Agave franzosinii, aloes, barrels, golden jade Succulent driveway (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Succulent Driveway Essentials

What borders your driveway will delight or dismay you daily, and also make an impression on guests, passersby, neighbors and eventual homebuyers. Curb appeal matters, and this important landscape area shouldn't be neglected.

The succulent driveway essentials I've compiled here illustrate low-water, easy-maintenance options for driveway plantings throughout the Southwest. Loaded with ideas, these tips, must-know's, and a 75-photo Gallery are certain to inspire you.

Keep in mind

Know how large plants get and plan accordingly. If possible, leave several feet alongside the driveway unplanted (topdress with crushed rock). This helps when wheels drift  past pavement, and allows room for unexpectedly vigorous plant growth.

  • All plants---including succulents---grow and lean in the direction of greatest sun.
  • Delivery trucks may cut corners, potentially wiping out prized specimens. You don't want a monstrose euphorbia you've cultivated for years to be squashed.
  • Same for irrigation: Don't place risers where they'll get run over. If you can't move a riser, pile rocks around it.
  • Succulents near a mailbox or utility box may eventually engulf it. Trimming them---whether you do it or the utility company does---may become necessary and, unless you plan ahead, an eyesore.

Barrel cactus, columnar cacti, dasylirion Succulent driveway (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Palo verde trees enhance the driveway of an Arizona estate and provide dappled shade for understory plants.

  • Got a long driveway? Border it with trees that arch over it and cast lacy shadows in early morning and late afternoon. See more examples in the gallery below.

What Not to Plant

Large agaves

These look great when small, but end up huge and may need to be whacked back or removed. Unless you have room to plant a behemoth 6 to 12 feet from the pavement, it eventually will become a more ways than one.

  • That said, when a large agave finally blooms and dies---at age 15 to 20---a driveway garden is an easy place from which to remove it. Far better than, say, your back yard. Learn more about agave removal.

Agave americana 'Marginata', poorly trimmed (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave americana 'Marginata', poorly trimmed. Chopping leaves of a large agave half-way ruins its symmetry. If you must prune it, cut all the way back to the stem.

The "pretty little ones"

It's tempting to create swaths of small rosette succulents: echeverias, sedums, graptopetalums and hybrids. However, they're high-maintenance in the long run.

  • Rosette succulents grow from the top center and old leaves dry and fall off, so after a year or two, they're mainly eel-like stems. You'll need to snap off the rosettes, discard the rest of the plant (stems and roots), refresh the soil, and replant the tips as cuttings.
  • Maintaining rosette succulents is a joy only if you're refreshing container gardens, flower beds or window boxes. Moreover, such succulent jewels are best appreciated close-up and at your leisure, ideally near an outdoor sitting area.

Rosette succulents (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Rosette succulents are lovely but impractical for driveways.

Cacti (with one exception)

Cacti need no maintenance other than weeding-around. However, if guests park along your driveway, it's prudent not to have something spiny they’ll open passenger doors into. Unless you're in Arizona, or have room to position spiny succulents 5 or so feet from the pavement, go with something softer.
  • That said, designers and savvy homeowners border driveways with barrel cacti. Golden spheres make any area look sleek and sophisticated. Arranged in multiples and set back from pavement, they look amazing.
  • Learn more about golden barrel cactus. 

Boulders and barrels Succulent driveway (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Boulders and barrels (Echinocactus grusonii)

Smart options

Ice plants. There exist numerous colorful ice plants. They flower mainly in spring and are merely green mounds the rest of the year…with the exception of Lampranthus ‘Lemon’. It has shiny yellow flowers and blooms on-and-off all year.

Lampranthus 'Lemon', purple drosanthemum (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Lampranthus 'Lemon', Drosanthemum floribundum

  • I can attest to the longevity of common Drosanthemum floribundum (rosea ice plant)---there are patches of it in my garden that date to my home's previous owners. (I've been here 33 years.) I love how its neon-purple flowers announce spring. See more iceplant options.

Jade plants are terrific driveway shrubs where temps don't drop below 32 degrees. Even if frost is a concern, asphalt absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night. So you may be able to get by, especially if your driveway slopes (cold air flows downward).

Golden jade, aeoniums Succulent driveway (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Golden jade (top), large Canary Island aeoniums, variegated Aeonium 'Kiwi' (center) 

Aeoniums mix beautifully with other succulents and are minimal-care, but do get leggy over time except for this marvelous old species: Aeonium haworthii. It's gray-green, forms branching shrubs several feet tall, and is massed with palm-sized and smaller star-shaped rosettes.

Aeonium haworthii, Aeonium 'Kiwi' (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Aeonium haworthii, Aeonium 'Kiwi'

  • You're probably familiar with its popular variegate, Aeonium 'Kiwi'. Just know that variegates in general are best for coastal areas and don't thrive in all-day sun, inland.

Low-water perennials blend beautifully with succulents. Options include ivy geraniums, statice, lantana, prostrate rosemary, acacias (from trees to shrubs), Nile lilies (Agapanthus sp.), dymondia, African daisies, cycads, and ornamental grasses. All need more water, but not so much that succulents can't handle it.

Agave angustifolia, geraniums, statice, dusty miller Succulent driveway (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave angustifolia, ivy geraniums, purple statice (upper right), silver-gray dusty miller

Senecio mandraliscae (blue chalk fingers) is a popular, low-growing, sky-blue trailing succulent. Every other year it needs cutting back, or it’ll get leggy. But unlike rosette succulents, good ol' Senecio mandraliscae branches where it's cut, so plants stay compact. A bonus is plenty of cuttings to fill gaps.

Senecio mandraliscae (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Senecio mandraliscae stems are finger-sized. 

  • Add the color complement of blue for a wow effect: mid-size aloes with orange spires; African daisies; or bronzy-yellow jade (Crassula ovata 'Hummel's Sunset'). All are in the Gallery below.

For desert and Southern CA gardens, mid-sized to large, easy-care succulents include dasylirions, elephant's food (Portulacaria afra), ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata), yuccas, and hesperaloes. See them in my post: Tour a Desert Estate Garden.

But the best are...

Rocks! For a no-maintenance, no-water driveway border that looks great year-round, "plant" rocks of all sizes: small in front, large in back, scattered for a natural effect.

  • Compared to the cost of a gardening crew over years to come, such once-yet-permanent installations are a bargain.
  • Boulders create microclimates for succulents, hold moisture beneath them, shade young plants, and radiate warmth at night.

Boulders, cacti, ocotillo Succulent driveway (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Boulders, cacti and ocotillo flank a driveway in Fallbrook, CA

  • Combine decomposed granite, gravel, fist-sized "rubble rock," small boulders, and large boulders craned into place...which is not as bad as it sounds. It's likely that trucks and heavy equipment can easily access your driveway.
  • See my post: Why You Really Need Rocks.

Succulent garden with dry stream bed (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Dry stream bed (right) follows a slope's natural erosion channel

  • Add a cobble-lined dry stream bed that channels rain in winter. It's a great filler for a long, narrow space---practical, and aesthetically pleasing, too.
Browse the Gallery below for succulent driveways I've shot over the years. And if you have suggestions or are concerned or inspired, do leave a comment or question!

Gallery of Succulent Driveways

Related info on this site

Why You Really Need Rocks

Smart designers cover bare soil with rocks in succulent gardens that are as sophisticated and good-looking as they are practical.

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How, why to grow barrel cactus (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Why Your Garden Needs Golden Barrels

Find out why and how professional designers use golden barrel cactus in succulent gardens, tips on using and caring for the plants, info on their habitat, plus a garden idea gallery. But first a reassurance: For a cactus, it ain’t bad. Yes it’s spiny, but the spines curve downward, so it’s not as treacherous as it looks. IMHO, its plusses far outweigh any minuses. 

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Lampranthus aurantiacus, Drosanthemum floribundum (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Succulent Ice Plants, Gallery and Video

The brilliantly beautiful succulent ice plants you’ll see in my new page and video thrive in Zones 8-11. They come in eye-popping hues of purple, pink, lavender, rose-red, bright red, gold, orange and yellow.

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Enjoyed this article? Please share it!


  1. Steve Smith on January 29, 2023 at 5:55 pm

    As always, beautiful photography and great info.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 30, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      That’s so nice of you, Steve! Thank you!

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