Thursday, December 4, 2008

Plant Profile: Crassula Tetragona Easy Succulent Plants for Dry Gardens

Crassula tetragona are drought tolerant succulent plants that look like pine branches with fat needles sticking out the sides, or perhaps a green bottle brush flower. These unique crassula are often used in bonsai containers to look like pine trees.

In the ground, they grow up to 4 feet tall. The plants will branch at the tips and can be used as a low, informal hedge. Crassula tetragona leaves are about an inch long and about 1/4 inch thick. Leaf color can vary from green to deep, bluish green. These succulent plants can take full sun to light shade, love heat and are easy to root and grow.

Like other Crassula, tetragona grow well in dry gardens with other succulent plants and cacti. As houseplants, give them up to 6 hours a day of sun. They should also do well with bright, indirect light. These perennial plants are drought tolerant and only need water once a month or so. In summer they get wide, flat sprays of flowers that make me think of Queen Anne's Lace. Blooms are produced on the tips of their branches. Flower color can vary from white to light yellow.

Crassula are hardy to 40 degrees. In my garden they have survived heavy frost without much damage. But all that water stored in their leaves and branches will freeze if they are exposed to cold temperatures for very long. Frost damage usually shows up as brown, shriveled leaves. Cut or brush off the damaged growth and the stalk should resprout in a few weeks.

Xeriscaping with drought tolerant cactus and succulent plants has become popular here in the arid southwest. My crassula are growing in both full sun and shade, in my southern California heavy alkaline, clay soil.

They are poking up around my cactus and their fluffy branches provide a nice contrast to the flat green cactus pads. They’re pretty, carefree and always look green when everything else has fried. If you think you have a brown thumb, this is the plant for you!

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