Explaining and Understanding Succulents and Cacti by Cassie Steele

Creating A Wild Garden With San Diego Native Succulents 

Succulents were the biggest home gardening trend of 2017 but nothing beats the natural beauty of wild succulents in the San Diego area.  These plants are very well adapted to the area’s sunny climate and clay soil type. Etiolation can be a common sight in the wild, so some of these plants probably aren’t as pretty in real life as they might look in pictures, although they certainly make their mark with fierce determination and perseverance.

Native plant-inspired landscaping

In some cases, San Diego residents may be able to find the same variety of cacti they see in the wild and described below for home planting. After all, these plants are naturally suited to the area, and they’re especially resistant to the recent drought conditions. Some things to consider before adding them to your home include sunlight and adequate drainage concerns. These plants typically do well in containers or landscaped areas. Most require only minimum care and few specialized tools and garden supplies.

San Diego Barrel cactus – A distinctive shape

Ferocactus viridescens is widespread in southern California, from coast to inland areas. This plant is easy to recognize because of its notable ball shape. Long spikes just about obscure the greenery of it. The San Diego barrel cactus can produce small yellow flowers. The plant grows about a foot high and equally wide, and it thrives in soil that’s sandy or rocky as long as drainage is good.

Coastal Cholla – Towering beauty

Cylindropuntia prolifera has round shaped waxy green or gray-green leaves. Clusters of spikes that look like toothpicks are probably enough to keep most folks from daring to touch it. When it blooms, coastal cholla makes lovely pinkish red flowers with yellow-green centers. It’s a low growing plant found close to the sea. In the wild, it can grow ten feet high and about five feet wide.

The delicate Cliff Spurge

The small green oval shaped leaves of the Euphorbia misera are hairy and creased in the middle. The plant produces petite, compact flowers that sport concentric rings of white, purple, and yellow. This succulent is pretty hard to spot in the wild but is most likely found closer to the shore and in steeper terrain. It grows to about three feet high and three feet wide, although may be closer to the ground if found very close to the ocean because of heavy wind activity.

Coastal Prickly Pear – A traditional-looking cactus

Opuntia littoralis looks very similar to coastal cholla in the shape of its leaves, placement of its spikes, and design of its flowers. It grows best in scrub and chaparral areas. Flowers are yellow or red and tend to show up in small groups. The coastal prickly pear grows to about three and a half feet high when growing wild and prefers full sun.

Garden inspiration can be found anywhere. There’s something special about identifying and adopting local, native plants. Succulents like these are a good choice for avid as well as novice or unskilled gardeners.


Suggested image: https://unsplash.com/photos/lYzgtps0UtQ


From the Desk of Cassie Steele “The Golden Cereus”

Caring for a Golden Cereus Cactus

The city of San Diego is home to over 1,400 cactus species, with one of these species being the Golden Cereus. Also known as the golden-spined cereus or golden snakecactus, it has the scientific name, Bergeocactus emoryi. This cactus is a succulent, with thicker-than-average, fleshy parts which hold water in dry climates and/or soil conditions. This quick guide includes basic facts about the Golden Cereus, as well as cacti care tips

This Cactus is Tunnel-shaped

The Golden Cereus cactus appears in groups. It’s a frail cactus with twenty ribs or less, as well as ramifications. It rarely grows higher than a single meter and it generally has a diameter of five centimeters or less. This attractive cactus features a distinctive tunnel shape, in addition to yellow blossoms which grow from the tip of the plant during the growing season, which is spring. It’s classified as a succulent and a shrub and it’s found on dry hills and in sandy spaces.

The Plant is a Low-maintenance Species

The good news is that this species of cactus requires very little watering. It does best in places which are partly shady, with elevations of five to 2,446 feet. It is also known for its fast drainage. Homeowners who want to add Golden Cereus cacti, because these plants boost the appeal of gardens, won’t need to do much to keep their golden-spined cacti healthy and alive. First off, the plant should get at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. In terms of watering, a Golden Cereus planted outdoors should get the H2O that it needs from rainfall. If rainfall is scarce, give the cactus good watering every seven days. Soil should dry out thoroughly before a subsequent watering. Otherwise, root rot may be a problem.

Fertilize to Boost Plant Health

Cacti, such as the Golden Cereus, benefit from minimal quantities of fertilizer. To ensure that a cactus is properly nourished, Golden Cereus owners should add low-strength fertilizer during the plant’s growing season, which starts in spring and runs through the summertime. Those who plant these cacti in containers should make sure that the roots have enough room. When roots push out of containers, or plants grow too large for their containers, they should be transferred to bigger pots.

Expect Slow and Steady Growth

Growth of a healthy Golden Cereus cactus should be slow, but steady. Homeowners who follow these care tips should be able to enjoy their Golden Cereus succulents over the long term. These hardy cacti don’t need much TLC and they add so much beauty to California gardens.


Succulent Winners for September

Succulent Winners for September

succulent winnersThank you everyone who shared their favorite cactus and succulent photos on our Facebook page for the September Free Succulent contest.  Three people were chosen by random draw as the Succulent Winners for the month this morning.  Winners are listed below as well as on Facebook.  Albeit not as humorous as previous contests, it gives me great pleasure every time I virtually meet a person who adores these strange little (and big) plants as much as I do.  It also reminds me that I am not alone in the world of succulent addiction; there are thousands of us out there!

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Drumroll please………….

The photo above shows the three prizes that will be shipped tomorrow to:

Amber Tellez

Ali Walter

Diane Bakken Collins

Congrats to our winners! I will be in touch to get your shipping addresses soon. Thank you again for entering our monthly contests. Stay tuned for the rules and prizes for the October Free Succulent Contest!

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Until next time enjoy the succulent flowers of the day – all discovered in the nursery this morning!

echeveriaflower flower adromischus cristatus flowersHave a succulent weekend!

Plant Whisperer



XerosicyosA few months ago I was given a few cuttings from a friends xerosicyos and I planted them as I normally do with new succulent cuttings. After about a month, they had shriveled and I had given up hope that I would be able to turn them into successful plants. I had placed them in a pot full of other cuttings and was unable to pull them out without disrupting others, so I just cut them down and left the bottom part of the stem in the pot.

xerosicyos danguyiAs I was putzing through my gardens a few weeks ago I noticed some new growth on the stems of these sad cuttings. In two weeks time I now have little pups on every stem I thought was a goner! The pups are look different than the full grown plant. They are covered with fine white hairs and their leaves seem pointier.

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The xerosicyos is a flowering plant that is part of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants which is the same family which you find watermelon and pumpkins in.  It is commonxerosicyos danguyily referred to as the silver dollar vine and is native to Madagascar. According to my research there are three types of xerosicyos, xerosicyos danguyi, xerosicyos perrieri and a completely different looking xerosicyos pubescens. My cutting is either the danguyi or the perrieri.

Succulents really are amazing plants. Just when you have given up all hope of survival, they surprise you and burst back to life!


crassula mesembryanthemoides

crassula mesembryanthemoidesOn another note, my crassula mesembryanthemoides bloomed and I almost missed it! This beauty put out a foot tall raceme of tiny pink and yellow flowers. Sadly as I was taking the flower photos I broke the stem, but at least I got the photo!

crassula mesembryanthemoides flowers

Have a succulent weekend everybody!

Don’t forget to enter our FREE succulent contest this month. Click here to enter.

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echeveriaThe largest genus of succulents in the Crassulaceae family is the ever-famous echeveria. This flowering succulent happens to be one of our favorites, who doesn’t love a bright pink, teal, purple or orange rosette as a showpiece in any planter or garden! Echeverias range in size from one inch to two feet across and most of them thrive in bright places and direct sunlight but many do fine in the shade. We have many echeverias that live in bright spots indoor as well as in shadier areas of our nursery and do just fine. Some are frost tolerant and most will do fine down to 45 degrees F. Echeverias can adapt and are suitable as indoor plants.

echeveriaThe echeveria succulent plant is native to areas in Mexico and down to the Northwestern part of South America. They were first named after a botanical artist from the 18th century, Atanasio Echeverria y Godoy. Some people refer to the echeveria species as “hens and chicks”, however there are other genera of succulents, mainly sempervivum, that are also referred to as such.

Echeveria Species

echeveriaThere are hundreds of named species of echeveria but there are tens of thousands of man-made hybrids as well, with only a fraction of those hybrids being true cultivars. This makes 100% accurate identification challenging. Some of our favorite echeverias include the echeveria afterglow, echeveria agavoides and echeveria pulvinata.

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Echeveria are polycarpic, meaning they can flower numerous times in their life unlike the monocarpic aeonium. Our oldest echeveria, an echeveria ‘blue waves’, blooms from July until October and every year it seems to give us more and more racemes of gorgeous pink flowers.

Succulents and Spiders

Succulents and Spiders


succulents and spidersWho says that slinging succulents is not a dangerous job! Succulents and spiders are plentiful at Fat Plants! As I was packaging orders I took a break to admire the flower I just noticed from an echeveria runyonii that I have growing on my palm tree. As I leaned in to get a better view I felt that awesome feeling of walking through a spider web, however this was more like a 50 pound fishing line!

I followed the string 20 feet across the patio to one of the several  podocarpus in the nursery and look what I found:  An orb-weaver the size of a very large snail and her nest! I enjoy spiders as much as I enjoy root canals and snakes but I faced my fears to get a few photos for you. Yes, they are harmless, but seriously-who likes to be surprised by a hairy creature with 3 inch legs, 8 eyes and a web as tough as a bug net! This is not my first nor will it be my last to-close-for-comfort moments with a spider but it reminds me again that succulents are not only attractive to humans and it is always best to wear gloves when you are working in your garden.

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Succulents and SpidersOn a pleasant note, this is the first flower I have seen from this echeveria ‘topsy-turvy’ and I have had him for 3 years!

Don’t forget to enter the FREE SUCCULENT contest for September! We will be giving away 3 ten packs of awesome cactus and succulent cuttings at the end of the month! Enter for free here.

Succulent Contest Winners

Succulent Contest Winners

August, 2015  Contest “I knew I was a succulent addict when…”

Succulent Contest WinnersWhat a fabulous contest! Choosing the winners was fun for my neighbors, I could hear them laughing as they read them. Unfortunately they were not able to get to a unanimous decision on the top 5 so we decided that we will be giving out 10 FREE pots of Succulents.

Thank you everyone who entered, I am so happy to know that there are at least 140 other true succulents addicts out there. We will be announcing the September Succulent Contest soon!

And the top 5 succulent addicts admissions are………….Drumroll please…………..


I had a dream that I died and went to heaven and the path to the pearly gates was lined with succulents.

Brooke G

I realized I’d given them all human nicknames, like “Penelope” and “Charles”

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Jennifer Y

I had to start hiding my purchases from my husband (some women buy clothes and hide them, I buy succulents). “What, this old plant? I’ve had it forever…” 😉


I begged my husband to load up a 60lb piece of driftwood on our ski boat when we were vacationing on a lake and drive it 7 hrs back home.


I was at the farmer’s market and happened to be wearing a crocheted shawl. As I walked by a large table of cacti and succulents I got a bit too close and suddenly realized there were several cute little plants attached to my shawl, hanging on for dear life. They were so cute and looked so desperate, luke they wanted to escape, I had to buy them. That’s how it all started.


My seven your old daughter started following me around in order to stop me from “stealing” succulents from, well basically everywhere.


When my family told me I needed to go to SA succulent anonymous!


I bought plastic ones and put them in dark places of my home. Also when I go to the store and the first thing I do is go look at succulents to ßee what I don’t have. Going to dress up as as succulent for Halloween and hasnd out babysucculents to kids. Why not get them stared early.

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my wife asked me why I was buying all these plants., and dropping hints like (your making the mailman get out of his truck again).


I go to empty out my purse, and alone with cars and trucks, and lipstick and credit cards, are baby succulent leaves that have grown tiny roots. Best. day. ever.

To read all the entries visit our contest submission page. Deciding the winners was a true challenge and again I want to thank all of you for participating. I am very excited to share some of my favorite succulents with you all in the near future!

-Plant Whisperer

Follow our blog and never miss out on a chance to win free succulents and learn something new and fun!

Buy cool succulents and cuttings at our Store



aeoniumEven people who don’t typically like succulents don’t seem to mind the fabulous aeonium plant. I just walked through my gardens and counted 20 types of aeoniums. There are kiwis, Cyclops, zwartkops, haworthii, velour, arboreum, canariense, lindleyi, undulatum, gomerense and decorum to name a few.

come mainly from the Canary Islands and a few places in central Africa. They are fantastic for xeriscaping however they do require a little more water than most of their fleshy cousins. Aeoniums are not particularly happy in freezing temperatures but seem to manage moderate heat, although I have heard of the entire root system dying which eventually kills the plant if they get too hot. I have personally never had any heat death in my gardens, but I have seen it in hotter places. Most are able to handle temperatures as low as 25 to 30 degrees F. Aeoniums can be grown indoors or outdoors in pots as well as in the ground.

aeoniumsPart of the popular Crassulaceae family there are many succulents that are sometimes confused with aeoniums. Almost all are rosette shaped, as are many echeveria, graptopetalums and dudleyas. You can tell it is an aeonium by the way that their leaves attach to their basal stem. It is almost like there is a thin fiber that attaches them so when you remove the leaves the stem is not typically affected. They range in size from 1 inch in diameter to over a foot in diameter!

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Aeoniums are monocarpic, meaning they flower once and die. aeoniumsThis is a bittersweet ending and if the plant is not a branching type, which thankfully most are, this is the end of the road. Most of the time there are plenty of pups that have grown along side the flowering stem that will take over when the stem with flowers dies.

The photos above are the final flower from an aeonium cyclops. To the left is the final flower of an aeonium undulatum.

aeoniumsAs I went back through my notes I keep about succulents I will someday discuss on this blog I realized that I could go on and on and on just talking about the aeoniums I have in my garden. In the future I hope to be able to have entire posts dedicated to each cultivar but to keep you interested I will just focus on the ones that fascinate me the most.

There are probably hundreds of variations/hybrids of aeoniums that haven’t been named yet, which only adds to confusion when you are trying to identify yours. The most popular is the aeonium arboreum. This is the classic green aeonium with mid-sized rosettes that have longer, thin flimsy leaves. They are known to be able to grow over 6 feet in height; however the tallest we have had in our gardens at full bloom was about four feet. This plant is in the parentage of many of the newer cultivars making it sometimes quite difficult to know who is what.


aeoniumsaeoniumsArboreum atropurpureum – this green aeonium arboreum has purple ends on its leaves. They can almost completely fade into green if they are in the shade and turn into a gorgeous maroon purple in full sun. We have them from all green to all purple in our yard.

aeoniumsAnother favorite aeonium is the arboreum ‘Zwartkop’. This and some hybrids it has mothered and fathered are probably the most ornamental of all the succulents. Their leaves are a reddish aeoniums black that looks almost all black in full sun. Here is where it starts to get crazy!

aeoniumsSo you may have several large aeonium that look almost identical, yet they are different in a few ways. The aeonium Voodoo is a perfect example. This stunner has the same parentage as the Cyclops except the roles of the parents are reversed. The voodoo has a Zwartkop mother and an aeonium undulatum as the father, tends to be a solitary plant and has larger rosettes that are the dark red to purple with a slight green eye while the Cyclops, otherwise known as the giant red aeonium, will not get as large and has a much bigger, green center than its friend. I honestly have trouble telling the two apart.

Overwhelming, even for a plant lady! Have a fabulous weekend!

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AristaloeI learn something everyday when it comes to succulents. While clearing out the non-HOA approved succulents from my front yard I came across this hidden gem, a gorgeous Aristaloe, or torch aloe. Under a large crassula ovata bush he hid, and probably has been there for years. I love finding what was once a little piece of succulent that I tossed on the ground years before grown into something spectacular!
Researching this little guy I discovered that he is an Aristaloe. This is a new monotypic species, meaning that it is the sole species. When I first found him I was sure that he was some kind of haworthia, or Aloe haworthioides, but as usual I was corrected by Tony from Texas Aloe Growers. Thank you Tony!!!

aristaloeThis succulent is fantastic! Its green leaves are surprisingly soft to the touch with raised white dots. It grows in clumps and its pups can be easily removed for propagation. Coral colored blooms emerged from ling spiky stems that this aloe shoots off mid-summer. This aloe does wonderfully indoors and out and clearly he was happy living in the shade of the crassula.

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aristaloeThe aristaloe can handle temperatures to 44 degrees F and is happiest in well-draining medium. From my research he does well growing on the tops of mountains! I have placed him in a crystal candy dish with sempervivums, plectranthus, sedum and a variety of other beauties that will soon outgrow this dish. We have 3 gorgeous 5″X5″ crystal candy dishes full of gorgeous succulent plants and cuttings available in our succulent store, only one has an aristaloe! Enjoy this dish for several months and then create several new planters as they outgrow their home.

SucculentsFor more information on the aristaloe:

Wikipedia gives a great background on the Aloe aristata.

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