Succulents add whimsy, variety and ease to the garden | Bakersfield Life

Succulents seem to be popping up everywhere – even the fake ones are lining popular store shelves.

But why go fake when you can grow live ones – especially in Bakersfield, where it’s fairly easy due to our climate. Once you get the hang of these low-maintenance plants, it’s hard to stop collecting them.

“I love succulents because there are just so many different varieties, colors, shapes and sizes,” said Bakersfield resident Bethany Cranfill, owner of the home-based business Life Succs Without Plants in northwest Bakersfield.

A recent tour of her outdoor spaces included several creative vignettes featuring her many whimsical succulents. The names of the plants alone spark the imagination.

In the shade of her covered patio, green strands of String of Pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus) spill down from the top of a tall, spiraling wrought iron plant stand. Hanging from a nearby shelving unit, the fat, purple leaves of Ruby Necklace (Othonna Capensis) trail over a bright-blue bowl. In contrast, next to it, the chubby, green toes of a Key Lime Pie (Adromischus Cristatus) peek out the top of a sunshine-yellow flower pot. Above that, bright orange, bell-shaped flowers curl open above the swollen, fuzzy leaves of a Bear’s Paw (Cotleydon Tomentosa).

And that’s just part of her personal collection. The rest of her backyard is reserved for her business, where she operates a small greenhouse for cultivating cuttings and an outdoor workshop for potting plants. Whereas most people would plant flowers and shrubs around the perimeter of their lawn, Bethany has filled the planting beds with dozens of various succulents she grows to harvest the clippings for re-sale.

Another user-friendly aspect to succulents is the ability to cultivate your own at home – just snap off a stem or a leaf, stick it shallowly in some soil, and let it take root. It really is that easy.

For this reason, it’s fun to get involved with friends, neighbors and local gardening groups to swap cuttings and continue your collection. In Bakersfield, home gardeners often post in the Succulent Sharing Facebook Group when they have cuttings to share or swap.

One member, Cookie Lopez, recently attended a succulent swap event put on by the group at Jastro Park and were overjoyed by the friendly and accommodating atmosphere. Her kids gave away several of their starter plants and brought home many more.

On a recent visit to the family’s front-yard garden in northeast Bakersfield, Ari, 6, donned bright red Wonder Woman gardening gloves and pointed out all of her “babies” – tiny plants growing from stems and leaves in various containers.

“They’re alive. When the succulents come off, they can still grow from the leaves, ”she said matter-of-factly through missing top front teeth.

She and big brother Kailob, 20, both got into succulent gardening a couple of years ago when their grandma and great-grandma started giving them cuttings from their gardens. Their mom has hardly purchased any succulents – most are from family, friends, and the Facebook swap group. Their front-yard patio provides a shady alcove for the family to care for their growing collection of plants together.

“We’ll be out here all day and not realize it’s been all day. It’s nice because out here we do not really think about all the other stuff happening, ”their mom said.

“It’s relaxing,” Kailob said.

For Kailob, who has autism, propagating plants helped with his grieving process when his aunt passed away. His favorite, a Kalanchoe tomentosa, has fuzzy, blue-green-leaves with brown edges.

“It’s pretty unique compared to the other ones,” he said. “It’s name is amusing too. It’s called ‘Chocolate Soldier.’ ”

The uniqueness of succulents can be found in the leaf shapes, colors, flowers, stems, textures, sizes, and more. The leaves can range from tiny pearls to huge paddles, small rosettes to long fangs, and compact watch chains to wavy fishbones. They can be smooth, spiky, bumpy or fuzzy. Colors range from dark greens to lemony yellows, bright reds and dark purples. The more “sun damage” the plants sustain, the more red or purple the leaves might appear.

“Morning sun is OK for them. But in summer, at least here in Bakersfield where it gets really hot, the afternoon sun is bad for them. They will burn, ”Cranfill warns.

The best bet for placing succulents outdoors is in areas with diffused light or even shady areas that do not get a lot of direct sun late in the day. For growing succulents indoors, place them in south-facing windows for the sunlight.

The whimsical nature of succulents does not stop with the plant. The containers can be just as fun to collect.

Cranfill has stacks of bowls and mugs she picks up from home decor stores, thrift shops, and estate sales. Any receptacle can be turned into a succulent planter as long as there is proper drainage. She uses special drill bits for metal and ceramics to drill holes in the bottoms of containers and turn them into planters. Colanders make great planters with their built-in holes already.

A few unique planters in Bethany’s yard include a metal cooking pot, a pig, a bird bath, a watering can, and even her husband’s Tonka truck from when he was a kid. She also uses coconut coir fibers to line decorative bird cages, as well as adds fairy garden miniatures to make themed displays.

She once made a beach scene in a planter using a miniature VW bus and a beach house with rock paths and a variety of succulents including Aloe, Zebra Plant (Haworthiopsis attenuata), and Silver Dollar Jade (Crassula arborescens).

“I had intentions of selling it. But I liked it so much I decided to keep it, ”Cranfill said.

What’s one more for the collection?

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