Succulents are perennial plants with fleshy, fluid-filled leaves that can grow in surprising ways—without noticeable soil, on rocks and rock walls, or even on a vertical surface. They require very little water and minimal maintenance to survive and thrive.
A commonly seen garden succulent in Maine is the familiar hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) found growing in dense clusters of rosettes on rock walls. This decorative plant is extremely cold- and drought-hardy, preferring snowy winters and temperate summers. Plant Sempervivum outdoors in rock gardens and planters or on garden walls. The mother plant produces tiny offshoots that will develop into independent plants. After each rosette flowers, it will die back. Remove the spent rosettes to allow the offshoots to thrive and spread, take care not to overwater, and your Sempervivum will survive indefinitely (hence its Latin name, meaning “lives forever”).
Another common variety of hardy succulent that thrives in Maine’s climate is Sedum. There are many subspecies of Sedum that fall into two types—trailing ground cover or taller, vertical flowering plants. The varietal Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is an excellent choice for adding a bright pop of color to gritty, well-drained soils, and will produce spectacular blooms well into the fall. Ground-covering sedum varieties such as Sedum acre fit well into rock gardens, creeping into the spaces between other plants and rocks.
Many ornamental succulents are native to hot, dry climates like the American Southwest and would not fare well if planted outside in Maine. However, indoor succulent gardens are a growing trend in home décor, and if kept inside, succulents can provide a striking appearance with very little care.
Halls Pond Gardens in South Paris, Maine (hallspondgardens.com) is a beautiful spot to wander through displays of outdoor succulent rock gardens, as well as offering both Sempervivum and Sedum varieties for sale in their nursery. Also for sale are artistic miniature succulent gardens grown in sculptural stone for interior decorating.