Going green — it’s becoming as common in the green industry as petunias, and even more relevant to profitable growth. So much of the conversation lately circles around to breeding and growing plants that uphold the sustainable, ecologically responsible lifestyles consumers are choosing to live. And of all the environmentally friendly plants growers can put forward, few compare to succulents in terms of the wide range of growth avenues they offer, noticeably in three booming “green” areas — green roofs, green infrastructure, and waterwise plants.
The Right Plants In The Right Place For Green Infrastructure
Succulents are text-book plants for green infrastructure, an approach to water management that makes use of natural areas for stormwater control and to promote better air and water quality. Plants slated for these projects must perform well despite harsh conditions. Finding the right plant for the right place isn’t a lofty ideal for these projects ; it’s essential to their success.
Opportunities are out there for growers to work with landscapers/contractors and others to provide succulents and other grasses and perennials that fit the very specific requirements of green infrastructure projects. Emory Knoll Farms near Baltimore, MD, is just one example of a grower who has shown leadership in this area, and has had good success supplying succulents for green roof projects and offering on-site evaluations and consulting services.
Succulents Are The Backbone Of Green Roofs
Green roofs are one component of green infrastructure where hardy succulents such as sedums and sempervivums shine, whether it’s a rooftop swathed in vegetation or a rooftop garden with raised beds and containers surrounded by sweeps of perennials and grasses.
Steve Castorani, owner of North Creek Nurseries in Landenberg, PA, says his company has seen a substantial increase in succulent sales of delosperma and sedum over the years for green roofs and landscape projects. North Creek recently added the Wheels of Wonder delosperma series and the Sunsparkler sedum series to its plant lineup, and it continues to realize strong sales from older varieties like Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ and Sedum ‘Angelina.’
There is a big market for succulents in the green roof area. But the opportunities in green roofs for growers aren’t in nursery sales, Castorani says. Rather, they should look into supplying plants for the roofing modules that make up green roofs.
Northwest Horticulture’s Etera division manufactures these modules, called Sedum Tiles, which are mixes of sedum varieties blended with perennials that come in tiles that can be cut to size and laid like sod for green roofs and landscape projects. An added advantage of the tiles is that they can be laid down in a landscape project just as easily as a green roof, which has added to their appeal for consumers looking for instant impact in foolproof, no-sweat landscapes.
These types of consumer benefits aren’t lost on growers like Costa Farms, which markets its Drop and Grow collection of sedum tiles and other succulents with the message that they are “no-fuss plants so tough you don’t even need to dig a hole to plant them.”
Succulents Appeal To Water-Conscious Consumers
As a take-off on the no-fuss message for succulents, growers can capitalize on their drought-tolerant benefits. California-based Armstrong Growers and Altman Plants are doing just that, promoting the waterwise traits of cacti and succulents for sustainable landscapes, a message that resonates well with consumers in drought-stricken regions and elsewhere. Both companies offer a wide range of drought-tolerant succulents and cacti that tolerate arid conditions — Armstrong through its Waterwise plants program and Altman through its online cactus and succulent shop and catalog offerings.
As consumers continue to place their landscape priorities on waterwise plants and plants suitable for green infrastructure, green roofs, and other eco-friendly projects, the durability and flexibility of succulents will continue to offer new possibilities for growers to increase plant sales.