Emphasis. Balance. Scale. If you are looking for outdoor plants that will help you achieve a well-rounded look to your garden, you might want to consider adding one or more of these large succulents for landscaping.
1. Century Plant
The Century Plant (Agave americana) originates from Mexico and the southern parts of the United States. Also known as the Sentry Plant, Maguey, and American Aloe, this succulent can grow up to six feet and spread to a width of up to 10 feet.
The plant’s spiny blue-green leaves arch down as the plant matures. At around 10 years of age, the Century Plant produces a flower stalk that can reach a length of 15 feet. The flowers of this plant have a greenish-yellow color.
This agave is best planted in sandy or gravelly soil that is slightly acidic. Although it prefers full sun, the plant can tolerate partial shade, unlike other agaves.
The plant is an excellent addition to different types of gardens and works well as an accent plant or part of hedges. It is virtually pest and disease resistant and can attract birds. The plant is also deer resistant.
Avoid planting this agave in areas with heavy foot traffic like walkways and paths as its leaf tips can trip people.
2. Dinosaur Back Plant
If you are looking for an accent plant for your landscape, the Dinosaur Back Plant (Myrtillocactus geometrizans forma cristata) should be on top of your list. This interesting-looking cactus has several columnar branches and stems that grow densely together.
The cactus can reach a height of close to 15 feet while its crown can reach a width of 16 feet. Because of its big size, the plant should be placed in a location or container which will give its roots ample space to spread out. It should be moved to a bigger pot every other year.
Despite its ornate appearance, the cactus is easy to care for. The Dinosaur Back Plant can tolerate the full sun and needs a moderate amount of water. It is semi-hardy which means it cannot survive sub-zero temperatures.
3. Fire and Ice Echeveria
The Fire and Ice Echeveria (Echeveria subrigida ‘Fire and Ice’), also known as the Red Edge Echeveria, looks stunning, especially during the summer. The plant grows up to nine inches but its rosettes can spread up to 18 inches.
The most interesting part of this succulent is its leaves. The main body of the leaves is spade-shaped and has a blue-green color. The leaves have a smooth and pink or rose-colored margin.
The succulent should be planted in a soil that has about 50 to 70 percent mineral content, preferably perlite, coarse sand, or pumice. Avoid watering this plant from above to prevent excess moisture from sitting on the leaves. From time to time, check for dead bottom leaves which mealybugs like to inhabit.
4. Tree Aloe
The Tree Aloe (Aloidendron barberae) originates from South Africa and is recognized as the largest aloe in the continent. This tree-like succulent is often used as a landscape centerpiece because of its height. The plant can easily reach a height of 30 feet and a width of up to 20 feet.
This plant is a fast-growing succulent. You can expect it to grow anywhere between four to 12 inches annually.
The Tree Aloe prefers the full sun but can tolerate partial shade. It can withstand drought but it should be watered once a week during the hotter months. Make sure to protect yourself when handling this plant as its sap is known to be a skin irritant.
5. Spineless Yucca
Yuccas are fairly popular as indoor plants. But one yucca variety that you should strongly consider planting outdoors is the Spineless Yucca (Yucca elephantipes). Among the yuccas, the Spineless Yucca is considered to be the tallest, capable of reaching a height of four feet.
This succulent is characterized by its smooth and spineless evergreen leaves as well as its thick trunk with a sparse branch.
The plant is rabbit and deer resistant and is immune to most pests and diseases, except for leaf spots and aphids. The Spineless Yucca should be planted in sandy soil and prefers the full sun.
6. Madagascar Ocotillo
The Madagascar Ocotillo (Alluaudia procera) is an odd, off-kilter choice for landscaping. But that is part and parcel of this succulent’s appeal, ideal for people looking for a landscape conversation piece. The Madagascar Ocotillo originates from Toliara, Madagascar, and can grow as high as 60 feet.
The stems of young plants tangle with one another for several years. Eventually, these stems die out when a central stem develops. The central stem then sends out upward branches.
The succulent requires full sun along with well-draining soil and ample airflow. It can tolerate temperatures up to zero degrees Celsius.
During winter, the plant drops its leaves. At this point, you should avoid watering it. In Madagascar, the plant is cultivated both as a fuel source and construction material.
7. Mountain Aloe
Named after South African botanist Rudolf Marloth, the Mountain Aloe (Aloe marlothii) grows up to 20 feet. The dense grayish-green rosettes form on a single stem. Reddish spines line up on the edges of the leaves as well as various parts of the plant. When the leaves die, they form a petticoat around the plant’s stems.
The aloe blooms flowers between May and September. A single plant produces 30 racemes which hold the orange-yellow to red flowers.
The Mountain Aloe is an excellent addition to rock and succulent gardens. It is deer resistant and hardy enough to resist most diseases and pests, except for mealybugs and scale.
8. Desert Spoon
The Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) got its moniker from its short trunk which has the same shape as the utensil it is named after. This succulent can grow up to five feet in height. During summer, the trunk sends out a flowering stalk that can grow up to 15 feet in height. A single specimen of Desert Spoon can produce thousands of flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds.
Hundreds of blue-green leaves form a symmetrical rosette around the main trunk and have teeth along their margins.
Typically used as an accent plant, the Desert Spoon thrives under the full sun. It is resistant to both rabbits and deer but is susceptible to scale.
In Mexico, the plant is cultivated to make the alcoholic drink known as sotol. It is also used both for food and fiber.
9. African Candelabra Tree
The African Candelabra Tree (Euphorbia ingens) is often mistaken for the Euphorbia candelabrum due to their similar features. This cactus grows into a tree with a height of up to 26 feet. The plant’s leaves are said to be rudimentary and ephemeral. This means that these leaves do not last for a long time and do not perform any useful function. The African Candelabra relies on its stems for photosynthesis.
Once the plant matures and becomes fully-established, it no longer needs much care. It requires the full sun and prefers warm temperatures. It cannot survive temperatures below zero degrees Celsius.
Be careful when handling this cactus. Its sap is a known skin and eye irritant. In some African countries, the plant is used as a treatment for ulcers and some forms of cancer.
10. Bitter Aloe
Originating from southern Africa, the Bitter Aloe (Aloe ferox) has long been cultivated, not only as an ornamental plant. This succulent is an invaluable plant cultivated for its medicinal properties. The gel extracted from the leaves is used in the production of supplements, cosmetics, and herbal products. Like its cousin, the Aloe vera, the Bitter Aloe can also be used for treating skin irritation.
On the other hand, its resin is collected to be used as a laxative and a treatment for arthritis.
Mature specimens can reach a height of 10 feet. The succulent’s leaves are fleshy and arrange themselves into rosettes. The leaves of young plants have spines that serve to protect them from grazing animals. As the plant grows older, it loses those spines.
11. Madagascar Dragon Tree
The Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata) is a relative of the Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena draco). One notable difference between these two plants is that when you cut the Dragon Blood Tree, a blood-like resin will ooze from the cut.
The Madagascar Dragon Tree is one of the more popular houseplants in the world because it is one of the toughest plants to kill. It can survive a couple of weeks without water and can easily bounce back from that almost immediately.
Although the succulent grows up to a height of 8 feet, it is a slow grower. It can take up to 10 years for a specimen to reach a height of 5 feet.
Compared to other Dracaena, the Madagascar Dragon Tree has slimmer leaves which arch. The leaves can vary in color, depending on the variety. The plant produces leaves after the main trunk produces stems or canes. These canes should be trained to ensure that they grow upward.
Caring for your succulents
Succulents have become popular among gardeners for a variety of reasons, ranging from exotic looks to ease of care and maintenance. If you are adding a few of these plants to your landscape, here are a few important things to keep in mind.
Water more during summer
Although most succulents are drought-tolerant, it is a good idea to water your plants more frequently during summer. This advice is particularly true if you live in an area that receives little rainfall.
As a rule of thumb, you should water succulents planted on the ground once a week. Container plants can be watered three times a week. Water your plants only when the soil is dry.
Water less during winter
As the cooler seasons set in, you should reduce the amount of water you give your succulents. Around fall, begin to reduce the watering frequency to help your plants withstand the drop in temperature.
Do your research
If you are planning on planting succulents directly on the ground, you should carefully study which succulent varieties are suitable for the area where you live. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the best starting point for your research.
Alternatively, you can consult experts in your area. Offline, you can go to botanical gardens and nurseries to seek recommendations. Online, you can join forums and social media groups for more ideas.
A welcome addition
Large succulents are fast becoming landscaping staples. And for a few very good reasons, including ease of care and maintenance and their gorgeous and unique appearance.
Whether you are starting from scratch or rescaping your front yard, consider using large succulents for your landscape.