Summer can become very hot in Southern California. The beaches stay cool from the influence of the ocean and this is probably why coastal areas are so heavily populated. As you move inland air dries and temperature ranges increase making 90 to 110 degree (F) daytime highs commonplace, depending on where you live.
All areas in this part of California experience little to no rain during the summer months. That means that gardens should be well planned to fit the soil conditions and climate. Cactus and succulent plants have adapted to handle periods of drought by storing water in their stems or leaves. The result is the fascinating array of sculptural shapes and forms that these plants grow in. Because they come in all shapes, sizes and colors, cacti and succulents can be as decorative as flowers. Plus, they will handle the long dry summer season of Southern California better than most other garden plants. Summertime is a good time for planting cactus and succulents.
Because water can be stored in plant tissues, these plants are not totally dependent on their root system. They need a good root system to take up water and to support their weight, but the system does not have to be as extensive as one that needs to supply a constant intake of water.
Water is a headline-making topic for all of the Southern California area. And it’s not going away any time soon. So using plants that are adapted to periods of drought in your garden is clearly a smart idea.
In the dry heat of the summertime, it can be a challenge to plant trees, shrubs and flowers, especially in more inland gardens. They will all need special attention – unless you use cactus and succulent plants. Not only do these water-storing plants enjoy the sunshine and dry air of Los Angeles County and San Diego area summers, but they prefer to be planted dry. That means you don’t have to fuss over them. A dry, sandy soil is ideal, but they will adapt to any fast-draining medium, including the decomposed granite common to the hills and canyons. Planting cacti and succulents in dry soil encourages the roots to stretch out in search of water, growing the root system into surrounding soil for stability.
The one thing you want to avoid with cacti and succulents is the combination of cold and wet together. If you live in parts of Southern California where temperatures drop during the winter rainy season, make extra sure your plants are set in sandy or stony soil that quickly drains water away from the body of your plants. These areas are best planted in the summertime. Cacti and succulents do well in coastal gardens, too, and are safe from frost damage in the winter. They can be planted any time of the year, but the dry summer is still preferred.
Summer is the perfect time to get these plants established in Southern California. Check into the varieties you are buying to make sure they will match your micro-climate. Some cacti cannot handle any frost and some succulents will burn in full sun.
Use these plants mixed in with other garden flowers, in beds of their own, as lawn replacements and/or to cover hillsides. Use big, bold plants like the agave as a focal point or small plants like sedum for ground cover. Create a succulent dish garden in a flat container or by using a pot. Or make your landscape into a three-dimensional painting by adding rocks and garden décor. There are so many ways these plants can be an asset to the garden while fitting in nicely with our water concerns here in Southern California.