At the January Garden Club meeting Nancy Swafford presented an interesting program on the unusual plant family called succulents. With examples of both living and artificial ones, she pointed out the most visual characteristic of succulents: their plump leaves which store water. However, she added that the roots and stems also store water.
Most succulents have originated in the deserts and semi-arid regions of the North American Continent. They come in all shapes and sizes: as small as tiny stones which blend with the gravel of rock gardens to as large as the agave Century Plant which slowly grows up to 10 feet wide and 6 feet tall with spiked pointed leaves and a flower stalk that can grow from 20 to 40 feet tall. One of the common succulents which can be seen along the highways here in Kansas is the yucca, sometimes called The Lord’s Candle, which thrive in drought conditions. One interesting succulent with a beautiful flower has an ugly name, carrion plant, because it has the foul smell of rotting fish.
In non-arid regions succulents are popular house plants as they come in a variety of sizes and shapes and can be potted separately or combined in containers such as terrariums. The secret to keeping succulents alive is to basically ignore them once planted. They need sunlight but little to no water. Many succulents bloom every year. However, they can sometimes die following flowering and don’t do well if over-watered.
In Kansas some small succulents such as hen and chicks can survive outdoors over winter. As one club member said, “You just pluck the new baby ones and stick them in the ground.”
The 12 members of Garden Club were served delicious chocolates and strawberries by Sharon East. The next Garden Club meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. in the Barton County Extension Service meeting room with Fern Tompkins serving refreshments and Jeannine Girton giving the program. Anyone interested in gardening is invited to attend.