I love a good succulent plant hack---a clever solution to a common problem---especially if the hack utilizes something unexpected. I offer a dozen here.
If you have a hack, tip, or workaround that has to do with succulents, would you kindly share it in the Comments? Thanks!
Carry cacti with firewood tongs
Eileen Haag of Lakeside, CA notes that a friend who donated "some sections of fence post cactus" to a charity plant sale she was in charge of, transported them with "fireplace log tongs. They make handling the large pieces so much easier and safer than my bailing twine method," Eileen says.
My fool-the-eye aeonium
Like me, you've probably had aeoniums that lean toward the sun, their rosettes nearly vertical atop horizontal stems.
This hack fooled visitors for two years: I placed a vase under the neck of a 'Sunburst' rosette. It looked like it had been cut and put in the vase, but from the side (see photo at top), it became obvious it was rooted in the ground more than a foot away. Ha-ha!
How do you water a succulent that has engulfed its pot? If it's a spherical cactus, dribble water on the top. Ribs will channel water to the soil. Leaves of agaves and other rosette succulents also efficiently funnel water downward.
Alternatively, set the pot in a pan with an inch or two of water. Via osmosis, it will go up through the drain hole and moisten the soil.
Another reason to water pots from below is to avoid disturbing fine topdressings like colored sand or criva (tiny pebbles).
Before adding a glass topdressing, first spread a layer of white sand or pumice. It'll keep the color of the glass true, and you won't have to use as much of the glass to get the desired effect.
Avoid breaking a nice urn
When planting a pot that has shoulders, keep in mind that roots will expand into the wide area below the neck. This hack shows how to avoid having to damage the plant and/or pot later on.
I used a liner (cache-pot), a smaller second pot that fits into the larger. (It's one of many empty nursery pots I have kicking around.) You don't want the liner to slip down into the pot, yet it also needs to be easy to remove. The inner rim should be below the outer to conceal the liner, and the neck of the larger pot should hold the smaller snugly.
What did I plant in it? See below.
Naturally we all want to remember the names of our garden plants (guests will ask), but plastic plant tags crack and fade, and metal ones are pricey and hard to read.
Every year during the Laguna Beach garden tour, I look for rounded stones that that marvelous garden club uses to ID noteworthy plants.
This is what I planted in the "pot with shoulders" above. Senecio macroglossus (wax ivy) is a name I can never remember, hence the labeled stone on the rim. The plant cascades like ivy over time.
Alternatively, coat one side of flat oval rocks with acrylic paint. Let dry and add the plant's name in a contrasting color.
Disguise white objects
No color jumps out at you in a garden as much as white. (Red is next; black is last.) Pay attention to how, in photos of your garden, white draws attention.
Use white wisely: either feature it or make it disappear. If you can't remove a small but offending object like an irrigation riser, spray it with camouflage paint.
Don't like corking? Paint it!
Tall cacti and euphorbias are prone to corking---brown patches that suggest disease or damage but actually are woody tissue.
If you find corking unsightly, paint over it to match the plant's skin. Waterproof acrylic won't harm the succulent...and, for that matter, neither does corking.
Decide where you want pots to go on a shelf or wooden step, then mark where their drain holes will be. Pound large galvanized nails, one per pot, into each spot. Nails need to be secure and have several inches sticking up. Anchor each pot on the top part of each nail through its drain hole.
A fix for floppy shrubs
I use the next hack for shrub aeoniums, cotyledons, ice plants and senecios. It's an alternative to the conventional way to tidy floppy, untidy succulents (which is to pull the plants out and use their top growth for cuttings).
Think of it as planting cuttings while they're still on the succulent: dump a bag of potting soil onto the plant to cover its naked, branching stems. Nodes on stems will send roots into the soil and ensuing new growth will fill gaps. Watch me do it in the video above.
For a quick aesthetic fix, tuck a few cuttings into the mound of soil. Water to settle it and to rinse off accidentally buried rosettes.
Speed up slow plants
When you want a super-slow potted succulent like Agave victoria-reginae to grow faster, here's a tip from members of the CSSA (Cactus & Succulent Society of America): Plant it in the garden.
Roots with room to spread more rapidly fuel top growth. When the plant attains show-quality size, transplant it into a worthy pot.
Use lizard ladders
If you, like me, keep empty nursery pots, you risk trapping lizards. They get in but can't get out because of the pots' slick plastic. I place a small branch or wood stick in each pot so the critters can climb out...and (eew) I don't have to remove desiccated remains.
My echeveria-hummer hack
Blooming robs echeverias of energy and can make rosettes lopsided. Nurseries routinely remove echeveria flower stalks to preserve the plants' vitality and symmetry.
Because hummingbirds love them, I place echeveria bloom stalks in a large vase or bucket of water near the plants. Buds continue to open into lantern-like flowers, and---because stems are succulent---they last as long as those on the plants.
Got a favorite succulent or gardening hack? I'll bet I'm not alone in wanting to hear about it. Do share it in the Comments below. Thanks!