


The rock was delivered in the afternoon:


1 cubic yard of 3/8” crushed Lodi rock

We went to work right away, taking a break during a rain shower (yes, we had some rain!) and finishing in the early evening.

Here are the “after” photos. Most of the rock is wet so it looks darker. The lighter patches are dry rock from the bottom of the pile where the rain hadn’t penetrated.



In the next photo you can see the color variation. Again, remember the rock is wet so the colors aren’t as vibrant when dry.


Do you notice anything funny about the plant in the photo above? It was a surprise gift from my wife and older daughter. What succulent do you think it is? Let me know in the comment section.

Surprise #2 from my wife and daughter:


Old Man of the Andes cactus (Oreocereus trollii). It’s obvious that it’s a male, isn’t it?


Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Goblin’ and Agave parryi ‘JC Raulston’


Agave utahensis var. nevadensis, a recent addition


Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) is very happy in this spot, as evidenced by all the new growth


Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’, a more recent addition. It looks so great, I will add it in several additional places.


Agave gracilipes looking interesting. This is not the color of happiness, though. It’s severely stressed, and I’m not entirely convinced it will make it.


The smaller mound with the recently planted Agave pumila from Grow Nursery in the foreground


Agave parryi var. huachucensis ‘Excelsior’


Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’


Aloe ‘Hellkloof Bells’ (Aloe pearsonii × Aloe perfoliata), a Brian Kemble hybrid


Ferocactus glaucescens (front) and Yucca queretaroensis (back)

The photos below were taken today. The rock is dry and much lighter in color. Bear in mind that it’s still very dirty. After a good rain storm or two it will look more contrasty and colorful.


Smaller mound with Agave pumila and Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’


Agave pumila and Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’


Both mounds looking towards the Corten planter box and the fence


Larger mound looking towards the bamboo (top center) and the driveway (top right)

We had quite a bit of rock left over after covering the two mounds. It went into various places outside the front yard fence to mulch recently planted succulents as well as into the back yard where there were many few bare spots. I’m very happy about these unexpected improvements!

I’m still hoping to add larger rocks in between the plants. Again, we’re limited to what local rock yards carry (nothing that has tempted me so far) and/or what I can haul home from our trips.

One other benefit of having both mounds completely mulched: I’m better able to judge whether the plant density is right or whether there’s room for more plants. I’ve come to realize there’s quite a bit of room left. Yes, the plants that are there now will fill in but that will take time—years, in many cases. I don’t want to stare at that much gravel until then. I’d rather get more plants in the ground now and “thin” them as needed over time.

I certainly have lots of plants in pots that are only too eager to spread their roots in the ground!


Plant list for mounds (updated 5/22/16):

Small mound

  1. Agave ‘Blue Glow’
  2. Agave pumila
  3. Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’
  4. Agave xylonacantha 2x
  5. Albuca namaquensis
  6. Aloe ‘Hellkloof Bells’
  7. Aloe deltoideodonta
  8. Aloe hereroensis
  9. Aloe marlothii × globuligemma
  10. Baileya multiradiata
  11. Cotyledon ‘White Sprite’
  12. Delosperma nubigenum 2x
  13. Ferocactus glaucescens
  14. Ferocactus herrerae
  15. Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Goblin’ 2 x
  16. Lachenalia aloides 2x
  17. Papaper atlanticum
  18. Yucca queretaroensis

Big mound

  1. Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’
  2. Agave gracilipes
  3. Agave ocahui
  4. Agave parryi ‘JC Raulston’
  5. Agave parryi ssp. neomexicana ‘Sunspot’
  6. Agave parryi var. huachucensis ‘Excelsior’
  7. Agave potatorum ‘Cameron Blue’
  8. Agave shrevei var. matapensis × guadalajarana
  9. Agave utahensis (from Greg Starr)
  10. Agave utahensis var. nevadensis
  11. Agave × arizonica
  12. Aloe ‘Hellskloof Bells’
  13. Aloe comosa
  14. Aloe deltoideodonta
  15. Aloe deltoideodonta ‘Sparkler’
  16. Aloe dhufarensis
  17. Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia
  18. Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner’ 4x
  19. Dyckia sp.
  20. Echinocactus grusonii
  21. Echinopsis ‘Forty Niner’
  22. Echinopsis ‘Paramount hybrid’ (peach/orange flowers)
  23. Echinopsis hybrid
  24. Encephalartos horridus
  25. Euphorbia antisyphilitica
  26. Ferocactus emoryi
  27. Ferocactus glaucescens
  28. Ferocactus texensis
  29. Fouquieria splendens
  30. Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Goblin’ 4 x
  31. Gasteria acinacifolia × Aloe buhrii
  32. Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor 3x
  33. Lachenalia aloides var. vanzyliae
  34. Lachenalia orchioides var. glaucina
  35. Ledebouria sp.
  36. Mariosousa willardiana
  37. Oreocereus trollii
  38. Oxalis flava
  39. Pachycereus marginata
  40. Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’
  41. Senecio serpens
  42. Verbena lilacina
  43. Zinnia grandiflora


  1. With the mulch both mounds are looking nicely 'finished' now, and it will only get better as the plants fill in the space. How it develops in time is something we'll look forward to seeing!

    1. Me too!! Plants definitely have a mind of their own so surprises are par for the course.

  2. Very nice! The color looks great. I can't wait to see what more you plan to add.

    1. I'm quite fond of mat-forming ice plants. I might add a few more for textural contrast and spring color.

  3. Looks really nice. Perfect pick. Don't forget those plants will get bigger before you know it and will spread out. I put too many plants in my front planter.

    1. It's always a fine line, isn't it? I'd love to see what your front yard looks like now.

  4. The gravel is a good color--much better than the pink-ish. The plants look great, too. Maybe bring back some cool rocks from your next trip to AZ? We went to a rock store in Quartzite--they had some cool stuff.

    I bet you don't miss the lawn every single day. :)

    1. I haven't missed the lawn a bit. It's not like it was lush and thick :-).

      Yes, I plan on hauling more rocks back from the desert. I have to stop in Quartzite on my next trip. For a town that small, there are a lot of cool mineral shops.

  5. Your new rock mulch looks great - much better than the "salt and pepper" stuff we got from our local rock store. Your mystery succulent looks plastic - is it?

    1. I really want to like the salt-and-pepper rocks because they're so much easier to find but they're too stark for my taste.

      Mystery plant: bingo!

  6. It must feel so good to have this mulching finally "done"...and I think it looks wonderful. Of course I also think you have a lot of room to put in other plants, but that's just my style. As Kris noted, I think your gift plant might be of the "everlasting" type. Kind of them really...

    1. This task was hanging over my head like the proverbial sword. But I wanted to find something I like well enough to be able to live with it. I think this crushed Lodi rock is OK.

      Gift plant is indeed everlasting. Heather and Laura were very surprised when I spotted the fakery right away. I think it's supposed to be an echeveria, or maybe a sempervivum? It's realistic enough to fool lay people, but NOT ME, LOL!

  7. They look great, well worth the searching. Your Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ is stunning, mind so so are most of the plants. W don't get agaves that size for sale in the UK, not even seen a small one for sale here. And your appalanta cream spike is starting to look like an appalanta. It is strange it took them so long to settle on if it was a parryi or not.

    1. Re: 'Stained Glass': It's taking it's sweet time, but I'm happy with the placement. It looks so good on top of the mound.

      Re: A. applanata. We're finally beginning to see larger plants. I can't wait to see what it might look like in 5 years.

  8. Surprise Gift #1:suckulata palasticio henismitoutashicks!

  9. I like this buff color. If you have extra, I'd save it to mulch pots too. That is the eternal question, how much room to allow -- fresh in my mind since I had the pruners out this morning limbing up an acacia and whacking back a caesalpinia.

    1. I did mulch several pots on the front porch. Instant improvement!

      On the stuffing-more-stuff-in-there front, I added another barrel cactus last night and am (mentally) selecting a more few candidates...

      RE: Caesalpinia, I was so afraid of pruning our Caesalpinia gilliesii hard. I finally did, and they're so much bushier and prettier this year. I think they can be whacked almost all the way to the ground in the winter!

  10. Can't wait to see these plants all put on some size. This is going to be even more amazing than your outside-the-fence bed. :)

    1. Me too! I may actually give them some fertilizer this year to speed things up. Usually plants in the ground get nothin' other than water.

  11. I think the rock mulch turned out great...nice color and contrast to path. The little gift plant looks plastic : ) I love the Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’what a beautiful color. I really look forward to your update photos!


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