Making their way into stylish home design and onto the tables of trendy coffee shops, succulents are having their moment. Dotting landscapes across the country for years, these plants are not new, but the recent rise in popularity has nearly everyone gushing with excitement over their distinctive characteristics and creative uses.

Succulents grow well in Tulare County, but our climate does present a unique set of challenges. They are a hardy bunch, but the harsh afternoon sun and dry climate here can be stressful for the plants. The good news is that with a little care and attention, you can fill your garden with thriving succulents and your home with seasonal succulent centerpieces.

Fall is your season to shine

“Spring and fall are part of their growing season,” says Devon Brown, a designer at The Gardens in Tulare. It’s the time of year when new growth is noticeable and many varieties will flower. While the lack of growth in the heat of summer and cold of winter can be frustrating for new gardeners, fall offers an opportunity to watch succulents flourish.

Bre Singleton, owner of Sugar’s Succulents in Visalia, seconds that fall is an ideal time for succulent gardening. “Fall is better for us here because it’s not as hot and we don’t get rained out like other regions.” Cooler mid-day temps, warm sunshine, and limited rain may provide the most favorable conditions for the plants.

Using succulents in seasonal décor

When it comes to using succulents, they are easy to propagate. This is something Devon says is great when you are ready to incorporate them into fall and holiday decorations. Once you have a few thriving plants in your yard, you can begin to take clippings. She advises to let the clippings sit a few days until the cut ends callous over with a small scab. Then they can be planted in pumpkins, wreaths, and wall hangings.

“I look at everything and think – how can I put a succulent in it?” says Bre. Whicker, wood, and wire all say fall to her, as well as topping faux or real pumpkins with succulents. She also uses cuttings in place settings such as tucking them into garland or napkin rings.

Kim Rico, owner of Drops of Honey Designs, has seen succulents in all kinds of creative decorating. “Succulents are a plant that most people love and appreciate,” she says, remarking that they are often a gift that keeps on giving. Many of the brides she’s worked with give succulents as wedding favors for guests to take home and plant as a keepsake from the special day.

Kim likes to use the contrast of the green of the plant against neutrals, jewel tones, golden terra cotta, and other warm fall colors. They are ideal for both centerpieces and wreathes. One of the most creative uses for succulents she’s seen is filling old books as a centerpiece. Vintage store books were stacked on top of each other and the top book had a portion cut out which held an arrangement of beautiful succulents. There are few limits to how these plants can be used.

Tips for getting started

If you are ready to grow your own succulents, following a few guidelines will help prevent mishaps along the way. “When in doubt, give it a drought,” Bre says, laughing about how corny her own advice may sound. But it’s advice growers should most definitely follow. “The number one way that most people kill succulents is by overwatering,” she says, advice echoed by every experienced succulent grower.

Succulents are designed to hold extra water in the leaves and stems. When a succulent is overwatered, root rot begins. This causes the base to become mush and eventually kills the plant.

Use a well-draining soil designed for succulents and cacti to help prevent overwatering. According to Devon, these soils contain a blend for nutrients along with sand and pumice, which help the soil drain while absorbing excess water. Allowing plants to dry out completely, which often means two weeks without watering, will benefit the growing cycle. She also recommends using containers with drainage so that you don’t battle with overwatering as you become familiar with growing the plants.

You will also need to evaluate where to keep your plants. Bre says, “The hardest part is finding where on your property that succulents grow the best. It’s really trial and error.” Every yard and area of your yard is going to be a little different regarding sun, shade, temperature, and moisture.

Keep the plants in a spot with indirect light, or morning light with afternoon shade. As the year goes on remember that while your succulents might do well in one area in fall and winter, this might not be the case in the hot Tulare County summers. “I always tell people to err on the side of afternoon shade in summer,” says Devon.

Even with the favorable fall weather, Devon shares that succulents don’t always grow quickly, and this can be frustrating for beginners. She recommends that gardeners fill up containers so they look nice. A full container is more immediately gratifying than waiting for small, single succulents to grow and fill up space in a larger pot. The gratification will motivate excitement as you master growing beautiful succulents to use in fall decorations year after year.

Photos by Bre Singleton