Archives for category: Succulents

Hand thrown, New Zealand made, ceramic bonsai pot

Three succulents, one container.



The jade plant can be nice, but it can also be an overgrown mess. I see them for sale and the main attribute that’s usually considered for merit is the size. But size is meaningless when the plant becomes a massive jungle of branches, many thin with weak growth, with uncontrolled suckers hiding the trunk. This is the result of the plant never being pruned, of course.

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Example of what could have been a great jade but instead is a horrible mess.


Here’s a nice example, which was being sold under the banner “Huge Jade Plant”

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‘leggy’ example


Here’s another example, note how very leggy the branches are



For me the Jade has been a good instructor for pruning. Focus on cutting out the undergrowth and weak branches, so that you have a nicely shaped top canopy of dense, healthy foliage growing off of thick solid branches. Branches should be visible and attractive. You should not see a mass of branches and relatively few leaves, however.

You can also bonsai the bonsai and I’ll post an example of that soon (done, see bottom image). Essentially this just means cutting away branches so that the remaining ones create distinct levels of growth on main branches circling 360-degrees as they move up the trunk. The example to the left has just a single umbrella canopy so it is not a good example of the bonsai style.

Some of this is just preferences or aesthetics, but the goal of a good potted plant cannot just be it’s size. Pruning matters. Fortunately, the Jade responds well to radical pruning, so if your Jades have run amok, or you want to try your hand at plant rehabilitation, give it a go and see whether you like the results.


different angle


a larger Jade from the garden; about a meter tall from the top of the pot to the top of the plant


Jade bonsai example from the garden added – at bottom (last image)


Bonsai-ed Jade



Hand-made garden pot from the US

Succulent container no. 3 contains several distinct succulents. They’ve been co-existing in the pot for about a 15 months.

I think any good succulent container takes a least a year for the plants to fill up the pot, situate themselves among their neighbours (some more happily and cooperatively than others), and anchor themselves into the soil.


Hand-thrown pot by Marie Hewartson (Aust)


A blend of succulents and cacti – with white sand and a hand-made pot. Watered once a fortnight.



This “box” of succulents (below) has grown into a splendid colour feast. The soft tendrils (called “stolons”) of the Echeveria become woody over time, peeking up, lying atop, and spilling over the edge. Sometimes you get a nice effect by having a single large grouping one the same species.


Container full



Looking for new lands to propagate



Succulent about 8cm diameter


I thought this succulent had developed some nice soft colours and a mosaic-like texture, sitting in its succulent container with about 40 others. It’s a species of Pachyphytum, I believe.


Beautiful, yes, but beware …


As these plants are well defended. As noted by the folks at, most “Agaves (pronounced a-gov-ay) consist of rosettes of thick, hard, rigid but succulent leaves often with marginal teeth and usually with a lethally sharp terminal spine.”

Featured above, is Agave dasylirioides (Dasylirion Agave), a relatively rare prize, about 80cm in diameter, described online as follows:

A small, solitary agave in the Striata group (Striatae) that inhabits volcanic rock cliffs in mountainous areas from 5000 to 7000 feet in elevation in the state of Morelos in Mexico. It has narrow, pliant, non-succulent light gray-green leaves with pale margins that are finely toothed with a reddish-brown terminal spine. This yucca-looking plant with its soft leaves appears friendly but this is deceiving as the finely serrated leaf edges are quite sharp. The natural habitat of this agave has a mild climate, with temperatures rarely exceeding the high 70’s F or dropping below the low 40’s F and receives ample summer rainfall. This makes this plant very much at home in cultivated cool coastal gardens in California where it has even proven to be fairly drought tolerant and has survived light freezes. Plant in full sun to light shade in the garden in a well-drained soil and irrigate infrequently to regularly. It also makes a nice container specimen plant. Agave dasylirioides is apparently one of the more primitive of the Agave – what Howard Scott Gentry called “closest to what I conceive as the most generalized of the ancestral form”. The name Sotol Maguey is a creative common name given to this plant by Yucca Do Nursery; Sotol is in reference to specific epithet ‘dasylirioides’, which means “like the genus Dasylirion”, for which the common name is Sotol, coupled with Maguey, which is the common name used in Mexico for agave. source




These from my garden are nice examples of these lethal beauties. Each is about a half-meter or larger in diameter.

They are housed under a clear deck cover to avoid the rain, as these needs watering only monthly in winter (in Auckland) and weekly in summer.


And have a look at these spines:


Here is a close up (click on it to enlarge) – you can just make out a rigid spine pointing straight up at you in the bottom-left corner of the photo:


More on agaves, see great reference examples here, and here at …

Agave   – Linnaeus (1753)
Greek: agauos = of kings and heros, illustrious, hence noble

Over 300 species of Agave have been described, but only about 200 are currently recognised. Most species are monocarpic, although a few can flower several times during their life. The flowers are “perfect” with both male and female parts. Many species of Agave are bat pollinated and produce musky perfumes as attractants. Others produce sweeter odours to attract insects.

Most Agaves consist of rosettes of thick, hard, rigid but succulent leaves often with marginal teeth and usually with a lethally sharp terminal spine. Prolific vegetative growth and offsetting at the base of the plant or through stolons, usually maintains a clump of plants thus compensating for loss of flowering rosettes. A few species remain solitary, relying on seed production for survival of the species.

The interior of the leaves contains longitudinal fibres representing the vascular system. Agave leaf fibre was used by native Americans. Agave fibre from a range of species is of commercial importance, with the best quality fibre coming from the youngest leaves. Sisal (hemp) made from cultivated Agave sisalana is used to make clothing and rugs.

Carbohydrates stored in the core of several species of Agave were fermented by native Americans to make a beverage called pulque which was used in religious ceremonies. Distillation of a similar ferment made from the developing Agaveflower bud is the basis for modern production of Mezcal. Only if made from the Blue Agave within Tequila, Mexico can the distillate be called Tequila.








Here are a couple groupings of succulents shown in large jars – a layer-cake of soil, rock, and glass “ice” cubes.

This setup creates an interesting effect. Small amounts of water sometimes pool at the bottom, which humidifies the soil from below when exposed to the sun – a kind of sealed greenhouse effect. Lots of moss forming around the soil as a consequence.

Succulents include the tall euphorbia on the left.

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