Aeonium in garden bed

Got the weevil? Ten best succulents to plant instead of agaves

In August 2020 we wrote about the Agave Snout Weevil – and subsequently received reports from many gardeners about the devastation this was causing. It seems to be active everywhere from Manta Rota in the east Algarve and over to the west coast. Fear not – there are many other wonderful architectural succulents which we can grow in our gardens and which like full sun, and most of them are easily available in local plant nurseries. They may also provide you with a fire-resistant area around the house.

Aeoniums (Tree Houseleek) are known for their striking rosettes with waxy leaves growing directly out of their stems. Stems can be long and branched or short and stubby. A unique feature is the way they grow and multiply. They reproduce and form offsets from a single flowerhead which may then die. Aeoniums come in many varieties, colours, shapes and sizes. Most aeoniums are monocarpic plants, meaning they may die once they produce a flower, but they are easy to propagate.

Aloe vera is a ‘must have’ addition in your container plant list as it stands a much better chance of avoiding infestation of the agave weevil this way. This plant needs no care and flourishes well even in low light. It has chunky sword-like tall green leaves and yellow flowers, its leaves store lots of water, so very drought tolerant. Aloe vera has many medicinal purposes; and is a well proven treatment for sunburnt skin. No Mediterranean garden should be without it!

Cereus are typically tree-like columnar plants with well-defined ribs and large spines. The flowers are nocturnal and are usually large, white and fragrant. Most cereus species are easy to care for and great for beginners. They can be found in the West Indies, South America, Brazil and Argentina. Most cereus species will do well in full sun and heat. Also check out the range of flat-leaved hybrids with more colours but still scented and night blooming; these appreciate some shade.

Crassula ovata (Jade Plant)
are native to South Africa and Mozambique. They are recognised for their thick, fleshy, shiny, smooth evergreen leaves that grow in opposite pairs. Leaves range in colour from dark jade green in the shade to red on the edges when exposed to direct or full sunlight. Some varieties have a golden yellow-green hue to their leaves. With time, they can achieve tree-like proportions as their branches thicken with age. Jade plants are forgiving, low-maintenance plants that can thrive in different lighting conditions but do well in full sun once acclimatised.

Echeveria has a unique appearance and low-maintenance needs. These amazing succulents are one of the most popular houseplants. Their striking rosette shape, plump leaves, and dozens of different colours make them very easy to use with other succulents and easy to propagate.

Euphorbia tirucalli (Firesticks)
– Euphorbia is a large genus and includes 2,000 species of succulents. Most Euphorbias are native to Africa and Madagascar and, in common with many euphorbia species, E. tirucalli will tolerate full sun. They have small and slender leaves with cylindrical branches. The colours, from green to orange-red, intensify under stress such as full sun, which helps to give the distinct colour. These are hardy plants that require very little care once established, but they may need to be watered more during extended periods of intense heat.

Ferocactus, known as barrel cactus, is a popular cacti genus. They can grow up to three metres tall and one metre wide with a sculptural contrast to other succulents. They are known for their cylindrical shape covered in ribs with long, sharp spines. They range across the south-west USA and northern Mexico regions. Most Ferocactus species can tolerate full sun and intense heat, as well as mild frost, making them versatile plants.

Kalanchoe luciae is a dramatic succulent due to its quirky form and intense winter colour. It has flat, jade green leaves with vibrant red-wine margins, and layers into an odd rosette, resembling clamshells. It is a very impressive evergreen succulent to grow in coastal Mediterranean gardens which tolerates full sun to light shade. Also looks great in containers with other succulents.

Sedums (Stonecrops)
are easy succulents to grow – low growing, evergreen perennials that make excellent groundcovers. They grow by spreading and sprawling vertically. They can also be grown in containers where growth is easier to control. They offer a variety of interesting shapes and sizes for the garden. Sedums are low-maintenance plants and require little attention. It is easier to kill a sedum with too much care than with neglect. They thrive in bright, sunny locations and can tolerate full sun once acclimatised. These plants are easy to propagate and spread.

Senecio mandraliscae
– these small, evergreen succulents branch and spread from the base, providing ideal groundcover and shrubby appearance for your garden. The lovely blue-green, silvery hue makes them an attractive choice for contrast with other succulents. Their fleshy leaves are thin and finger-like in appearance. They can also serve as attractive trailing plants in containers. These plants like and need full sun or bright light to achieve their true ‘blue’ potential. They produce small white and yellow flowers.

By Rosie Peddle
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Aeonium flower head
Aeonium in garden bed
Aloe vera in flower
Cereus large red flower
Echeveria rosette
Euphorbia tirucalli