Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stapelia is a Succulent NOT a Cactus

Asclepiadaceae, cactus, Stapelia, succulent, succulents, flower, flowers, garden, unique flower, smelly flower, carrion flower, starfish flower, African flower, plants, gardening, nature, Stapelia cactus flower, Stapelia grandiflora, Stapelia gigantea, Stapelia scitula, Stapelia paniculata, Stapelia leendertziae, Stapelia hirsuta

Up until a few days ago, I would have told you Stapelias are my favorite cactus.  However, during my research for this post I learned something surprising: Stapelia is NOT a cactus!  I repeat, the Stapelia plant is not a cactus.  After all these years of having this plant and raving about it to people, just imagine the sound of tires screeching as my brain came to a halt...  Whaaat?  Not a cactus?!  No way.  As you can imagine I quickly stumbled into an internet rabithole of information in search of the truth.  
Now that I've cleared that up, let me just say that there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation out there on the world wide web, the internets is a free-for-all where everyone and their grandma can write whatever they want about anything.  For the most part, wherever you see "Stapelia" you see "cactus."  It's for this reason that I am trying to be as accurate as possible when discussing my plants, so please don't hesitate to let me know if I ever get something wrong 
Apparently, Stapelias qualify as perennial succulent herbs.  They're part of the Milkweed subfamily Asclepiadoideae, which is in the family of flowering plants known as Apocynaceae - commonly known as the Dogbane family.  If you love succulents and cacti you must remember this: all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.  This means that succulents are found in many plant families, not just the Cactus family Cactaceae, and the Stapelia is a perfect example.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Artichoke Pedestal Succulent Planter

succulent, succulents, cactus, cacti, garden, gardening, graptopetalum, senecio, portulacaria, graptoveria, hatiora, ladybug, garden planter, succulent planter, nature, The Succulent Artist

I've always got my eye out for unique and interesting objects that I can turn into succulent planters, and I usually spot some of the best candidates hanging out in the home decor isles at Marshalls, TJMaxx, Homegoods, and Ross. Think outside the box! One of my latest creations appears to be some type of artichoke shape with a pedestal, and as soon as I saw it beaming at me from the shelf I knew it would be perfect to stuff with a variety of colorful succulents.

Remember, you can turn almost anything into a succulent planter as long as it has a hole in it, water drainage is very important in order to prevent waterlogging and root rot from killing your plants. Granted, a lot of cacti don't require much water over extended periods of time, therefore if you wish to skip the hole drilling just make sure you keep the planter in a covered area where you can control the amount of water it receives. If you choose not to drill a hole in your succulent planter, simply use a spray bottle to finely mist the soil beneath the plant leaves whenever you see it's thirsty - succulents and cacti let you know when they want water when they lose their plump appearance and begin to drop leaves and shrivel.

I like to drill holes in everything that I turn into a planter unless the object is too small or too fragile to handle the drilling. Whenever drilling a hole in any object, it's important that you add a shallow layer of water to lubricate the process, and go slowly! Anyway, after drilling a hole in this yellow artichoke vessel with my ceramic drill bit (you can find these in a variety of sizes at your local hardware store), I added a layer of small rocks at the bottom - making sure to arrange the ones directly over the hole in such a way that does not prevent water from flowing out. After adding the layer of rocks, I fill the succulent planter with my cactus soil mixture, about half way. I recommend using a combination of cactus soil (sold at hardware stores), sand, and perlite in equal parts. Next, I add the plants, my advice is: cram them in! As many plants as you can fit, the more the merrier. I have found, through much trial and error, that succulents and cacti like to be crowded, they seem to thrive off of one another. Once you get your plants in, just top off the gaps with your soil mixture and pack it in well. After a couple of waterings, you might notice that some gaps open up due to the soil settling, in which case you want to add more soil as needed.

Well, what can I say, that's about it. It's not difficult to create a beautiful succulent planter, honestly - that's the easy part... The hard part is keeping your plants alive and thriving, which is something you can only learn over time with practice. My biggest tip would be to wait for the plants to tell you when they need water, after all it's much easier to kill succulents and cacti with overwatering than it is with underwatering. Some of these magnificent plants can live for months in bone dry soil, hence their abundance in desert climates. When you see the leaves lose their plump appearance and they become soft to the touch, it's time for a good thorough watering.

What are your tips for keeping your plants healthy? Please feel free to share your advice and garden creations in the comments below!

Stay tuned for more of my unique succulent planter creations...

List of succulents and cacti in this planter:
Graptoveria paraguayense 'Fred Ives'
Graptoveria 'Alpenglow'
Senecio herreianus (a.k.a. String of Pearls)
Senecio kleiniiformis (a.k.a. Spear Head)
Portulacaria afra (a.k.a. Elephant Bush - variegated)
Hatiora salicornioides (a.k.a. Dancing Bones Cactus)

succulents, cacti, cactus, succulent, garden, planters, garden planters, gardening, creative

To the best of my knowledge, I believe this succulent below is of the genus family Graptopetalum, although I'm not sure about its species name:

succulents, cacti, cactus, succulent, garden, planters, garden planters, gardening, creative

This magnificent purple beauty is a
Graptoveria paraguayense 'Fred Ives':

succulents, cacti, cactus, succulent, garden, planters, garden planters, gardening, creative

As you can see, a lovely little ladybug decided to make a cameo whilst I was taking my photos:
succulent, succulents, cactus, cacti, garden, gardening, graptopetalum, senecio, portulacaria, graptoveria, hatiora, ladybug, planter, garden planter, succulent planter, nature

succulent, succulents, cactus, cacti, garden, gardening, echeveria, graptoveria, ladybug, planter, garden planter, succulent planter, nature

The yellow planter really brings out the vibrant colors in the succulents, especially the purple tones!

succulent, succulents, cactus, cacti, garden, gardening, graptopetalum, senecio, portulacaria, graptoveria, hatiora, ladybug, garden planter, succulent planter, nature, The Succulent Artist

(All images are the property of The Succulent Artist and Inspire Bohemia, please do not use without written consent.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Unique Succulent and Cacti Planters: Think Outside the Box

Funky vases, old McCoy pottery, gorgeous ceramic pieces at Homegoods for which there is no other use, anything with enough space to cram plants, almost everything is vulnerable when I want a unique vessel for my plants.  When I walk through a store (whether it be a Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sale, antique store, Ross, TJMaxx, Homegoods, or Marshalls) I always keep an eye out for objects with planter potential.  Countless colorful, China-produced, trendy ceramic home decor objects to choose from.  And while many may appear tacky or excessive for the home, you must envision them spilling over with succulents and cacti in the garden!  There are oodles of interesting vases and ceramic objects which serve no real purpose but to clutter ones home (oooooh, clutter!  sigh), so I say: let these sad decor pieces have a real life and serve a noble purpose - let them be reborn as garden planters!  All you need is a drill, a pottery drill bit, some water, some arm muscle, and patience…. But I have no patience for that right now, so my next post will be all about drilling holes in pots.

For example, these lovely ladies below:

These are irregular shaped heavy vases from Homegoods that I found separately over the course of a few years.  I had the taller one for a long time before I looked at it one day (forgotten and covered in dust up on an armoire) all full of rage, wondering why on earth I'd purchased a vase I only really used once!  And then suddenly, I had a hallucination of it in the garden, providing vivid contrast to some purple succulents that I had sitting around waiting to be planted - and off I went to drill a hole.  Well, knowing me I probably took the vase outside and got around to drilling the hole a few days later, but you know what I mean.  In internet land I got up and did the whole shebang, took photos and ran back inside like a good girl to write this post straight away…this all happened yesterday…mmm'kay?

I took these pictures at twilight, and the eery blue glow seemed to magnify the purple of this succulent from this particular angle, fascinating:  (I didn't edit the colors!)

Nature is so incredibly gorgeous and diverse!


Alright, so after I made the first one (tall one) I was pretty darned pleased with myself, and I had lingering thoughts about how nice it would be to have another sized vase of the same style/line (if it existed), but maybe with a different pattern design.  Wellll, what can I say, the universe delivered and only a few weeks later I found another one at Homegoods that was shorter, wider, had a different pattern, and was a different shade of green.  I'm sure you can imagine the reaction that may or may not have occurred when my eyes landed on it from across the aisle.  Moving on…  I bought that baby, got the hole drilled, and crammed her full of succulents that were hanging out on my sun blazed potting bench on the verge of death.  A few weeks later, they are loving their new home, nestled amongst other planters around a stone garden table, and they've gained back their healthy succulence and vivid color, not to mention grown quite a bit:

As predicted, these freak vases made perfect transitions to garden planters. Now, hopefully the dogs won't knock them over. That's why when it comes to planter groupings for the canine owners, remember this: power in numbers! Cluster them, pay mind to distributing sizes in an appropriately tiered fashion depending on how many directions the cluster is visible from, and be sure to put stocky sturdy ones that can't be knocked over easily along the edges to guard the weak ones - leave the vulnerable ones within the circle of trust... ;)

Although they did well in this spot for quite a while, I have recently moved them next to the pool, where I have several other succulent and cacti planters, in order to get more hours of sunlight.  We had almost two and a half months of straight rain here in Miami (June, July, and some of August), so the first planter got a lot of water in its early days of adjustment and needed to dry out.  Also, this spot gets bright light early in the day and is bathed in shade from about 3pm on, so a few of the succulents were beginning to show signs of etiolation, which is when plants grown in shade start to stretch in search of light, causing weak long stems and pale color.  If you see any of your succulents beginning to grow in a curved way towards the light, which causes a distorted rosette/shape, or if it's dropping leaves and losing its color, then it's time to move it to more sunlight!  I'm happy to report they are doing even better near the pool and seem to have survived the period after planting, especially after too much water - which can make them vulnerable to root rot.  

I tried my best to fill cram it with lots of different plant cuttings, which I've found is better than just a few spaced out.  In the long run, the planters that I have made like this do better, I guess being more lush equals a healthier habitat for cohabitation.  Also, it's good to know which succulents and cacti like bright hard sunlight and which ones like partial sun and cool shade so that you don't plant opposites together.  Apart from doing a lot of research, trial and error is what has taught me about that.


After I had carefully and slowly drilled a hole in the shell, I went about adding a layer of rocks at the bottom (for drainage and to keep the soil from escaping/clogging the hole during watering), filling it with soil, and then I had a thought…  Maybe I could create a vague representation of a coral reef by choosing a variety of the most visually interesting succulents, both in terms of color and particularly shape and height.  I love the results, it came out much better than I expected:


The blue seashell makes the plant colors pop huh?  These photos (above and below) are my favorite photos of this arrangement, where the blue inside of the succulent rosette is highlighted by the color of the planter:


(All images in this post are the original photographs of the author of this blog and are protected under copyright. Please do not reuse any images on this website without written consent from The Succulent Artist.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mini Cactus Planter


Just a quick post to say hallelujah, this cactus is finally showing signs of growth!  A while back I painted this mini terra cotta pot and planted it with two cactus cuttings from my yard.  Well, it really took a while to show any signs of growth, in fact it looked shriveled for quite a few months.  I have learned over the past few years that it takes a while for some cuttings to thrive after being replanted.  In my early days of gardening, I would get frustrated very easily over cute little planters that I would create and then watch shrivel or dry up and die completely.  These days I realize that a bit more patience is required to see progress in growth, along with learning which cuttings are heartier and more likely to survive the transition through trial and error.  A cactus is heartier and more resilient than a succulent in my opinion, but that doesn't mean succulents aren't survivors too.

A note on the mini terra-cotta pot:  like the ceramic figurines in yesterday's post, it's from the dollar store!  And even better:  it comes in a pack of four!  Four mini terra-cotta pots for a dollar, at The Dollar Tree - with drainage holes!!  Marvelous, no?  Well, for a crafty person like me who also likes to garden it's the equivalent of spotting a hundred dollar bill on the floor.  My crafty brain went all nutty envisioning the possibilities when I spotted those shrink-wrapped terra-cotta pots in the candle/craft isle of the dollar store.  I bought a few packs and have been painting them here and there over the months.  I didn't really finish painting this one because I stopped liking it and got discouraged.  I have painted a few others that are pretties, I'll have to get them planted up so I can share photos with you.

Back to the growth progress part of this post…  When I returned from my recent trip through Europe, which I'm currently writing about and featuring on my other website Inspire Bohemia, it seemed as though everything in the garden had grown leaps and bounds - a jungle compared to when I left.  Now, there's two reasons for that:  first, I was gone nearly 40 days so of course things grew, but one certainly notices more when they aren't exposed to the same garden on a regular basis (for me, every day).  Second, it has been raining like crazy here in Miami since late May, practically nonstop.  So everything has gotten a lot of water and has grown a lot.  There's also a downside to all this rain, which is that a lot of my succulents are getting cranky.  That's right, you know when a baby has to sit around too long in their soggy diapers and they cry and get a rash and all sorts of unfortunate things?  Well, succulents don't like sitting around in a soggy pot of soil for over 60 days now (and counting) without at least a solid week of warm dry sunshine in-between to dry out.  Some are on the verge of looking their worst, dropping a lot of leaves and looking as though root rot could set in and take out the entire plant at any moment.  Root rot is a thing of nightmares for gardeners, especially those who have lots of succulents I'd imagine - at least for me it is.  Basically, today the plant could look amazing, and tomorrow you walk by it and it's a mushy blackish purple pile of plant matter.  It's devastating, and I've lost a handful of my favorite succulents to it.  Even if there's one part of the plant that has yet to crumble and you think might be salvageable, think again, you could cut it off from the main source of disaster and wait for it to callous over, but it will eventually rot like the rest of the plant, I learned that firsthand many times over.  Hey, can't hurt to try right?  In fact it does hurt, just not physically, ha.

I digress…  What else is new?  Anyway, all this rambling was just to say that I'm really happy that my little cactus cuttings are finally growing.  Small planters tend to stunt the growth of most things that you plant in them, at least as far as succulents and cacti go - that's just my experience though.  With that said, this cactus could be in this little pot for a long time, which is for the best since I don't like propagating potentially painful cacti in areas of the yard where they can grow really big and get out of control.  I like to keep my super prickly flora and fauna in contained areas where I can control their growth.  What a tyrant huh?  

Ok well, I suppose I could go on writing for hours talking about whatever happens to come to mind, but I'll spare ya until the next post.  Although, if you are interested in that sort of thing feel free to take a look over on Inspire Bohemia where I'm involved in a detailed show-and-tell about my trip to Europe.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Little People Planters… Ceramic Figurine Succulent Planters!

Succulents, cactus, cacti, planters, gardening, DIY, dollar store, crafts

How cute are these miniature people planters?  Once upon a time I found them at the dollar store and now I wish I had bought every last one in every store around Miami!  Ha!  They're so photogenic, wouldn't you say?  Of course, when I first saw them the only thing on my mind was succulents, succulents and cacti - oh my!  I couldn't wait to get them home and turn them into works of art, behold...

Succulents, cactus, cacti, planters, gardening, DIY, dollar store, crafts

Lounging in succulent heaven!
Succulents, cactus, cacti, planters, gardening, DIY, dollar store, crafts

They make perfect succulent planters, but even better cactus planters...  Because they are so small, and made from a porcelain material, drilling a hole would be very difficult and may even crack them, so, I used succulents and cacti that are particularly hearty.  However, it must be noted that they can only live in these cute little guys for so long, particularly the succulents which require more water than cacti.  
Additionally, I foresee some of the small succulent cuttings outgrowing the space and becoming too bulky - although, I have found that when I plant certain succulents in small containers it stunts their growth a little and they stay small for a long time.  After about 6 months, I will need to replant the cuttings and refill with new succulent or cactus cuttings.

Succulents, cactus, cacti, planters, gardening, DIY, dollar store, crafts

There are four different designs:


Of course, I had to nickname them - from top to bottom, left to right:  Mr. Oh Happy Day, The Daydreamer, Thinking Man, and The Sunbather… 


My fifth figurine with the Kalanchoe succulent in his head is a duplicate of the one above on the left:

The hole in the figurine goes pretty deep throughout the body, but there is no drainage hole so these guys need to be kept in a bright spot, under cover so they don't get rain-drenched, and watered sparingly (but not left to dry out too long) so the succulents don't rot.    I am giving mine time for the plant roots to grow and establish themselves a bit (grab on to the soil and not fall out) before I give them a little bit of water.  If I see any of the succulent or cactus cuttings shriveling or drying out, that's my sign that they need some water - only a few drops to moisten the soil at the top, I would not drench them.

They sure like to strike a pose...

Perhaps pondering the stunning and endless varieties of succulents and cacti on this earth?  No doubt... ;)

These babies were meant for succulents and cacti...  Then again, I will still succulent and cactus cuttings in practically anything!

(All images in this post are the original photographs of the author of this blog. Do not copy or reuse any images on this site without written consent from The Succulent Artist)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Flowering Rhipsalis Cactus

From time to time you might notice the watermark on my photos says "Inspire" and that's because Inspire Bohemia is my other website. My desire to start this site was born from five years of working on Inspire Bohemia. When I first started out I was highly motivated by bohemian decor, design, and fashion, but as time wore on, I got into gardening and that theme quickly dominated my site's content. These days, I've been writing a lot about my recent journey through Europe, so travel is the name of the game. 

But gardening is still so much a part of my every day life, and I haven't shared much garden stuff lately.  When I do, they tend to take on an informative nature and get wordy, not to mention too long and photo heavy.  I take so many photos throughout the year that it's almost impossible to share them all unless I do it a little bit at a time, over time. That's where The Succulent Artist comes in! I have created this space to give myself total uninhibited freedom to post without pause and without need for elaboration (well, at least not all the time)… ;)

So, without further ado, may I present to you this lovely Rhipsalis.  I'm not sure the exact name, perhaps Rhipsalis baccifera?  Does anyone out there know?  Anyway, Rhipsalis is a genus of epiphytic cacti and it grows really well in the sun, grows and propagates very fast, and sprouts tons of tiny white blooms when established.  

Check out this post and this post for more Rhipsalis photos!

This photo was taken when mine was flowering:

(All images in this post are the original photographs of the author of this blog. Do not copy or reuse any images on this site without written consent from The Succulent Artist)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Welome to The Succulent Artist!

Hi, my name is Catherine and I've created this website as a platform for my garden passions and inspirations, namely succulents and cacti! A few years ago, I really got into succulents, and these days I have an abundance growing in my garden. Succulents and cacti truly are the gift that keeps on giving, since they grow so easily from cuttings. Most of my family has a green thumb, it was a learned hobby passed on from my intelligent great grandmother. It wasn't until I fell in love with succulents and cactus plants that I found out I had the green thumb too... Flash forward a few years and it feels so weird to think there was a time in my life when I did not garden! The garden is a place of peace and solitude for me, I can lose myself in thought for hours when I'm surrounded by nature.

My intention is for this to be a site for daily inspiration, where I'll be posting photography from my garden here in tropical Miami, as well as photos from other gardens that I tour around the city, and how I incorporate my love of design when decorating my garden.