Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
While some plants are clearly succulents with many related species occurring in nature, others seem to be oddballs. Here are some of the unusual ones.
Climbing onion (Bowiea volubilis)
A member of the Lily family, this is native to South Africa. Like the nodding onion, the climbing onion grows from a bulb that remains partially above the potting soil or soil surface. Quite succulent, the bulb can grow to be nearly eight inches in diameter. From the bulb arises a rather weak, climbing, twining stem. On the stem are a small number of lance-shaped leaves. These drop when the bulbs go into dormancy later during the growing season. The climbing onion has tiny whitish-green blossoms.
Treat this bulb as you would an amaryllis bulb by allowing it to go dry during its rest period. Climbing onion is dormant from the summer through the fall months.
Pony tail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
Also known as bottle palm, the pony tail palm is native to Mexico. It is a member of the Lily family, which makes it a relative of the Yuccas.
In maturity, this plant assumes a tree-like appearance with an enlarged, swollen, bottle-like base for a trunk.
At the top of the stem is a rosette of long, slender, thin grass-like leaves. These tend to curl downwards. In mature plants, the foliage can be over six feet in length. The pony tail palm has tiny white or cream blossoms that open in clusters.
During dry periods, this plant relies on water it has stored in its swollen base. It can actually survive at least a year on this supply.
Succulent coleus (Plectranthus tomentosus)
Native to South Africa, this is a relative of the Vick’s plant. One thing that makes this plant unusual for a succulent is that it is a member of the Mint family. For that reason, it is often grown in herb gardens.
Unlike its relatives, the succulent coleus is a bushy, full, well-branched plant just like the other Plectranthus. However, this species differs by having succulent foliage. Slightly notched along the edges, the fleshy, thick leaves are medium green with silver undersides. The foliage is covered with velvety white hairs.
Like other members of the Mint family, this succulent has a square stem, which is quite hairy. The stem is colorful with reddish-brown tinges.
Succulent coleus has small purple blooms that open in whorls mostly terminally. These have the typical shape seen in Mint family blossoms.