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What to do with succulent wreaths after the holidays

January 4, 2011 |  6:00 am

We recently bought a cart full of holiday plants from supermarkets and hardware stores, then asked experts to place odds of survival: Which ones were essentially disposable holiday décor, and which ones were likely to see another Christmas?

One of the best bets, at least here in Southern California, turned out to be a succulent wreath from Home Depot -- a ring of sedum, echeveria and jade plants. We asked Debra Lee Baldwin, one of our garden contributors and author of two books on designing with succulents, to provide more details on how best to keep the wreath and others like it alive for months to come. Baldwin writes:

This time of year, most succulents are dormant, and those you mentioned are not going to take off and start growing until March. If you want them to grow, douse the wreath with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength at the start of the growing season; keep the wreath evenly moist like a wrung-out sponge, and transition it into full sun.
Succulent-wreath If you don't want the plants to grow, pinch them back to encourage fullness. Fill any gaps by poking a hole in the wreath with a pencil or chopstick and insert cuttings. Cut off any blooms that form, keep the wreath barely moist, and don't fertilize. You'll get better color from the foliage; jade will turn red at the leaf tips. You can avoid the stretched growth of the plants if the wreath is in full sun. It should, however, be protected from the peak afternoon heat during summer in inland locations.
It's helpful to have wire loops at 12 and 6 o'clock on the back of the wreath, so it can be rotated for even sun exposure. Otherwise, the plants will grow unevenly and look as though it were caught in a gale.
You can use the wreath to produce more plants for the garden. In the case of the Home Depot wreath pictured at top, the flat-leaved, red-tinged jade plants are extremely easy to start from cuttings; you don't even need to break apart the ring if you want more plants. The light, mint-green echeverias will produce offsets, little plants that can be wiggled loose and put in the ground. You also can cut about an inch of stem below the bottom of the rosette and plant it.

Most types of sedum are best transplanted in clumps; some larger varieties such as the Sedum rubrotinctum, called pork and beans, will start readily from cuttings. Even its beanlike leaves will root.
You can simply set the entire wreath in the ground for a ring of succulents that will spread. If you keep the wreath hung, water it from the top, where it will be driest. The moisture will percolate down. If the wreath does dry out, no biggie. Succulents store water in fleshy leaves and stems to withstand periods of drought. Set the wreath in a clean tray or bowl with water, and it will rehydrate.

Photos, from top: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times; Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times