Gardeners who want something exotic and colorful, without a lot of maintenance, can find everything they want with colorful succulents. Succulents are plants, both large and small, tropical and cold hardy, that have adapted to harsh, often-dry conditions by storing moisture in their fleshy, plump leaves and stems. Plant them in a well-drained soil and give them a few hours of sunlight, and they will light up your garden, indoors or out.
Not only do succulents and their cactus kin come in an astonishing range of sizes, shapes, and unusual features, but can range from white to nearly black, with every hue of the rainbow in between. Throw in how they have so many variations in shape and size, and you can have countless combinations for any color scheme you can desire.
Colored succulents have the same coloring pigments as fruits such as oranges and lemons, purplish blueberries, and red apples, and all the colors of Autumn leaves. Their colors are often enhanced by stress, such as a little more direct sunlight than they prefer, or temperatures that are cooler or warmer than normal for their species.
There are many red succulents available for gardeners: Crassula ‘Campfire’, Sedum ‘Dragon’s Blood’, ‘Munstead Red’, and ‘Rosy Glow’, Sempervivum ‘Cherry Frost’, ‘Red Heart’, ‘Red Ice’, and ‘Red Devil’. The interesting Kalanchoe called desert cabbage or “paddle plant” has flat, round leaves whose tips turn yellow in summer and red in winter, as do the long, thin leaves of Euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’.
Purple succulent plants are not hard to come by, either: Sempervivums such as ‘Bellot’s Purple’ and ‘Bronco’, Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Vera Jameson’, ‘Perle von Neurnbuer’ Echeveria, purple heart Tradescantia, Aeonium ‘Blackbeard’ and ‘Atropurpureum’, and Opuntia ‘Dark Knight’.
Blue succulents start with the common Sedum ‘Blue Spruce’ and ‘Blue Fingers’, blue fingers Senecio and its more narrow-leafed relative blue chalk sticks ‘Serpents’, ‘Blue Flame’ Aloe, Agave ‘Blue Rose’, and the very pale blue Graptopetalum.
The famous “black rose” succulent, Aeonium ‘Zwartcop’, is one of the most popular black succulents, with its tall stems and deep dark burgundy leaves; Sempervivum ‘Bellot’s Purple’ is nearly black, as is ‘Black Knight’ Echeveria.
There are countless other colored succulents, including yellow succulents such as the small-leaf Sedum ‘Ogon’, and succulents with variegated yellow, green, or white stripes, spots, and mottling, including the multi-hued ‘Sunset’ jade Crassula. Others have an almost unbelievable combination of foliage and flowers, including brilliant yellow flowers atop reddish stems on some blue sedums.
Our expert shares her secrets for growing and selecting succulents.