Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
When selecting cacti and succulents for outdoor gardens, some species stand out from the crowd. The most reliable ones are ones that have stood the test of time. These are easy to grow, and are recommended for beginning gardeners.
Often called Adam’s needle or Spanish bayonet, these are among the most useful and versatile perennials. Some are hardy to zone three or so, while others are more tender. The height can vary according to the species. All have the typical lance-shaped foliage and the familiar waxy, bell-like cream or white blossoms. There are some species native to the Southeast as well as some originally found in the Southwest. There are lovely variegated forms of yuccas now available.
The hardy spurges are wonderful perennials. They’re often grown in beds and borders. Many new cultivars have highly colored foliage. Some are relatively low growing and spreading, while others are upright. The average height is about 1˝ feet. The hardiness can vary slightly from one species to another, but some are hardy to zone three or four.
Hardy Stonecrops or Sedums
There is a hardy sedum for about every landscape need. These are quite reliable, hard working plants. There are many newer cultivars with variegated leaves and particularly colorful blooms. You can choose from ground cover types and tall, upright ones. The flowers, which are star-like, can be quite spectacular. The flower colors vary widely. Many hardy ones can be grown in zone three or four.
This is a very good choice for novices because it is easy to grow and requires so little care. The hardiness can vary slightly. Some are suited to zone three or five, while others are slightly more tender. If you live in an area with heavy snowfall, be sure that excessive moisture can drain away from the planting site. Plant in a raised bed if necessary.
Relatively speaking, these are fairly recent introductions to the American gardening scene. They’ve been in wide cultivation now for perhaps 25 years or so. When given a quick draining soil, these have proven to be very reliable. They’re quite easy to grow and are an especially good choice for beginners. When you’re first starting out, just consider the commonly grown pink flowered species. This is readily available at most local garden centers, and is hardy to zone six