The colours of succulents are most vivid in winter and if combined with indigenous winter flowers like African daisies, vygies and gazanias, the combination is spectacular.
To get ready for winter, take some time to tidy up the succulents. They don’t mind being cut back or trimmed, especially those that are overgrown or scraggly. Echeveria and crassula, particularly crassula ‘Campfire’ throw out long spikes of flowers that should be cut off, otherwise they sap the plant’s energy. Plants can also be thinned out if they are overcrowded.
After a season of heavy rain, the succulents may be suffering for powdery mildew, fungus leaf spot, stem and root rot because of poor drainage or just too much water.
If soggy soil is the problem, remove the succulents and add organic matter like peanut shells or washed river sand and if necessary make furrows to drain away the water.
When replanting, create spaces between the groups of succulents, to sow winter flowers that like the same growing conditions, full sun, well-drained soil and regular but not excessive watering.
African daisies are generally known as Namaqualand daisies and true to their origins they are water wise and flower abundantly throughout winter.
Scatter sow the seed among a group of aloes or other large growing succulents so that they form a carpet of colour.
Two easily available seed varieties are ‘High Noon Mixed’ (orange- gold) or the white ‘Silver Hills’.
There is also a ‘Namaqualand Flower Scatterings’ that contains a mix of African daisies and other indigenous flowering varieties. It produces a profusion of colour beginning in winter and changing throughout the season until spring.
Whether planting just the daisies or the mix, prepare and level the areas where the seed is to be scattered. Sprinkle the seed as evenly as possible (mixing them with mealie meal helps) and cover with a light layer of soil, firm down and water. One way to firm down the soil is to roll a plastic pipe over the soil. This gets rid of any air pockets between the seed and the soil.
Water regularly, especially while the seed is germinating. Do not weed until the plants are well established. After that they need little care.
Mesembryanthemum, also known as Bokbaai vygies, are another dazzling winter flower. The brilliantly coloured daisy like flowers that open with the sun and close at night.
If sown now they will flower from late winter into summer and are just the thing for sunny spots where nothing else will grow. Kirchhoffs heirloom variety has satin textured blooms in a range of colours.
They grow in well-drained soil and tolerate rather poor sandy or stony soil but the addition of bonemeal and compost will improve their performance. They are fast growers that stay low (10 -12cm high) and spread, flowering within 90 days.
In a garden setting they are ideal plants for sun drenched pavements, rocky outcrops, west facing parts of the garden, and embankments. They team up well with gazania, felicia, and Plectranthus neochilus.They are also very forgiving plants for hanging baskets and window boxes, as well as in containers where their preferred conditions can be replicated.
Two other daisies that hail from the Cape are Gazania ‘Caledon Giants’ and Arctotis ‘New Mixed’. Both have large blooms, in a large range of colours, grow in full sun and are drought tolerant.
They thrive in hot sunny gardens and aren’t fussy about the soil, as long as it drains well. Use them as groundcovers and to add colour to succulent gardens, rockeries, and pavements.
These true blue daisies with sunny yellow centres contrast well with orange or yellow winter flowering aloes, and they attract butterflies. Also known as the ‘Kingfisher daisy they grow in full sun but in very hot gardens will do better with some afternoon shade. They grow in ordinary garden soil that drains well and are drought tolerant, once established. Plants grows up to 45 cm with a 1m spread.
For more information visit www.kirchhoffs.co.za
Article published in the Citizen.