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by Susan
(New York, NY)


Hi Jacki,

I’ve written before about grow lights and you were very helpful.

I now have an urgent situation…!
I’ve been developing a rock and succulent garden on the side of a small hill as you can see in my first photo.

I’ve created some terracing and have planted Hens and Chicks and Sedum.

The soil is very clay like and gets very dry during the summer so I thought succulents would be the answer. I made sure to dig a decent size hole for each plant, put in a mixture of cactus soil, lava stone for drainage, a bit of charcoal which I noticed came in the soil of each plant and some plant nourishment.

The weather has been a real mix of quite a bit of rain some weeks back up to a real heat wave last week which, thankfully, is over.

As you can see in the other photos, my plants are not doing well at all! Can you imagine what the problem may be by looking at the photos? I’m feeling pretty upset about this.

Is there anything you can suggest I do to save my plants?

Thank you so much,

Hi Susan, your garden will look gorgeous in time. For your succulents, there seem to be a couple of things that have the potential to be a real issue.

First of all, clay soil is not a succulents first choice in soil. Essentially, what it sounds like you may have done is dig out a hole in the clay, put in some other soil, and then planted the drought loving plants in there.

When it rains, the water has no-where to go, and so it fills that nice bowl that you have made, which just happens to also hold a plant.

What I would do is get a bag or two of lava rock – I prefer this because it’s so porous. Then lift the plants up, out of the soil, and pour a good amount of lava rock around the crowns of the plants. You can even put a bit on top of them too, which will help them to root into it.

What this does is give them a choice of rooting medium; most succulents, given the option, will root on top of the ground if the soil isn’t to their liking.

You may also want to dig a slight depression on the downside of the plants, and put lava rock there too. This will stop moisture building up in the planting hole, and give it a way to drain off.

Also keep in mind that these are tough plants – this most likely won’t kill them, although it has set them back a bit.

In the future, it would be better to actually spread a good layer of gravel/sandy soil on top of the existing clay soil, or even build a raised bed that is completely filled with the proper soil, rather than individual holes for each plant.
Keep me posted!

Comments for What am I doing wrong???

Jul 31, 2013
Thank you!
by: Susan

Brilliant suggestions, Jacki!
Thank you so much. I’ll get into action with the changes this coming weekend!