Sempervivum forum: making a semp planter

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Name: Sweetwind
SF Bay Area (Zone 10b)
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Sweetwind
Aug 3, 2017 8:50 PM CST
I've been working on a patio garden and I'm also considering doing some rock gardening in the future possibly on a larger scale. One of the succulent forum members recommended I look into Sempervivums and so the other day I saw some at the Farmer's Market and picked up a couple to see if I could get them to grow (I am not sure what cultivar they are, I think one is a kind of calcareum). I had some cobweb houseleeks for many years before finally, finally, after a decade the mealy bugs killed them (they had a bad case, I tried to save some, so perhaps those ones might live but I am not hopeful). They were great plants, once in the pot I just...left them alone and watered them very occasionally. They did well till the infestation. Anyway, on my way home I popped into the thrift store and picked up a nice bowl for them which will get some drain holes put in before I use it. I also got some nice rocks to put in with them, and nestle them down. The last piece, of course, is drainage - I see that they like a gravel/grit and sand sort of poor soil and want to get the out of the pots they came in since it looks very wet and rich. The dirt around me is mostly sand and clay, so I doubt that would work too well for drainage reasons. But I have a decently sandy cactus mix - I was thinking of adding gravel to that. Advice is of course appreciated : ) Thank You!
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[Last edited by Sweetwind - Aug 3, 2017 8:53 PM (+)]
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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Aug 3, 2017 10:40 PM CST
Sweetwind, welcome to the World of Sempervivums! I am glad to hear that you do have some cactus mix at home that mixed with sand and a bit of grit, crushed granite or perlite will definitely get your semps to a good start in their new container home.

I don't know what kind of light exposure your new plant has had and where it was before you bought it but it would be a good idea to isolate new plants that come into your abode for a few days to check for infestation and acclimate it to its new surroundings. Check the junctures of leaves and under the leaves to see if there may be mealy bugs. Use Q-tip with diluted alcohol to dab onto any occurrence of mealy bug attachment. Keep monitoring for infestations and always take care of what there is before it gets out of hand which doesn't take long. Never re-use soil that you have found infested plants in.

I always take the cautious route of slowly exposing a new plant to sunshine as it may not be acclimated to strong sun yet. One may notice that some plants for sale are in greenhouses or under partial shade. These need to be slowly exposed to more sunlight step by step until it can take more sun.

I notice you are in the Bay Area. I grew up in the Bay Area, but it was in the South Bay that I started with my love of succulents, first with the tender succulents like Echeverias, Gasteria, Haworthia, Aeonium, Crassula, Sedum, etc. and now after 30 years have narrowed my interest down to Sempervivums.
Name: Sweetwind
SF Bay Area (Zone 10b)
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Sweetwind
Aug 3, 2017 11:47 PM CST
The potting mix does have perlite in it as well, so I think adding the gravel should work. So far they are in full sun in the morning and and some reflected light in the evening, and then indirect light. So far, so good but next time I should probably move things like you said - I've had a few plants get a slight shock at the change. Good call on keeping the plants separate too, that is a good habit to get into in case something has bugs or diseases. These so far do not seem to have mealies, thankfully.

At the yard where the mealies were present, I did ensure to take all the dirt out and try hard not to mix it up with soil on plants without it. So, a lot of old dirt got dumped and a few plants that I thought would not be salvageable.

I live on the SF peninsula, I am in a sunnier spot that some other areas. The weather right now is damn weird, it's humid (that's normal) but it's 70F at 10:30 at night, which is not! Gasteria are one type I have not tried yet, though I unwittingly had some Haworthia I tried to treat like aloe since that is what I thought they were, whups. Somehow, after years of this abuse they did not die, and now I moved them to a part shade spot and amazingly they are becoming green! I've just gotten into echevarias this year. I had one before, and it finally also died after existing for about 8 years and throwing off a number of offsets. It got destroyed by the great aphid swarm that came from a neighbor's yard : / to which the great ladybug swarm descended and took care of it.

There are so many interesting succulent plants : ) How did you decide to grow sempervivums, Webe?
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Aug 4, 2017 9:40 AM CST
Well, in the early 90's I started to do this:
https://garden.org/ideas/view/...
Name: Sweetwind
SF Bay Area (Zone 10b)
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Sweetwind
Aug 4, 2017 11:29 AM CST
Wow! Those are gorgeous. I love these, living pictures. Thank you for the link, the process of choices and your inspiration and the overview of your tools is a great resource. How long in general do they stay put together before you need to replant them? Hurray!
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
Adeniums Brugmansias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tropicals Xeriscape Garden Art
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plantmanager
Aug 4, 2017 2:33 PM CST
I love them too. In the past I've used other succulents to make them, and they outgrew their frames way too quickly. Now with your directions, I'll have to try it again with semps. Thanks, Bev!
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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Aug 4, 2017 5:49 PM CST
Sweetwind, it depends what is meant by "need to replant". You can plant an entire frame and then find that a couple of semps don't make it and so you pull and replace with a few others. Or you can plant like I did in sections and find that an entire section doesn't make it or you don't like the way it gels with the other sections. Then you might pull the entire section out and replant with another 20 of the same cultivar to make a new section more to your satisfaction. Lastly, you can look at a frame holding up for 7 months or at a frame that has held for 3 years and decide that you want to re-do the entire thing because it looks tired or not healthy or no longer pleasing to the eye.

I've done frames that have lasted as little as 7 months and as long as 3 years. I try not to predict longevity, but try to come up with the right combination of semps and care management to maintain a healthy and attractive semp planting for as long as I can.

P.S. here's a frame where it took over 2 years for the Sedum album to grow to a point where I could trim it down to look full and replace the Semps with new ones. So, here replanting was done with the semps but the Sedum album stayed in the frame for almost 3 years.

Before (2014) and After (2017)
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Name: Ed
Central ,NJ (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Sempervivums Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1
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herrwood
Aug 4, 2017 6:10 PM CST
I have found semps grow in most every soil. I am not very kind to my semps but they keep growing I, have planters that are in such poor soil or maybe poor drainage that they have at some times grew a mold on the top and still keep growing they do have drain holes it just maybe they I have had a lot of rain the past month . My point is they are great plants and hard to kill.

Please do not follow my example just take Bev's advice as she knows how to take care of semps.
Plants are like that little ray of sunshine on a rainy day.
[Last edited by herrwood - Aug 4, 2017 6:15 PM (+)]
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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Aug 4, 2017 6:24 PM CST
Well, I wouldn't recommend taking my advice unless you plan to dabble in living pictures, and even then things vary so much that it may or may not apply. I certainly have not had experience in growing semps in all sorts of soil but, Ed, your experience certainly gives hope that semps can be easy and fun to grow. Though, I do have to admit that in my care, semps have been killed so I know that I can kill semps without trying.
Name: Sweetwind
SF Bay Area (Zone 10b)
Image
Sweetwind
Aug 4, 2017 9:02 PM CST
webesemps said:Sweetwind, it depends what is meant by "need to replant". You can plant an entire frame and then find that a couple of semps don't make it and so you pull and replace with a few others. Or you can plant like I did in sections and find that an entire section doesn't make it or you don't like the way it gels with the other sections. Then you might pull the entire section out and replant with another 20 of the same cultivar to make a new section more to your satisfaction. Lastly, you can look at a frame holding up for 7 months or at a frame that has held for 3 years and decide that you want to re-do the entire thing because it looks tired or not healthy or no longer pleasing to the eye.


That makes sense - thank you for showing the time lapse. As living pictures they aren't static, so you pay attention to their needs as they grow, I like that. Gardening in a picture, so cool : D They look like totally different 'pictures.'

herwood said:I have found semps grow in most every soil. I am not very kind to my semps but they keep growing I, have planters that are in such poor soil or maybe poor drainage that they have at some times grew a mold on the top and still keep growing they do have drain holes it just maybe they I have had a lot of rain the past month . My point is they are great plants and hard to kill. Please do not follow my example just take Bev's advice as she knows how to take care of semps.


Haha, well I want to do well by them to give them a good start. My hubs assisted in drilling holes in the pots and noted that the water pooled up at the sides, so made some more drain holes. So, I should get the gravel tomorrow and be able to plant the ones I got before they stay too long in their soggy pots. I'm glad it didn't rain too hard today, it looked as if it wanted to.
Name: Ed
Central ,NJ (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Container Gardener Sempervivums Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1
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herrwood
Aug 4, 2017 9:21 PM CST
Sweetwind,sounds like you have a good plan. The extra holes on the sides are good I usually add them as many times the holes on the bottom tend to get blocked up.
Plants are like that little ray of sunshine on a rainy day.
Name: Sweetwind
SF Bay Area (Zone 10b)
Image
Sweetwind
Aug 5, 2017 3:41 PM CST
I got to plant them today! I may have to move the rock I added but I thought they would like to sit against it for a while. The green one already has an offset I didn't see tucked under the container top

Hm my pictures are not uploading for some reason - third time a charm

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[Last edited by Sweetwind - Aug 5, 2017 3:47 PM (+)]
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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Aug 5, 2017 4:02 PM CST
Nice little collection!
Name: Patty
Washington State (Zone 8b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Patty
Aug 5, 2017 11:43 PM CST
Lookin' good! I like the look of rocks in the semp bed. Thumbs up
Patty 🌺
Name: Sweetwind
SF Bay Area (Zone 10b)
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Sweetwind
Aug 6, 2017 10:33 AM CST
Thanks everyone! I look forward to taking care of them and watching them proliferate. Once I am sure I know how to take care of these two, I have a bigger round planter I am considering using for plants. I like how they look in the wild or in rock gardens, in between rock walls. They were a lot more firm and tough than they look. Now I know why you use the dental equipment to get them right down into the pictures where you want them, Webesemps! I kept getting one of them covered in dirt when I was trying to get it put down in the pot.
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Image
webesemps
Aug 6, 2017 11:22 AM CST
Suffice to say, that's it's different planting into the ground but when trying to get the semps to go into smaller spaces, it does take more time and effort. I find it fun to do miniature plantings using my tools but my fingers and joints and eyes do complain sometime but the results from that can be enjoyable;
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Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
Adeniums Brugmansias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tropicals Xeriscape Garden Art
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plantmanager
Aug 6, 2017 12:01 PM CST
I love all of your containers, Bev, and they are inspiring me to give it a try. I have a lot of dental tools and small tweezers from using them in my mosaic works. My daughter used to work in a hospital, so she has donated different tools they threw away, like hemostats.

I do love the look of rocks with them too. Yours look great, Sweetwind!
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Image
webesemps
Aug 6, 2017 1:52 PM CST
What's great about miniature planting is that you don't need much in the way of soil and plant material. You've just got to use the genetically small greenery and the big load of patience, which I know you have, because I've seen your fabulous stuff, Karen. Smiling
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Greenhouse Sempervivums Bromeliad
Adeniums Brugmansias Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tropicals Xeriscape Garden Art
Image
plantmanager
Aug 6, 2017 2:26 PM CST
Thanks, Bev. I am going to have fun with the mini plantings. I have some that seem naturally very small, and others where one rosette is getting too big for the pot they're in! There is so much variety in the different semps.
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Image
webesemps
Aug 6, 2017 3:03 PM CST
Speaking of variety, what's nice sometime is if your collection is varied and numerable, it becomes a great source for plants that can be used when you need the "one-of-a-kind", the "most colorful" one, "can-count-on-to-stay-small" or the one that is able to "ground" the entire planting.

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