Beloved Ghost Plant Graptopetalum paraguayense: Must-have among the xeriscape plants
My house sits on a little ridge overlooking the town of Ramona, in the “Valley of the Sun”, east of San Diego, which the Sunset Garden Book places into zone 20. Temps here don’t get very low in winter; night temperatures might dip to the low 20s. Thanks to my geographic situation I was spared the extreme cold that other areas saw in the February 2007 “big freeze”, although some plants looked like a torch had been held to them. But the fact that in many places in my garden the cold air can drain away to lower valleys has saved many of my plants.
My soil is not the easiest to work with, although it is light: Decomposed granite (often called DG) in most areas, sandy loam in the remaining ones. It drains well (too well to my liking), and the DG doesn’t hold many nutrients. I have experimented with many desert plant species and found that many of those that in other areas of San Diego County are considered drought tolerant, need more water in my garden than I want to give them. Now, with several years of trial and error, I am putting a list of my “work horses” together that I like to use also in my xeriscape designs, and I’ll be sharing with you this list as my next posts go up.
Here my first:
One of my favorite plants is the Ghost Plant Graptopetalum paraguayense . I don’t know which aspect is more endearing: Good looks, low water needs, occasional pinching-back if spread too far, and ready to root from leaves, stems or divisions…
A native from Mexico, it is a clumping succulent that reaches to 7 inches in height. Its branches carry fleshy pointed leaves and terminate in blueish-grey rosettes tinged with pink, and it will spread to at least 1 ft wide or more. It combines elegantly with any color, and I plant mine next to either the blue of Salvia chamaedryoides Gentian Sage which also provides a nice contrasting texture, the lovely perennial grass Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass, the soft yellow of Calylophus hartwegii Trailing Buttercups, or the red of Salvia grahamii Dwarf Crayon Sage. It’s extremely low in water use and maintenance and grows well in part shade or full sun. In fact, planted under my native oaks I water it perhaps 2x or 3x during the summer, just to let the leaves plump up again when the long dry season has let them shrivel up a bit.
This very drought resistant plant is suitable as a ground cover in areas where there is no foot traffic or as filler for hanging baskets and rock gardens. Its rosettes will be more gray-blue when grown in shade and show a pinkish-yellowish tinge when grown in full sun. Sprays of white or yellow flowers appear on this plant which needs warm dry conditions but will tolerate temps to about 25F. Leaves will break off easily so handle with care, and the nice bonus is that new plants grow readily from these leaves or from cuttings.
For questions, please contact me at (760) 586-6065