Here's a Solution
We can build elaborate irrigation systems that do let the containers water themselves and we will look at those systems elsewhere. The other solution is to create containers using plants whose water requirements are more in keeping with our ability/desire to provide that water. As with most gardening, we tend to most successful when we work with nature rather then trying to fight her. She almost always wins in the end!
There are a whole range of plants that are naturally adapted to a limited water regimen. Think the desert and its natural flora. Cactus make very interesting and successful container gardens. Let’s get technical for a moment. Cactus is a distinct family of plants that are, with one weird and notable exception, all native to N & S America. There are over 1000 species, almost none of which we are going to discuss here, and they almost all have fleshy stems, rarely leaves and are armed with a variety of spines. There are other families of plants, notably the Euphorbia, that have similar fleshy, spiny growth habits.
All of which is quite irrelevant to planting a successful succulent based container garden, except that we need to choose all of the plants for our container from Nature’s great list of plants that are adapted to similar conditions. To be silly about it and I do try to be as often as possible, we cannot grow a water lily in the middle of our succulent based container garden. We could plant our container just with Cactus as there are a range of shapes and sizes and they do have, in my humble opinion, the best flowers of all the succulents. Getting them to flower is another whole story and they only do it once a year for a short period of time.
Added Indoor Benefit
We care about the weight because one of the great advantages of container gardening with succulents is that they can be brought
inside during the colder months
and continue to brighten our lives during the winter. I digress; lets get back to planting. We have chosen our container and a selection of succulents to put into it. Don’t jam it full of plants. They cost money and they will actually grow and need some additional space and they just look better with some space around them.
Now comes the tricky part. Firm the soil in and around each plant so that it becomes stable in the new container. I find a variety of round and pointy sticks are a great asset for this job, to make sure I can press on the soil close to each plant without getting a variety of spines and barbs ensconced in my fingers.
Many cactus will flower once a year, often in the summer, some only at night, but the mechanism that kicks in their flowering schedule varies from species to species and in a mixed planter it is difficult to provide the various conditions each species needs. In the space we have here all I can say is, “ let Nature do her thing” and count any flowers that show up as a blessing. Be warned - you may get hooked on these delightful plants and discover that your collection is outgrowing the space available, a common gardening problem.
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