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Summer to Fall, Succulent Design

encore date: August 27, 2015

original air date: July 25, 2015

Swing from summer to fall with flowers and food. See why a gardener went for succulents to conserve water and save endangered species. Find out when to divide succulents and plant Yucca Rostrata. Plus, get yummy recipes for homemade popsicles!

Episode Segments

On Tour

Succulent Garden and Greenhouse

Bob Barth’s fascination with cacti and succulents led him to universal explorations. As co-founder of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society, he changed garden perceptions in his advocacy of these water-wise plants. His passion led to the global botanical community. In multiple greenhouses, he grows plants endangered by habitat loss. From tiny to large, discover some of their secrets of self-preservation and wildlife significance.

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Question of the Week

When can we divide succulents?

As more people become interested in growing succulents in our hot, dry summers, they begin to notice an interesting thing about the growth habit of many desert species: they form plantlets in abundance.

Some of these plantlets fall off rather easily, and can simply start to grow where they land. And other species grow new plantlets from the roots, which must be cut off and divided from the mother plant.

But this is an easy process, and can actually be done anytime. If your succulent is in flower, you should wait for flowering to finish, but otherwise, divide the plant whenever you get ready. Simply remove the plant from its container or dig it up from the soil and expose the roots and underground stem portions.

When you brush away the soil, you’ll notice obvious areas where the plant is jutting off. Just cut between those areas, separating out as many plants as you like, then return a portion of it back to the planting hole and refill the space with soil.

Many succulent species need a curing time for the cut wound surface to heal so that it doesn’t rot when placed back in the soil. About a day is usually plenty for most species.

Watch Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents divide succulents by roots, leaf division, cutting and beheading!

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Plant of the Week

Yucca rostrata

Yucca rostrata

Yucca Rostrata

Beautiful Yucca rostrata is one of the tree-form species, with long, slender blue-gray leaves that are truly stunning garden architecture. This “tree” will reach its ultimate height of 8 to 10 feet tall in about a decade, making it fairly fast-growing. Unlike some desert species, Yucca rostrata is extremely winter hardy, listed to  USDA Zone 5, or -15 degrees F. Plant in full sun in very well-drained soil. In fact, if you have heavy clay soil, this desert species should be avoided, as it has zero tolerance for wet feet. But if you have areas that you can convert to rock gardens and increase the drainage with decomposed granite or other small aggregate rocky substrate, this plant will be very happy with minimal care. Water very little during establishment, then not at all once established. When it flowers in late spring to summer, a small bloom stalk will begin to emerge from the center of tree and will very quickly grow several feet, opening to a towering inflorescence of gorgeous white/pale yellow, bell-shaped flowers. Unlike many desert species, Yucca rostrata isn’t terribly pointy, but the thin, linear leaves are very fibrous and thick, and give a mean cut if not handled properly. Older foliage will die back, creating a “skirt” of dead leaves around the trunk, just below the living foliage. Some people want to remove that foliage, but resist the urge. It’s a lot of work, and the plant actually looks more attractive and natural with it there. Yucca rostrata is evergreen and will provide structural interest in the garden all year long. It looks most striking when planted in a grouping of several, with very little else around at eye level. Consider planting some lower-growing desert species in the same bed, but leave the space at eye level free for Big Bend Yucca’s full effect.

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