Succulents are all over the place on Lanzarote, hardly surprising for a diverse family of plants that have evolved to withstand the most extreme conditions of drought and heat. Almost every Lanzarote gardener ends up falling in love with these tough, weird and wonderful plants.
A succulent is so-called because of it’s fleshy leaves, stem or roots, which store moisture and allow the plants to survive the hottest and dryest climates. These plants often have tough skins, to preserve the water, and may also be armed with fearsome spikes, to protect that moisture from animals.
The word succulent is slightly confusing, as many plants that gardeners don’t regard as succulents, such as cacti and bromeliads, are actually regarded as succulents by botanists. But scientists don’t like the term, either, as it describes plants from various families that may not all be succulents.
Aeoniums are the Canarian succulents par excellence, gorgeous, rosette-shaped succulents that can be found growing abundantly in the wild areas of all seven islands. Known as bejeques locally, this family of plants is endlessly fascinating, often sending forth flowers or stalks.
Echeverias are similar to aeoniums, but come from the American continent and offer a hugely varied range of colours ands shapes. If you see a succulent with several smaller plants surrounding it, often known as Hen and Chicks to gardeners, chances are that it comes from this genus.
From the Arabian peninsula to the world, the aloe is not only beautiful, its fresh green spiky leaves turning reddish in the summer, but also useful as medicinal plants. There are substantial aloe industries on Lanzarote and other Canary Islands, but this is also a plant that few Canarian gardens are without.
An African succulent that is popular for it’s broad glossy leaves and vividly coloured flowers, most famously represented by the fantastic Flaming Katy plant, kalanchoes are easy to care for and offer one of the best payoffs in terms of maintenance and display.
A large, incredibly varied group of plants with plenty of representatives on Lanzarote – the emblematic local tabaiba plant, whose bright green domes can be seen in wild coastal areas, is a euphorbia, as is the Crown of Thorns plant – one of the most popular outdoors plants on the island.
Caring for succulents
The most important factor for your succulents is well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. They’ll usually only need watering once thesoil they’re in has dried, but they do like a good soak as long as that drainage is guaranteed. It’s also a good idea to keep their leaves dust-free with a good shower every few weeks.
Most succulents will need fertilising once or twice a year, just before their main active period (usually spring or autumn for summer-dormant varieties).
Succulents lend themselves to attractive arrangements that echo the Canarian landscape – surround them with pic n and maybe a lichen-covered rock.
Vertical succulent gardens are a recent trend, with a carpet of multi-coloured fleshy leaves, often arranged on an up-ended wooden pallet or trellis.
Succulents are the perfect plants to get kids started on gardening. They can keep them on a sunny windowsill before moving on to more challenging tasks outdoors.
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