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Ingredients for a pretty pot

Thursday, May 20, 2010; VA07

Agave

These spiky rosettes are most popularly known for the large century plant, with steel blue leaves or in its variegated form. Agaves for containers are much smaller and slow-growing.

Agave attenuata. Coarse, broad leaves make this an imposing succulent with soft-green leaves.

A. victoriae-reginae. A small agave, reminiscent of an artichoke, but with striking white margins to its green leaves.

A. chiapensis. Another dainty agave with broad gray-green leaves with black teeth.

A. gigantensis. Large in size and texture, this agave has broad silver-blue leaves with wavy edges.

A. Blue Flame. A hybrid with dusky blue-green leaves that form a rosette about 18 inches high.

A. Blue Glow. The leaves are smooth, pointed and upright, with a distinct blue cast and red-orange margins.

Aeonium

Aeoniums are valued for their flower-like leaf rosettes: large, colorful and presented on stems that vary in length by variety and age.

Aeonium Kiwi. This variety forms striking rosettes that are lime green edged in red.

A. Tip Top. This was developed for its unusual profusion of rosettes, which are dark purple with green centers.

A. Pinwheel. Tight, upright clusters of gray-green foliage tinged red at the tips.

Echeveria

Echeverias form distinctive low-growing rosettes, beautifully plump and symmetrically patterned, and in unusual colors.

Echeveria Perle Von Nurnburg. Gray leaves with mauve highlights.

E. Deranosa. Tightly clustered, short leaves form a silver-gray rosette with pink tips.

E. Metallica. Leaves are a velvety silver with rose highlights.

E. Fire and Ice. Large, unusually open light-silver leaves edged in red.

E. Topsy Turvy. Silver-green leaves, curled at the tips.

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoes for most people summon the image of the supermarket kalanchoe sold as brightly flowered houseplants, but other species have showy, fleshy leaves perfect as accents in the succulent garden.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora or K. luciae. Clusters of enormous, paddle-like leaves make this an accent for large containers. Lime green with rose-pink edges.

Sedum

Sedums, or stonecrops, provide some of the most varied and useful succulents for the container garden. Don't use Sedum Autumn Joy or other common garden varieties, which are too large and floppy for containers.

Sedum Angelina. Striking yellow-green upright foliage plumes.

S. nussbaumerianum. Large clusters of buff-colored leaves. The clusters elongate with age, elevating the show.

S. burrito. This is the gray-green rope-like donkey tail sedum, valuable as an unusual trailing succulent.

S. Cape Blanco. Abundant elongated rosettes. The upper leaves are silver, the lower ones purple.

S. rubrotinctum. This sedum grows bizarre, berry-like red leaves in clusters. Pink and dwarf forms are available.

S. pluricaule Rose Carpet. This diminutive, hardy and low-growing sedum produces soft gray-green whorls with pink tinges.

Sempervivum

This is the classic and hardy hens-and-chicks, named for its trait of producing offsets at the base of mature rosettes.

Sempervivum tectorum. This species is the old-fashioned hens-and-chicks that your grandmother grew, and still a great plant.

S. arachnoideum. The cobwebbed species, named for the fine white hairs that span the tightly clustered rosettes.

Varieties and hybrids: Birchmeier is green with red points. Sparkle has dark red foliage. Bronco has smaller rosettes, making it more versatile in the container. Cobweb Buttons is gray-green and strikingly webbed. Green Wheel is a light, lush green.

Delosperma

Delospermas or ice plants are low-growing, mat-forming succulents with bright daisy-like flowers from April until October, depending on the variety. Most are hardy in Washington, given good drainage. They make ideal filler plants for succulent containers. Flowers are small but profuse and come in a broad array of bright colors, including strong pinks, magenta, chrome, yellow, salmon and white.

-- Adrian Higgins

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