on my mind – succulents in december

As much as I try to get into the cacti and succulents craze of some gardening forums, I cannot. Maybe if I lived in a warmer climate it would just be a natural thing to me to grow these in the garden. They just look … creepy though. Like Aloe – their leaves look like 2-foot long spider legs with teeth. I do admit that some produce lovely flowers, but they aren’t the type of plant I envision in a garden. I guess when you live in a very warm climate you are limited to what you can have in the garden since a lot of perennials need a cool down so they can go into dormancy.
I have discovered several succulents that bloom only in December and into January. Most of which are considered a festive plant for the holidays in the region they grow. Some can also be found here in colder climates as houseplants and often given as gifts.

As far as succulents go, December belongs to the Aloe. There are dozens and dozens of different Aloe. Pictured here is Aloe vanbalenii and Aloe sinkatana.

The Crassulaceae family can produce some of the prettiest flowers. Pictured here is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana.

But one of the best and well-known succulent for this time of year is Euphorbias, or in words everyone can understand – Poinsettia. Though the best part about these festive plants is not their flowers, which are actually miniature yellow structures almost completely overlooked.  But it is their bract-like red, pink or yellow leaves that surround the flowers that one associates with this species.

Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis flowers in December. A cactus.

Another well loved plant for the holidays is the Christmas Cactus. I have seen these in many stores at this time of year. The plant generously blooms with many multi-petalled, satiny 1 to 1½ inch flowers hanging from pendulous branches in shades of lavender, purple, pink, red or white.

As a houseplant I can probably handle having a couple of these as gifts for the holiday season. But probably not the ones that look as though they will eat my children.


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