Checking out OC Succulents, Irvine, CA

We're in Southern California for daughter #2's freshman orientation at University of California Irvine. When traveling with family, plant-related interests aren't at the top of my agenda, but I still try to squeeze in what I can.

Fortunately, the family sleeps late and many nurseries open early. Case in point: OC Succulents (OC stands for Orange County). It has three locations, one each in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. Primarily a wholesale nursery, it's open to the public as well. As you can see below, it's not a fancy “destination” with elegant displays and a nice cafe, but rather the kind of place where landscapers go with their trucks to buy big plants for landscaping jobs.

While the plants on tables are fairly organized, the larger ones on the ground are in no discernible order. Not that it bothers me—quite the contrary, it gives me an opportunity to explore, just in case something weird and unusual is hiding in plain sight.

The OC Succulents location in Irvine is quite close to the hotel where we're staying, and they open at 7 a.m. I was there a quarter after 7, and I was pleasantly surprised to see I wasn't the only customer. In addition to some landscapers, there even were a few retail clients picking out echeverias and other softer succulents. I'm always happy to see other dedicated succulent enthusiasts out early!

The photos in this post aren't in any particular order, but they show the wide variety of plants this nursery carries. All pictures were taken outside except for three. They're from inside the large greenhouse, which is home to small succulents (2-4" pots) as well as a huge selection of houseplants in all sizes.

Here is what caught my eye:

Apparently driftwood is a hot commodity

Not cheap either

And this is what you can do with your investment-grade driftwood

If I lived in a frost-free climate, the first plant I'd get is a large variegated Euphorbia ammak 

Some people think it looks odd, but I love the milky green color

This gave me a chuckle: a massive Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' for $595. Yes, it comes with dozens of pups, but even if you start with only one small plant, pretty quickly you'll have more pups than you know what to do with.

Instant impact

Not-so-instant impact, but much, much cheaper. All you need is patience.

Sand-blasted driftwood

Cholla skeleton pieces for tillandsias and such

Even a selection of rocks for top dressing

And an endless variety of echeverias and similar soft-leaved succulents

Inside the greenhouse:

Inside the greenhouse, I was surprised to find a few Cryptanthus, also known as earth stars. It's a genus of bromeliads native to Brazil. I bought two of the 2" pots you see on the left for $2.95 each. 

OC Succulents also has a large selection of sansevierias. I really like these compact Sansevieria hahnii types and got two ($5.95).

I almost missed a large outside area adjacent to the far end of the parking lot. This is where the boxed specimens are.

No prices, but multiple hundreds of dollars, I'm sure

Possibly the largest variegated Euphorbia tirucalli I've seen. In cooler weather, it's a vibrant reddish pink.

Lots of 5 gallon plants as well

Agaves everywhere

Nothing really rare but still a good place to start for landscaping projects

Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus)

Aloe buhrii, 15 gallon, $150

Agave guiengola 'Creme Brulee'

Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'

Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'

Kalanchoe thyrsifolia

Unlabeled Aeonium forming particularly dense clumps

I still don't know how I feel about ruffled echeverias...

...but massed together like that, the visual impact is undeniable

A particularly white form of Cotyledon orbiculata

Dudleya brittonii

For more information on OC Succulents, including locations and hours, visit their website.

On the way back our hotel, I spotted a Lowe's and made a quick stop. Nothing remarkable in the way of plants, but the landscaping in the parking lot screams Southern California:

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  1. Seeing it en masse confirms my belief that Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light' is the most beautiful agave there is. Thanks for sneaking out before breakfast to give us a visit!

    1. The Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light' at OC Succulents had the most variegation I've ever seen and hence were the prettiest.

  2. Can't wait for your sweet little rosy Cryptanthus bargain babies to grow up! OCS seems like a particularly worthwhile stop for gardeners with more patience than money, because thanks to the core landscaper business you get such a clear picture of the scale and effect of mature specimens (while acquiring small plants at very reasonable prices).

    1. Cryptanthus seem to grow fairly fast when it's hot and they get lots of water.

      Personally, I'd rather buy a small plant and save money.

  3. Nothing like fitting in an early morning nursery stroll -- love how you balance love of family and love of plants!

    1. They are used to my craziness--and I'm very thankful for their patience and tolerance.

  4. Congrats to your daughter on her admission to UCI! I look forward to more visits from you down this way too. Re OCS, I paid my first visit there several years ago and thought I'd found Mecca, making numerous pilgrimages over the course of the next couple of years. Perhaps it's my imagination or the fact that my own collection of succulents was rather spare in those days but I felt they used to offer a larger range at better prices in the early days. I haven't visited in close to 2 years now but maybe I should given the $3 Cryptanthus. Or maybe I'll stop by their South Bay outpost first, as its a shorter schlep.

    1. I love unassuming places like that. Given that the Irvine location is surrounded by relatively new housing, I wonder how long they'll remain there. The land is worth multiple fortunes!!

  5. Nice survey of the place. Some of the prices on the specimens can be crazy--$150 for Aloe buhrii?!?! Great you got there early, before the heat arrived. Hope you made it to Plant Depot, too.

    1. I'm so glad I went when I did. It was still cool and the employees let me roam in peace.

      I did go to OC Succulents on Friday. See my other post.

  6. Looks like another great nursery to browse through. Thanks for the tour. In the second photo there is an agave in the lower right of the picture. Do you know what it is?

    1. I love finding nurseries I don't hesitate recommending!

      The agave you mentioned is Agave desmettiana 'Variegata'.

    2. Thanks for the id. I have one but have been unsure of it's name.

  7. Fun visit, thanks for taking us along. So any other purchase besides the cryptanthus and sansevieria?

  8. Hmmm, I might have to see if I can squeeze this in to my brief biz trip to OC next month. I could definitely see creating one of those planted up driftwoods , no need to spend the big bucks though ,there are plenty of places I can collect from the next time I go out to Mendo.

    1. We could make a fortune collecting driftwood! They also had grapevine sections, maybe 5-6 inches long, for $10. You could go into dead wood business after you retire!


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