Rare Hardy Succulents
Precious, Tough and Beautiful
Once a gardener finds out first hand the fascination of growing some of
the easier hardy succulent plants such as Sempervivum, Jovibarba and
Sedum, the challenge is to grow some of the more rare hardy succulents.
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There are many lovely hardy succulent plants that are commonly grown in gardens all over the world.
All across Europe, North America, and even in Australia there are xeric gardens, rockeries and troughs filled with alpine plants and hardy succulents.
You hardly ever find these kinds of plants in regular nurseries
and garden centers as they are only known to avid collectors of uncommon
My collection of hardy succulents, rare and otherwise, continues
to grow as I find out more about them and scour the internet for
Once the taste is formed for these incredible plants, it becomes an obsession to grow more of them.
Hypertufa Pinch Pots
Rock Retaining Wall
Here are some of the rare hardy succulents on my wish list:
Jovibarba, the other Hens and Chicks
heuffelii are unusual relatives of Sempervivum, and look quite similar;
however, their method of increasing is unusual in that they don't form
chicks, the crown instead splits into several crowns, which have to be
surgically separated to propagate them - this feature is interesting,
but explains why these plants are rare in the trade, and expensive.
I've had great success producing them from seed, which although slower,
is a lot of fun.
There are many other species of Jovibarba, and they are now so mixed up in the trade that they are impossible to identify with any certainty.
They also interbreed as they're so closely related and so now most have mixed blood of some kind. They keep being re-classified as another species of Sempervivum, not a separate genus. Whatever their genetic background it's worth trying to find these as they provide a different texture, and, as an added bonus, they're extremely hardy.
Once you have some experience with Sempervivum and Jovibarba, move on to these more demanding additions to the xeric garden:
Orostachys - jewels in green tones
Orostachys has been identified as the most hardy of all plants
that use the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, or CAM system where they can
live and actually photosynthesize at very low temperatures, even as low
as -40 degrees Celsius.
Virtually all Orostachys are worth growing – although they have quite
particular requirements and will pout if these aren’t met, more and
more succulent plant gardeners are taking up the challenge.
Orostachys fimbriata – a beautiful soft green with the
lowered center typical of the genus, and changing to a cranberry colour
as colder weather arrives in the fall.
Orostachys eburnea – the long slender outer leaves encircle the sunflower like center.
One of my favorite rare hardy succulents, Orostachys spinosus,
although challenging to find the right conditions and placement will
reward the committed with a tall bloom stalk covered with creamy white
The tiny green Orostachys minuta is sometimes listed as a subspecies of O. spinosus.
See this interesting post about Orostachys pollination for more information, and some really spectacular pictures of the flowers.
Sadly, once the seeds set the rosette will die as these plants are monocarpic, so collect the seedpods to start a new crop with seed propagation.
Rhodiola is another genus with some fascinating plants; R. trollii resembles Sedum so closely that you would be forgiven for mistaking it.
These little plants are perfect for troughs, rockeries and other miniature displays.
Rosularia; odd little succulents
Rosularia of many types have long been grown in rock walls,
rock gardens and trough gardens but only recently have they caught the
fancy of less cliquey gardeners.
As a complimentary plant to taller
growing alpine plants, hardy succulents and drought tolerant perennials they are unmatched.
As an added bonus, they are polycarpic – meaning the rosette lives on after flowering to bloom again.
Most if not all the other hardy rosette forming succulents have
the tendency of dying after flowering, making it a challenge to keep
their beauty going in the garden.
Rosularia sempervivoides – named for it’s similarity to its
cousin, the Sempervivum, this species has striking red to dark pink
flowers on long arching stems over pale blue rosettes.
Rosularia rosulata - I’ve been fortunate to obtain seed through a seed exchange with the Alpine Garden Club of B.C. which holds this event every year.
Rosularia serpentinicum is another nice little oddity, with the bright lime green flushed orange foliage. These rosettes are only the size of a dime - it can form an extensive colony as it creeps along the ground.
The seed exchange is included in the cost of membership which is $25.00 annually – well worth the price.
I highly recommend joining alpine gardening clubs, as they are
among the most generous of gardeners, their only wish to make more
highly obsessed gardeners out of novices.
As you gain more knowledge and experience of all succulent plants
I hope you’ll join me in the quest to grow more of these rare hardy
succulents as they leave the realm of specialty growers and nurseries
and become more commonly grown.