Succulent Landscaping Plants Gain Popularity For Drought Tolerance and Fire Resistance

LA Times has one of those stories where the words paint a lovely picture and the picture is worth a thousand words - about how drought-tolerant succulents are fire-retardant enough to protect homes in the path of a Southern California wildfire. The fire may cook the water laden exterior leaves but not enough to dry and burn them. Hence, the fire, out of fuel, just stops.

Shielding the most vulnerable corner of their home is a common, unassuming succulent that is common yet has no common name: Aloe arborescens. As it held off the flames, its fleshy leaves cooked and turned the color of putty.

Aloe arborescens, native to South Africa, grows throughout Southern California; dense plantings of it rim the cliffs of coastal communities. Here's the money quote:

If it seems absurd to legislate the use of succulents as landscape plants, it likely won't be necessary. They're already catching on. According to Ron Vanderhoff, nursery manager of Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar -- which does the largest volume of sales of any independently owned garden center in the western U.S., "our business in succulents has risen from $40,000 in retail sales four or five years ago to $400,000 a year, and it continues to grow. No other category of plants in our store has shown anything close to this increase. We now do 7% or 8% of our volume in succulents."

The reason has to do with the plants' "simplicity of maintenance," Vanderhoff says. "People are spending less time in their gardens, and succulents are less fussy than annuals and perennials. They also have a lesser need for water and fertilizer, so they're more 'green.' And they're very sculptural and artistic. Succulents provide drama with their structure, leaves, colors . . . they're very expressive plants."

Via::Los Angeles Times, "THE CALIFORNIA GARDEN, Did succulents save her home?"

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