I remember the first time I visited a friend’s new house in Phoenix, that time she proudly proclaimed her front yard “landscaped.” As I looked around, she directed my gaze to a square of small grey pebbles and a succulent. Even the plants seemed to know that this part of Arizona was not meant to support life. I tried SO hard to compliment her grey garden, while my inner Oregonian was SO condescending and judgey: I saw a sad, dry landscape art that longed for lush greens and bright flowers.
Walking my L.A. neighborhood this dry, drought-stricken year, I now find myself more and more drawn to those very desert-like gardens. But we don’t have to settle for drab or sad drought-friendly gardens. As more and more of my neighbors are letting their lawns go, I see them choosing drought-resistant plants and gorgeous ground cover, prickly cacti with bright yellow flowers, purple and pink Echeveria that require very little love from the watering can.
One street over, I saw a gorgeous succulent starting its life as new ground cover: Crassula erosula, also known as “Campfire.” A combination of bright lime green and a brilliant coral orange leaves, it will blossom with white flowers in the fall in Southern California and similar growing regions. A native to South Africa and Madagascar, they grow best in USDA regions 9 – 11.
Growing only six inches in height, Campfire can spread to three feet, making it a great ground cover, as my neighbor’s is clearly intended to be. But Crassula erosula also works well in containers or hanging baskets to add brilliant colors to your front stoop or porch garden. Campfire requires full sun and well-drained soil, and a little stress to get the brightest colors, so be sure not to over-water it.
Have you switched up your landscaping to deal with the drought? Tell us your tips and tricks here in the comments or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely. And take a look at why the prickly pear cactus might be your new favorite food, here.
Photo Credit: Annie’s Annuals