Mixing Succulents & Perennials in Landscape Design


If you've pondered a landscape scheme that will stand out from the rest of the neighborhood, then a combination of colorful perennials and textured succulents may be the ideal solution. Not all perennials, however, do well where succulents grow; choose plants based on their water requirements for the ideal combination.

The Basics

  • Succulents aren't any one type, genus or family of plants. They're plants that share one common characteristic: They have special cells that collect and hold water, allowing the plants to withstand drought. Most have thick leaves and petals, and many are grown for their drought-tolerance, relative tolerance of a wide range of sites and the texture they provide in a garden.


  • The planting site is one of the most important factors for any plant, and succulents are no different. They require very well-drained soil; water should never puddle on the soil, and the soil should dry out thoroughly between each rain and watering session. Most succulents require full-sun exposure, but a few tolerate shadier locations. Therefore, choose water-wise perennials that tolerate few watering sessions and completely dry soil.

Succulent Selections

  • Although cacti may be the most well-known succulents, you're not limited to using a few cacti. Stonecrop (Sedum spp.) is widely available at nurseries and garden centers. Some stonecrop species are low-growing ground-covers, and others reach more than 12 inches tall. For example, sunsparkler "Cherry Tart" stonecrop (Sedum "Cherry Tart"), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, grows to 6 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Its bright, purplish-pink flowers appear in late summer. Aloe (Aloe spp.) is another type of succulent to consider. Red aloe (Aloe cameronii) is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 while spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla) is hardy in USDA zone 11. Many aloe species offer bright-red flowers in addition to their textured foliage.

Perennial Selections

  • Several perennials fit the profile for succulent companions. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers in many colors, suiting various tastes. Its fernlike foliage is topped with flat clusters of brightly colored flowers on stalks that reach 3 feet tall. "Paprika" common yarrow (Achillea millefolium "Paprika") is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9. Like yarrow, hyssop (Agastache spp.) blooms in a variety of colors and is drought-tolerant. Hyssop is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 11, depending on the species and cultivar. The U.S. native ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) is a shrub selection for a succulent-laden area. Reaching up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, this shrub has long, scarlet flowers at the tips of its almost grasslike foliage. Ocotillo is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11 and grows best in arid areas.

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