February 28, 2010

Seduced by Succulents

Boy do I love succulents! I wish I had a garden like this. (Original photo here.) There's just one problem: I don't have a very good track record with keeping them alive for very long.

Earlier this week I finally laid my little succulent plant to rest. I bought him about six months ago as a replacement for another succulent that I had while still in college. (Wow...that sounds really weird considering that I graduated last May.) Anyways...my mother purchased Succulent #1-- whom I promptly named Howard (I think)--when she helped me move into my dorm room in the Fall of 2008. Howard did quite well for a good amount of time.

I was careful not to over water him and even had to re-pot him due to the fact that he grew out of his first plot of earth. This activity of re-potting Howard because he had grown too big for his first pot brought me a great amount of joy: I was convinced that the green thumb gene that my grandmother possessed had been passed down to me and was finally kicking in. Then things went down hill really quick; I think that a combination of poor soil and over watering lead to Howard developing a terrible condition where part of him was rotting away while the other was drying up. Regardless of my efforts to save him I finally had to cut my losses and wound up depositing him in a flowerbed close to the dorm.

Howard looked a lot like this guy on the right, but more blue-ish.

Fast forward a few months and upon moving into our new apartment I found myself missing my succulent and the companionship that he afforded me. I was really craving the presence and decoration that a small plant can provide. So I went to a local nursery (East Bay Nursery, to be exact) and picked up a succulent that was very similar to Howard. Succulent #2--who I never actually named--was quite smaller and of a slightly more purple hue than Howard.

Glamour shot of Succulent #2, or Echeveria "Metallica" (I think).

As I was quite intent on making it happy I bought a small bag of cactus soil and replanted it into a small pot when I got home. Succulent #2 lasted quite a while, but never thrived as Howard did. Instead it stayed more or less the same size as when I had bought it, and although I watered it sparingly and set it in my kitchen window so it could soak up sunlight, it began to wither. I think that perhaps a combination of poor light exposure and the cold weather lead to its failing health. Things really took a turn for the worse in the past two weeks: I noticed that the roots were really shallow and that the leaves were shriveling. It was very sad and I hated watching it slowly die. I finally retired Succulent #2 to the compost bin this week.

Succulent #2 the day I brought it home form East Bay Nursery. It looked so happy.
I couldn't bear to photograph it in its last stages of life.

The next day, on my trip to Home Depot to purchase a roll of painter's tape, I was seduced by their succulents. I was walking past the garden section when I spied a whole shelf full of succulents. I tried to resist the urge to take a closer look but I soon found myself standing in front of hundreds of succulents, examining each one. I felt awful even thinking about picking out a new plant right after I had killed off my last one, but I couldn't help it. On one level I wanted a replacement and on another I wanted to try my hand at cultivating a more successful green thumb. I had a hard time choosing just one succulent; I really wanted one similar to my last ones but I was also very intrigued by the others.

So I bought three. At under $2 each they where a good deal and I justified my purchase by telling myself that companionship would help with keeping them alive more than 6 months. I have yet to name them but I did re-plant them in larger pots. I also placed them in our closet, which may sound counter intuitive. However, our closet--for some odd reason--has a window that is conveniently located right above my dresser. It is also the only window in the entire apartment that gets direct sunlight. Under the circumstances this spot is the best location of my new succulent friends and I hope that they soon make themselves right at home.

The green succulent at the top is a Sedum burrito, or Burro's Tail, and the lilac one at the bottom is a either an Anacampseros gigantea, or an Echeveria or Aeonium hybrid of some sort...I think. I'm not sure; I recycled the plastic pots they came in and am having trouble identifying it via the Internet.

And this striped fellow is a Haworthia attenuata. Reminds me of an aloe plant with zebra stripes. He gets his own pot because I didn't think that all three would fit into one pot, especially if they were to grow (I know, I'm being optimistic). But he has a little sea shell to keep him happy.

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