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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Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

kalanchoe blossfeldianaKalanchoe blossfeldiana is a popular succulent native to Madagascar, and sometimes referred to as the christmas kalanchoe or florist kalanchoe. It is glabrous, which in botany means has a feature that is smooth and glossy.  This kalanchoe has compact clusters of leaves and forms heads of tubular flowers that have numerous, up to 50 on some, flower buds per stem. Our kalanchoe blossfeldiana bloom in the late fall and into early winter.

kalanchoe blossfeldianaKalanchoe blossfeldiana seems to be the happiest with at least four hours of sunlight per day and as most succulents, living in a well-draining medium. They prefer cooler temperatures and but do not like it when it the temperature is under 50 degrees F. This succulent does well indoors and outdoors, however we do not recommend planting in a place where it gets bright direct sun all day.

Mokalanchoe blossfeldianast florists toss out this plant after it blooms, however proper pruning can make your kalanchoe bloom several times per year. Pruning encourages more branches with eventually leads to more flowers. To make your Kalanchoe blossfeldiana bloom it needs 13 to 14 hours of darkness per day. We have noticed that new buds began to form in roughly 30 to 40 days but we have also experienced kalanchoe that have retired from blooming completely. Several new plants we have propagated from these retired kalanchoes do flower after about a years time.

We use this kalanchoe often to make living succulent wreaths and in other projects. We have enjoyed red, yellow, white, purplish-pink, pink and orange flowers from our various blossfeldianas.

kalanchoe blossfeldianakalanchoe blossfeldianakalanchoe blossfeldianakalanchoe blossfeldiana

 Don’t forget to enter the August Free Succulent contest!

Rhipsalis Cereuscula – Coral Cactus

Rhipsalis Cereuscula – Coral Cactus

rhipsalis cereusculaThis miniature woody succulent is often called a Coral Cactus or Rice Cactus. I planted a little 2 inch Rhipsalis Cereuscula over a year ago in a hanging planter with limited sunlight and something has set it off as it is now shooting 12 to 18 inch stems with miniature versions of itself attached.

This succulent is part of the Cactaceae family and it will withstand temperatures to 15 degrees F, however it doesn’t really like it when it is under 50 degrees. These fun little plants are easy to propagate and look great in planters as well as hanging baskets. If you look closely, the top pieces look like little green pieces of rice. I have also seen them referred to as mistletoe cactus. I have yet to have any of my rhipsalis bloom, but from research the flowers look very cool.

There are 35 recognized rhipsalis and their heritage comes from South America, mainly Brazil. It is the largest genus of epiphyte cacti. This succulent is found as an epiphyte in tropical rainforests. It’s stem takes on three main shapes, terete, angular or flattened and their stems are succulent.

We have the Rhipsalis Cereuscula growing well in pots as well as in the ground. Our plants in the ground do not grow as lengthy as those in the hanging pots. This plant seems to thrive when it is humid and it is out of direct light.

We have mini Rhipsalis Cereuscula available in our store.

Don’t forget to enter the August Free Succulent Contest!

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Graptoveria Fred Ives

Graptoveria Fred IvesPart of the stonecrops family this beautiful echeveria hybrid can reach up to 2 feet in width! It was once sold as an echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg. Parentage is said to be the graptopetalum paraguayense X echeveria gibbiflora. Our Graptoveria Fred Ives have done well in the ground and in pots outdoors and indoors they have done well and stayed a bit smaller.

Graptoveria Fred IvesTypical hardiness to 25 degrees this durable hybrid succulent turns a beautiful translucent pink, salmon, coral and purple tint when it is in fun sun.

Some of the Fred Ives we have growing in the shade are a light blueish green with a hint of rose. This graptoveria is native to North America and is fantastic for xeriscaping. It gives your gardens fantastic contrast! I have seen landscape designs where hundreds of these beauties are used and it is breathtaking. They are a clumping shrub and can grow in height over 2 feet if they have the space to grow.

Graptoveria Fred Ives
Graptoveria Fred Ives Flowers

The flowers of this favorite are a pale yellow and arrive in early spring on long racemes that can shoot over 2 feet in the air. I just cut the last stem of dead flowers from my vertical wall. We had a long spring-early summer of showy flowers.

This graptoveria is easy to propagate. We have grown countless plants from leaves, some of which have reached over 10 inches in diameter! We also cut, prepare and replant these rosettes and have had no problem with cuttings that are 3 inches in diameter to those that are ten inches across!

cresting Graptoveria Fred IvesOne of the more fascinating things that we have happening right now is the cresting Fred Ives I have that is starting to outgrow it’s pot. I purchased this plant about 5 years ago because it had one piece that looked like it was starting to crest. At the time I had no idea what that meant, I just knew it looked really cool. One of the rosettes was normal shaped while the other had multiple heads! I have replanted this guy probably 20 times over the course of it’s life in my yard and he always seems happy. Oddly, he sometimes has offshoots that have no mutation. I like to cut those guys off and replant them elsewhere.

cresting graptoveria leafIn my recent front yard revamp I found this leaf hidden under a large plant. This is the first leaf I have had that has grown a crested plant! I am more than ecstatic and am trying to get more of the leaves to do this! Cresting is a mutation, read more about it in our recent post here.

I will be taking time-lapse photos of this leaf and will create a page for you to watch with me in the near future.

Graptoveria Fred Ives in a potSerious Plant Lady

The planter to the right is one of my prized planters. This pot is HUGE! I recently had to do some HOA required plant removal from my front yard and being that there is no rule against potted plants, I borrowed this four foot tall planter from a neighbor and filled it with my favorites from the ground. It is taller than me and you can see that I have several ten plus inch graptoveria’s accenting the arrangement. I hope I never have to move this pot – it may not be possible.


Kalanchoe Luciae or Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora

Kalanchoe Luciae or Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora


Kalanchoe Luciae or Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora
Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora

As I was doing my research on the paddle plant, which I have always called Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, I realized that I actually have two types of paddle plants growing in my gardens. With so many other people making the same mistake and publishing it online, it can be confusing. I found a great article from San Marcos Growers explaining the difference. So, is it Kalanchoe Luciae or Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora?

Kalanchoe Luciae or Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora
Kalanchoe Luciae Flowers

Both succulents are obviously kalanchoes, which are part of the Crassulaceae family. Dave’s Garden has a great introduction to kalanchoe article you should check out. This article will also lead you to the San Marcos Growers link.

Kalanchoe Luciae
Kalanchoe Luciae

I had noticed that several of my paddle plants seemed to be shorter and stalkier, but more importantly, the red on the tops of the paddles is the deep almost burgundy color. The flowers of the luciae are not as fragrant as those of the thyrsiflora. They are also white with yellow tint while the petals of the thyrsiflora are a bright yellow.

The thyrsiflora is covered with a white chalk-like substance that comes off on our hands if you touch it.

We have kalanchoe luciae plants for sale in our store. Starting in 4 inch pots up to one gallon pots. Some of these guys have paddles three feet tall.


What is Cresting?

Cristation, fasciation, cresting or Forma cristata are terms used commonly in botany describing the abnormal development of a plant. Every year at the San Diego Cactus and Succulent Societies plant sale I am always mesmerized by some of the prized crested succulents on display but I never did any research on why this occurs. The best way to describe fasciation or cresting is with photographs. I have purchased several succulents that are “var cristata” in the past but I have never had a seemingly “normal” succulent grow a new head that is crested until just recently.

Cresting aeonium arboreumI have this big wooden box full of fat plants in the brightest area of my garden. There was one large aeonium arboreum that had one extra tall stem that looked out of place so I cut it and started a new plant in 2014. Over the last year the container has really filled in and the new growth that started where I cut the stem became hidden from view.

Recently I cut back all of the plants in this box only to discover that the aeonium I cut had not started several new pups as they usually do, but instead it had what looked like several stems fused into one.
I did not realize that a normal plant could become crested; I just assumed that was a heritable trait. The question now is why. Of all of the aeonium arboretums’ that I have cut in my yard over the years, why have I never seen this occurrence? Why is this particular plant cresting?
Trustworthy Google. It seems that I am not the only confused succulent lover out there. Here is the basic reason I found for why this is happening.

new growth of a normal aeonium is crestingFasciation or cresting, can be caused by many factors and can occur on the tip of the plants stem, the fruit, the root of the plant or the flower. Bacteria, genetics, hormones, fungus and other environmental causes are the primary cause of this phenomenon.

I can’t answer my own question but will continue to research this topic. In the interim if you are interested in reading more about this check out my favorite plant website. Dave’s Garden has a descriptive article on this fascinating mutation that contains several pictures and a detailed explanation of the many reasons this occurs.

Cresting Succulents

Take a look at some of the other cactus and succulents we have that are crested.

cereus hildmannianus
cereus hildmannianus
cresting in cactus
opuntia subulata cristata
Aeonium sunburst var cristata
Aeonium sunburst var cristata

Plectranthus coleoides Cerveza n Lime

Plectranthus coleoides Cerveza n Lime

This fuzzy annual has been growing happily in our gardens from shady areas to full sunny areas. We also have several as houseplants who are just as happy. This wonderful little beauty is heat and drought-tolerant, very fragrant and has been impressively hard to kill. This Plectranthus coleoides Cerveza n Lime is probably the most fragrant plant we have in our yard.

We use this plant in most of our succulent arrangements, in our garden beds and in planters. Plectranthus seem to grow quickly and with the right cutting techniques, you can turn a single stem into a thriving little bush in a few months.

Here are some photos we took over the weekend of our fuzzy little friend.

Plectranthus coleoides 'Cerveza 'n Lime
Plectranthus coleoides ‘Cerveza n Lime’
Plectranthus coleoides 'Cerveza 'n Lime
Plectranthus coleoides ‘Cerveza n Lime’

What IS a succulent?

So, What is a Succulent Anyway?

What is a succulentAll this chatter about succulents! Living in Southern California has its advantages when it comes to being a succulent lover. With more and more people becoming water-wise and re-landscaping with drought-resistant plants, it is almost like living in a botanical garden.

So, what is a succulent? Otherwise referred to as a fat plant, a succulent is a plant that has larger (thicker) or more “swollen” than normal leaves, stems or root systems that it uses as basically a water-storing organ so it can survive in arid conditions. Succulent comes from the Latin word Sucus, which means juice or sap. Most fat plants thrive in areas with higher temperatures and little rainfall.

Succulents are ornamental plants and known for their unusual appearance, shapes, and bright colors. You are probably familiar with a handful of the 60 or so plant families that encase succulents. The most popular is the Crassulaceae family.

Common names for fat plants include Sedum, Sempervivum or Echeveria. These are all part of the Crassulaceae family. Other popular fat plants are Aloe, Agave and Haworthii. Most people group succulents with cacti but did you know that almost all cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti? We will get into further conversation on this topic in the future.

macro photography - succulentsThere are thousands of succulent species, enough to confuse even the avid gardener. This site will focus on what we have growing in our gardens, our opinions, observations and research we have done over the years. We learn something new everyday and we appreciate your input, any corrections and stories.

How do you define what a succulent is?

Learn More about Succulents

Building a Succulent Website

Building a Succulent Website

Building a Succulent Website

If I could go back in time and start college over again I would’ve taken as many computer classes as possible.  I remember thinking such classes were a waste of time and do not apply to me and what I wanted to major in.  Plus, they were not required to graduate. My future successes would never depend on building a website, I had convinced myself.

My grandmother’s crystal ball was always a bit hazy and Al Gore had only recently given us the World Wide Web, I had no idea that everything would depend on the Internet in the future. Now here we are twenty years later and 5th graders know more about the Internet than I do.  Several months ago I made the choice to enroll at YouTube University and basically learn step by step as I built my site. Step by step as in mistake by mistake.

I am a pretty smart person and a fast learner but let me tell you, building a succulent website has not been an easy task for me.

Fat Plants Favorie Succulent Photos55 My ADHD probably plays a huge role in the amount of time it has taken me to get a basic blog started but I think what has made it most difficult is that there is just way too much information out there.  The reason I decided to build a website about my passion, Fat Plants aka Succulents, is that I depended on the Internet to learn about my hobby. Yes, there are some fabulous websites and blogs about succulents out there but there is also a bunch of crap. Like weeds in the garden.

After years of researching the web I still can only accurately identify half of the species of succulent plants in my yard and although my initial goal was to help other fat plant lovers identify their succulent plants, my goal in building a website for succulents now is to share all of the fascinating things I have learned by testing many theories/practices from other internet gardeners on my own, living succulent plants.

To make this long story short, Please be patient with my ever-changing website. I have years of notes and photos I am trying to organize all while trying to write it in a language that is very new to me.  My computer literacy is better than my Spanish, but only by an inch. Thank you for your patience and any input, advice, criticism, comments are welcome!

Succulent Definition and Identification

Succulent Definition and Identification

Succulent Definition and IdentificationHave you ever noticed how vague the definition is for the word succulent? What exactly is a succulent? Why are they called Fat Plants?  Here is the short answer. A succulent is a plant that has the ability to survive long periods of time in areas without precipitation because they have a water-storing organ in their leaves, stems or roots. They are also called fat plants because of their swollen leaves and stems. Juicy is one word that seems to be quite repetitive in defining what a succulent is. Juicy as in water filled as in plump.

There are several plants that are not typically classified as succulents that have the “succulent” characteristic of storing water for future use.  A bromeliad, for example is a plant that most botanists don’t consider a succulent. It holds water between it’s tight leaves in its center. A cactus is most always a succulent but most succulents are not cacti. Most of our plants are succulents here at Fat Plants. You will hear cactus mentioned every now and then however.

Roughly 60 plant families have succulents in them and there are more than 300 genera. I feel confident that I have almost all of my plants classified into the right genera, however getting the correct species/cultivar of many of my succulents has proven difficult.

Identifying Succulents

 Before I figured I was wasting valuable time trying to identify each and every succulent in my yard unless it has flowered (and even then I struggled)

Succulent Definition and Identification I could have given you three or more different names for some of the same plants in my garden, just doing a general google image search. What I mean is that I saw 4 pictures identical to an Aeonium in my yard with 4 different names. At least they were all Aeoniums.

My succulent mentor Tina told me that one of her best practices has been to refer to scientific books rather than what other collectors, growers, businesses etc. say on their blogs or websites.  She makes me earn my knowledge and gave me a list of books to use instead of answering my question directly.  I will share that list with you here as well as my favorites when I get through reading them (probably sometime in 2050)

Tell us how you define what a succulent is. How do you identify your fat plants? We will be posting some of our favorite places that help us identify plants soon. As always, we appreciate any knowledge you can share with us.


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