September 28, 2023


March demands attention in the windows, balconies, terraces and gardens. Those empty pots outside the houses, with the remains of dry plants that did not survive last summer or that succumbed to the cold winter weather, deserve a bit of life. When asked if there are plants in the home, on many occasions the answer is that the plants did badly, that they always die, that one does not have the hand to cultivate them. Big mistake, because you will always find an appropriate one for the level of care you want.

If you want to have species that require almost no time, more than occasional irrigation, succulent or xerophytic plants may be the perfect choice. These are those plants that are capable of surviving most of the ineptitudes on the part of growers: lack of water, of subscribers, they can even live for many years with their roots constrained in the same pot. Of course, they will not be able to cope with excess water or the lack of light intense enough so that they can carry out all their metabolic processes.

For this reason, many species of cacti (family Cactaceae) are waiting in florists and specialized centers to give a little color to those failed pots that now only show dry substrates. If they also receive a little pampering in the form of fertilizers and more frequent watering in the warmer months, they will return even more beauty to us in return.

If you do not want to have many thorns nearby —although there are a multitude of cacti where they are not present, or if they are, they are as sweet as imaginable— you can also use other succulent plants with very few cultivation requirements. In this section there are a multitude of botanical families with more than proven hardness: the crassulaceae, the euphorbiaceae, the agaváceas… In each of them there are species that are very attractive and with very different shapes.

A specimen of 'Agave victoriae-reginae' under the sun in Madrid.
A specimen of ‘Agave victoriae-reginae’ under the sun in Madrid.Edward Beard

The sedums (sedum spp.), for example, are perfect for lining those pots. The vast majority bloom wonderfully (as sedum acre, Sedum albumor those formerly called Sedum floriferum either Sedum spurium, to name just a few), and they achieve an ideal cover on which other larger succulents can grow. One of these could be a jade tree (Crassula ovata) or a small size agave, unlike the huge traditional pitas (american agave). Among those more restrained agaves for a good pot, one that is very loved by growers is Agave victoriae-reginae, surprising for the beauty of its shape and its colors, like a flower emerging from the ground. But there are many more possibilities: echeverias (echeveria spp.), calancoes (Kalanchoe spp.), aloes (Aloe spp.)… We just have to go to florists, nurseries or specialized centers to be surprised by the variety. These compositions with succulent plants will be able to see how we go on vacation in the summer, and wait patiently for the return of the weeks off without dying. Never again will we have empty pots due to our negligence!

Beyond succulents: from geraniums to dahlias, from callas to rosemary

If succulent plants are not to our liking, we have at our disposal many very interesting herbaceous plants to achieve blooms that last for months. Of course, with them more regular care should be taken into account. Irrigation cannot be sporadic or casual, but it will be necessary to be aware that its roots do not dry out. Some very appropriate plants are the gallantries (gaillardia var.), botanical geraniums (Geranium sanguineum and many other species and varieties) and honeydew (Lobularia maritima). The latter, moreover, is very easily cultivated through its seed. For one or two euros you can buy hundreds of seeds that germinate very quickly; yes, always under the sun, which will make them grow strong, even when they are newly born.

Gallantry on a bed of honeydew at the Esteban Vicente Museum in Segovia.
Gallantry on a bed of honeydew at the Esteban Vicente Museum in Segovia. Edward Beard

If you are a person nostalgic for balconies full of geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) It is not necessary to forget to cultivate some, at least. If it frustrates us to see how every year the geranium butterfly (Cacyreus marshalli) devours them inside and out, there is a solution: grow one of the varieties of Pelargonium crispum ‘Angel Eyes’, which this annoying insect does not attack. The shapes and colors of its flowers are very beautiful and will take away the nostalgia of taking care of the gypsy girls (Pelargonium peltatum), so prone to suffer the attacks of that butterfly.

Why not turn to late spring or even summer flowering bulbous plants? Now their different reserve organs (bulbs, corms, rhizomes…) are for sale. dahlias (Dahlia var.) are a perfect choice, and many grow well in a larger pot. These Mexican margaritas have a huge number of varieties. For a balcony or terrace, the dahlias can be accompanied by the well-known cala (Zantedeschia aethiopica). Although not in flower, this lover of the sun has a great aesthetic value, due to its huge and pointed leaves of a very cheerful green. We can also opt for bulbous plants that support the shade, in the event that our orientation is not so bright. In this case, tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida), with tireless flowering if they do not lack nutrients, are good candidates. Likewise, we must not miss the opportunity to cultivate a resistant shrub, such as a myrtle (Myrtus communis) or a rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus). The options are endless if we want to live with plants outside our houses. Seeds, bulbs, plants of all kinds await us; now in March is a perfect time to bring them home.

A composition with purple lamio and yellow wallflowers on a terrace.
A composition with purple lamio and yellow wallflowers on a terrace.Edward Beard

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