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MEETING REPORT: Soft Succulents Aren't Hard to Find

Aeonium arboreum rosette. Photo credit: Lisa Marun

By Sabine Prather.

The March 12th meeting of the San Diego Horticultural Society drew scores of attendees eager to enjoy the gala reception and vendor-donated raffle prizes, shop the plethora of goods at the Succulent Plant and Pottery Marketplace, and see Jeff Moore, author of Soft Succulents.

The meeting began with announcements. At the top of the list: the Spring Garden Tour, Enchanting Encinitas, is the main fundraiser of the year and is right around the corner.

Jeff Moore speaks with members about his new book, Soft Succulents.

Following announcements, Jeff Moore, the first to create an undersea succulent garden, which he exhibited at the San Diego Fair, spoke about his third book, Soft Succulents— a term referring to plants that look like flowers and also bloom. They’re easy for people to get into—much easier than most cactus species—and they have a great will to live. Soft succulents are uniquely adapted to the coastal San Diego climate and can be found throughout the world in similar climates. They are wonderful for combinations in pots (the thriller, filler and spiller), formed into wreaths, in dishes, on topiaries, and on vertical gardens.

Moore's latest book picks up where his second book, focused on aloes and agaves, left off. Like his book, Moore's presentation delved into the habits and characteristics of succulents by genus.

Aeonium species do best in mild climates and are winter growers. Most originated in the Canary Islands. They grow in rosettes of various colors and have waxy leaves. They are sturdy growers and some, like A. arboreum 'Atropurpureum', have colorful foliage. Others, like A. canariense, have trailing stalks or giant flowers. A. arboreum 'Zwartkop' has dark leaves and yellow flowers. Aeonium ‘Jack Catlin’ hybrids have green leaves with black edges.

Echeveria species vary greatly. They have stalks with flower clusters coming out from a rosette center. Some have frilly edges, and some look like brains or bunions. Some are furry, some have colorful edges, and many are purple. Graptopetalum, generally in the form of a rosette, is very common and hardy; and winter brings out the red in Graptoveria (hybrid crosses between Graptopetalum and Echeveria).

Dudleya plants are native to the American Southwest and may be seen growing near the critically endangered Agave shawii (Shaw’s Agave). Sempervivum species, on the other hand, are at their best in a cold, snowy alpine environment.

Lastly, Jeff spoke about Crassula and Senecio. Crassula often have very interesting and otherworldly geometric shapes, resembling worms or armadillos, and red edges. These soften the landscape and are great background plants. Some, with names like Gollum Jade (C. ovata 'Gollum') and Hobbit Jade (C. ovata 'Hobbit'), could perhaps be the 'thriller' plant you seek! Senecio species can be upright, like blue chalkstick (Senecio mandraliscae), or trailing, like string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus).

Jeff illustrated his talk with many gorgeous photos of these plants, which can be found in his book. It is truly amazing to see the variety and beauty of soft succulents.

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