GratiTuesday: The beauty of succulents

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to ditch our traditional lawn and the water-thirsty plants that surrounded our house. Southern California has a dry, Mediterranean climate, and it didn’t make sense to maintain landscaping that really didn’t belong. At the time, we were just at the beginning of our multiple-year drought but we could read the writing on the wall: watering restrictions were coming.

So, out went the turf, agapanthus, and day lilies, and in went the succulents and other plants more suited for our climate. No more regular mowing and fertilizing; no more brown spots dotting our green lawn as a result of neighborhood dogs doing what dogs do.

Agave 'Blue Glow' have watercolor-like striations and red-orange margins
Agave ‘Blue Glow’ have watercolor-like striations and red-orange margins
It’s easy to see how ‘Sticks on Fire” got its name

What we now have in our yard is a rich tapestry of colors, shapes, and textures. The bright reds, pinks, and oranges of the appropriately named ‘Sticks on Fire’ (Euphorbia tirucalli) contrast with the deep burgundy of the ‘Zwartkop’ (Aeonium  arboreum) and the silver-blue Senecio mandraliscae. The fat, jelly bean shape of the sediums play nicely with spiked-leaved Agaves and Aloes.

And, just when I think my succulents are quietly behaving themselves, one will suddenly produce a flower so garish and spectacular it can take my breath away.

Dark burgundy 'Zwartkop' produces a bright yellow and chartreuse flower
Dark burgundy ‘Zwartkop’ produces a bright yellow and chartreuse flower

Because succulents don’t require regular watering and they are amazingly easy to care for, they are the perfect plants for our lifestyle in retirement. I can putter in the garden… or not, and we can travel for weeks at a time and not have to worry about arranging for their care.

As I walk around our neighborhood and see front yards landscaped with the standard plantings and boring grass (often which has turned brown due to our drought), I am so grateful when I return to the lush growth and dazzling pallet of my succulents.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

24 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: The beauty of succulents”

  1. The plants in your yard look so beautiful! We are too far north to have nothing but succulents, but it sure is tempting to get rid of the lawn. We are getting rain off and on, but we could have less lawn!

  2. A very smart move. I imagine your front yard is gorgeous with all its colours and textures.
    We got rid of our grass in the front yard about 5 years ago and like you, I don’t miss it at all! 🙂

    1. The colors are amazing. Growing up, “succulents” meant jade plants. Now, the varieties available are amazing. Good for you for getting rid of your lawn too. Turf requires a lot of work and often chemicals to keep it looking good.

  3. As my Aussie and Kiwi friends would say “good on you, Mate”. Here in NJ, we thought we would get rid of lawn and plant ground cover, but the damn weeds keep poking thru. Grass is actually easier. Bummer.

    1. I am constantly amazed how well weeds can grow! We have some popping up here and there, but I try to get at them before they get to big or go to seed. I imagine there are some places that grass just makes more sense.

  4. As we have recently returned home after living many years overseas, my husband and I were just discussing that we need a ‘refresher course in gardening.’ This post is very timely for us and offers great suggestions (especially as we live in an area with heavy water restrictions during the summer months)!

    1. I don’t know if your area can support succulents, but if so, you might want to consider adding a few to your landscape. Local nurseries and garden centers often offer workshops on plants that do well in the local area.

  5. I am no fan of grass and have very little of it in my yard. About all is it nice for is as a place for kids to play. Admittedly, my yard is more upkeep than just grass would be, but it is nicer to look at. Good for you.

  6. Great reminder for me as well. For our FL beach cottage, I need to learn what is native to grow there. Like your local succulents. It’s on my list of things to do, but needs focus. Right now I just have a lawn of “green stuff”. It’s not grass, but I have someone who keeps in mowed. We’ve been focusing on the house renovation first – its a fixer-upper beach cottage – yard is next. Low maintain is key as we are not there for weeks at a time.

  7. Wonderful! I’d do the same thing if I didn’t live in the frozen tundra. I can imagine how beautiful it looks. And Planet Earth thanks you, too 🙂

  8. Your blog is such a treat. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before. We seem to be existing in nearly parallel universes, so I’m really looking forward to reading more. (We even have that very same purple Zwartkop in our yard. Not similar, the very same!)

    1. What a nice comment! I have enjoyed reading your blog too. This retirement blogger community is really a joy – we are all discovering – and sharing – the incredible freedom of making our own schedules and exploring new possibilities.

  9. Don’t know how I missed this! Those are just beautiful! I’m trying to do much the same with perennial plants here in Idaho. Trying to get a bloom sequence that has something in bloom at all times from spring through fall. Don’t want to spend my retirement years worrying about planting, but still want the beauty!

    1. The key, of course, is to put in the plants that work well in your area. We have a lot of transplants (people-types) in Southern California and many seem to want to recreate the landscapes from where they used to live… it doesn’t work! I love perennials and I especially like the idea of planning for a bloom sequence that keeps your yard looking great year-round. Most of all, I like the idea of low maintenance!

      1. That using the plants that work in the area is so true. When I was younger, I can’t tell you how many plants I killed because I liked them in catalogs! Look around, people…do you see any of those around here??? Yep, I was guilty as charged…but I’m older and wiser now! LOL!

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