The three varieties I bought from your store have now been in the ground (Vallejo, zone 9b) since early spring, and some questions have popped up. Would you mind helping me trouble-shoot and plan ahead?

May Planting

The plants I got are 6 Graptoveria ‘Debbie’, 4 Echeveria Imbricata and 4 Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvey’. They’re planted alongside the sidewalk by the street, in a 1′ w x 1.5 d’ trench filled with cactus mix.

Imbricata is doing very well, flourishing even, with lots of little ‘chicks’ clustered under their ‘hen’s wings’ .

However two of the Debbies have some problems with something (powdery mildew?) in the center, leaves falling off, which were attracting ants. I feared they were going to be killed by this, so I sprayed them with neem oil and they seem to be rebounding. But would welcome ideas as to why/how this infestation was encouraged to set in.

Problem Debbie

Topsy Turvy surprised me in that it seemingly can’t handle either strong sun or heat, not sure which — and, as you know it has been an extremely mild spring/summer. Not sure if you can tell from the photos, but the lower leaves turned yellow and some died. I did give them extra water when I thought conditions were again going to cause this situation. However I worry about a normal year. Can they survive? What measures do you think I can take in the future?

September Garden

Then for all of them: What should I look out for over the winter, and how can I best prepare for it? — cold dips [the most extreme we get here hovers just barely above freezing], and significant rain. Should I rig up some sort of a tent of frost cloth to put over them? Any suggestions as to how to fashion it?

Healthy Debbie

Is it possible that Topsy Turvey and Debbie just aren’t suited for the conditions in my garden and will never prosper?

Thanks so very much.

Carol

I’ll take my answer after the break, please…

Carol,
Overall your plants are looking healthy. They are all suited to your climate, and should be able to overwinter fine without any frost blanket in a fast draining cactus soil. E. imbricata will pup younger and more vigorously than the other 2 varieties, but the others should start to catch up in the next year.

For the topsy turvys that lost some leaves, it is completely natural for all succulents to lose bottom leaves, and as long as the center is OK, the plant is doing fine. They look great in the photos and have grown a lot since spring.

For the Debbie that had some problems, it looks like the neem has helped and the center is coming out of it. It will probably recover fine.

As for the ants, this is what is going on: Ants farm aphids on echeveria (and related) blooms. They bring the aphids to the blooms stalks and come back and milk them. This is a problem that can be solved with neem oil for the aphids and an organic ant spray for the ants. Or you can cut off the bloom stalks when you start to see aphids.

Judging from the photos, you’re doing a great job with the plants. Enjoy!
Peter