By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
The Watch Chain Crassula (Crassula lycopodioides syn. Crassula muscosa), also called the zipper plant, is attractive and unusual. Given the Watch Chain moniker for its close resemblance to jeweler’s chain links of previous eras, they were once used to hold pocket watches and secure them to the vest pocket. Tiny leaves of the Watch Chain succulent wrap tightly around the stem to form a square, upright mass.
Growing Watch Chain is similar to growing most succulent Crassula plants. Ease them into full morning sun when outdoor temperatures are at least 45 to 50 degrees F. (7-10 C.) at the coldest part of the morning. Some morning sun, even in the hottest part of summer, does not seem to damage this plant but is best combined with some type of shade.
In hardiness zones 9a to 10b, grow Watch Chain plants outside as groundcover, where they may also become small shrubs. Reaching up to 12 inches (31 cm.), these make an attractive background for other low-growing succulents, as part of a short border, or draping through a rock garden. Those in lower zones can grow Watch Chain in containers.
The thin, upright form adds interest to the world of growing succulents, which can sometimes be overtaken by rosette shaped plants. The intricate form of Watch Chain succulent is a great addition in container arrangements as the thriller, the tall attention grabber. The plant may cascade if allowed to become top heavy, which is also attractive in a display.
If you have a rooted specimen, simply plant in fast-draining soil in a container with drainage holes or in the ground. Small, broken pieces easily take hold in soil to form roots. Established plants sometimes produce yellow flowers. This plant grows in the morning sun mentioned above, in dappled sun, or even a partly shady morning spot. Avoid long hours of afternoon sun. Even in cooler, coastal spots, the Watch Chain plant likes shady afternoons.
Limit watering until soil is completely dry, then water thoroughly. Plant Watch Chain Crassula in the right spot and it will grow and thrive for years to come.
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Thinking of using succulents as ground cover? Why not? Succulents are very versatile plants. They do well in containers as well as planted in the ground.
Succulents make excellent ground covers due to their easy going and drought tolerant nature. They come in different shapes, colors and textures to bring beauty and practicality to any landscape.
Sedums or stonecrops are low growing, evergreen perennials that make excellent groundcovers. They spread out and sprawl vertically as they grow. Sedums are low maintenance plants and require very little attention and care.
Sedums thrive in different lighting conditions but prefer very bright light. They can tolerate full sun once acclimated. They are able to withstand heat with very little precipitation. Some are also frost hardy, making them an excellent choice for ground cover plants.
Some popular sedum ground covers are:
Sedum Spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop’
Sedum Spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop’, aka ‘Red Carpet’ is commonly used as ground cover because of its cold hardy nature. They are one of the cold-hardiest sedums out there. The color of the leaves turns from green to reddish-purple to a deep burgundy depending on the season and lighting conditions. They produce star-shaped bright pink-reddish flowers. They can grow up to 3-6 inches (1.18-2.36cm) tall.
Sedum Reflexum ‘Blue Spruce or Blue Stonecrop’
Also known as Petrosedum rupestre (Common names: Blue Stonecrop, Blue Spruce, Jenny’s Stonecrop) have blue-green foliage that turns light green to yellow with pinkish overtones in the winter and under full sun. These are low growing succulents that can grow up to 3-5 inches (1.18-1.97 cm) tall. These are cold hardy sedums that can withstand freezing temperatures and snow, which make them a great choice for ground cover.
Sedum Japonicum ‘Tokyo Sun’
Low-growing and low maintenance sedum with lime green to bright yellow foliage. The sun brings out the yellow color of the plant. Under shade, the plant turns lime green. Grows to about 3 inches (1.18cm) tall. Tends to spread outwards as it grows. These will add a pop of color anywhere you place them. They are not as cold hardy as the other two sedums. Will tolerate mild frost but needs protection from extreme winter conditions.
Sempervivums ‘Hens and Chicks’ come in different varieties of colors and sizes. They do best in full sun or bright light. Sempervivums multiply by growing clusters of small babies around the mother plant, giving them their common name ‘hens and chicks’. Some sempervivums can grow very large, while some remain tiny. They can be grown in containers or in the ground and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions making them ideal ground covers.
Some Sempervivums that are great as ground covers are:
Sempervivum Arachnoideum ‘Cobweb Hens and Chicks’
Characterized by white hairs resembling cobwebs covering the surface of the plant. Fleshy green rosettes that turn burgundy at the base of the plant in winter. These are very low growing plants that can tolerate full sun and freezing temperatures.
Sempervivum ‘Moss Rose’
Attractive rosettes with light green leaves and a hint of magenta. Tiny, soft hairs line the edges of the leaves. These can grow up to about 6 inches (2.36 cm) tall and 12 inches (4.72 cm) wide. Prefers bright light to full sun and can withstand freezing temperatures.
Sempervivum Calcareum ‘Fire Dragon’
These are known for their striking rosettes that are blue green in color with wine colored tips. Can grow upto 4-6 inches (1.57 to 2.36 cm) in diameter. These are low maintenance plants that prefer bright light to full sun. Can withstand heat as well as freezing temperatures.
Agave is a large genus of succulent plants. Their distinguishing features are their rosette shapes and pointy leaves. Agave species vary widely some are dwarf species and others are huge plants capable of growing up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall. They do not require much care and will thrive in different conditions and climates, from light shade to full intense sun. Some species are more cold-hardy than others.
Agaves that make great ground covers are:
Agave ‘Blue Glow’
These agaves form solitary rosettes and stay fairly small, making them ideal garden plants. Prefers plenty of sunlight to full sun and can withstand frost. Their distinctive look is their wide blue-green leaves edged with reddish margins. Can grow up to 1-2 ft (30-60cm) tall and 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) wide.
Agave Victoriae-Reginae ‘Queen Victoria Agave’
Attractive, compact agave with geometrical green rosettes lined with white markings. They stay small to medium size and are also slow growing so they won’t take over your entire garden space. They grow to about 1 ft (30 cm) tall and 1-2 ft (30-60cm) wide. Likes plenty of sun and can withstand mild frost.
Agave Titanota ‘Rancho Tambor Agave’
Small agave that grows as a solitary rosette so the pups won’t take over your yard. These have silvery blue-green leaves that are thick and wide with teeth on the edges. They can grow up to about 2 ft (60 cm) tall and 5-6 inches (12.7-15 cm) wide. Needs plenty of sun and can withstand mild frost.
Aloe is a large and popular genus consisting of small dwarf species and large tree-like species growing up to 30 feet (10m). They have thick, fleshy, green to bluish-grey-green leaves. Most larger aloe species will do well in full sun and can be planted outdoors as landscape plants or in large containers. Some large species will tolerate mild frost with little to no damage to the plant. These are low maintenance plants that require very little care and attention.
Aloe Suitable as Ground Cover:
Aloe Cameronii ‘Red Aloe’
Native to Malawi and Zimbabwe, Aloe cameronii is a medium sized aloe that grows up to 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) tall and 2-4 ft (60-121 cm) wide. Leaves stay light green in the shade and when given plenty of water. Leaves turn coppery red in full sun and very little water. Can stay red all year when exposed to full sun. Aloe cameronii will brighten up any landscape with its colorful rosettes and bright flowers. Cold hardy up to 20°F (-6.67°C).
Aloe Nobilis ‘Gold Tooth Aloe’
Native to South Africa, these form clusters of attractive rosettes that can spread to 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) wide. They make an attractive ground cover with their pretty rosettes and brightly colored blooms. They have lime green leaves with white teeth along the edges that appear sharp but are actually pliable when touched. Leaves turn orange-red under intense heat or full sun. These are heat tolerant, drought resistant and cold hardy up to 20°F (-6.67°C) making them a good choice as ground cover for small and large spaces.
Aloe Humilis ‘Spider Aloe’
Aloe Humilis (Spider Aloe) is hardier than most small aloes and can tolerate periods of frost. Native to South Africa, aloe humilis has pale, blue-green leaves with white teeth along the edges. They are low growing plants and grow in small clusters that can get up to 12 in (30cm) wide. These are low maintenance, easy going plants that can withstand long periods of neglect which make them good candidates for ground cover plants.
Crassula is a large genus of succulent plants that come in an extensive array of colors, shapes and sizes. Most crassula species are highly adapted to growing in harsh environments and can withstand a wide range of growing conditions which make them ideal ground cover.
Crassulas that make great ground cover are:
Crassula Muscosa ‘Watch Chain’ or ‘Lizard’s Tail’
Native to South Africa, these are low growing, creeping and branching succulents that can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall. They sprawl and spread outwards as they grow. They have attractive foliage that is light green in color and are tightly compacted around the stem forming a chain-like appearance. Can tolerate partial shade to full sun and is hardy up to about 20°F (-6.67°C). They produce small yellow-green flowers.
Crassula Capitella ‘Campfire Crassula’ or ‘Red Pagoda’
Also known as Crassula erosula, this is a low growing, branching and creeping succulent that only grows up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) tall. It has very attractive foliage with long leaves that stay lime green in the shade. Foliage turns to different shades of red and purple when exposed to sun and the cold. Will do well in areas that receive partial shade. Hardy up to 20°F (-6.67°C).
Crassula Multicava ‘Fairy Crassula’
An evergreen succulent that can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall. Provides a dense carpet of lustrous foliage in different shades of green. Flowers are small, star-shaped and usually pink in color. Can tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions from shady to full sun. Drought resistant and hardy up to 20°F (-6.67°C).
Euphorbia is a very large genus of flowering plants with over 2,000 members. Euphorbia is also commonly referred to as spurge. Euphorbias are tough, hardy plants that are highly adaptable to different growing environments. Keep in mind that euphorbia sap is toxic and can be poisonous when ingested. The sap of the plant can cause skin irritation.
Some euphorbias suitable as ground covers are:
Euphorbia Myrsinities ‘Donkey Tail Spurge’
An evergreen, perennial succulent plant with stems that sprawl and trail. The leaves are blue-green in color and appear to spiral on top of each other, giving the plant an interesting shape and texture. Looks great planted in the ground or in containers. The plant produces attractive, bright yellow-green flowers that turn to red as they mature. Prefers bright light to full sun. Cold and drought resistant. Hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
Euphorbia Milii ‘Crown of Thorns’
Native to Madagascar, these succulents have highly adapted to different growing environments. They can be grown indoors as well as in ground. They can grow up to 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) tall. They produce attractive red or pink flowers.These plants are covered in sharp thorns about ½ inch long. The name, ‘Crown of Thorns’ comes from the biblical story of Christ’s crucifixion and identifies the plant as the mock crown placed on Jesus’ head at the crucifixion. They can tolerate different lighting conditions from shady to full sun. These are hardy in USDA zones 9-11.
Euphorbia Rigida ‘Upright Myrtle Spurge’
Native to the Mediterranean, Euphorbia Rigida (Upright Myrtle Spurge or Silver Spurge) is an evergreen perennial with blue-gray leaves that spiral around the stem. In the fall and colder months, the foliage turns brownish red at the tips. They form beautiful pale green to yellow flowers from the top of the leaves. Can grow up to 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) tall and shrub-like in appearance. Prefers bright light to full sun. Hardy in USDA zones 7-10.
Senecio Serpens ‘Blue Chalksticks’
Native to South Africa, these are low growing succulents that spread out as they grow. They have attractive silvery blue-green leaves that are long and pointy. These are popular ground covers in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. Needs protection from extreme winter conditions. Prefers plenty of sunlight and will tolerate full sun.
The succulents mentioned above make great ground cover because they are easy going, hardy, tough plants that can withstand harsh growing conditions. They require very little care and attention but will add beauty and dimension to your garden space.
While highly adapted to the heat, they can still burn under the intense summer heat or during a heat wave. You can protect your plants from the extreme heat by providing sunshades. Here are some of my sunshade recommendations. While these succulents can withstand frost, some are more cold hardy than others. You can protect them from freezing temperatures outdoors by using frost cloths and covers. Here are some of my frost protection recommendations.
Where can you find these succulents? Check out my resource page for recommendations on where to purchase these online.
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The muscosa watch chain doesn’t grow very tall. It grows to about 12″ inches tall with a width of 8″ inches. The appearance of the plant’s light green leaves is reliant on the light conditions it is growing in.
When placed in a south-facing window, the interlocking leaves will grow close, tight and compact light green leaves. While plants growing in areas with less light will be more soft and open.
The watch chain crassula is a small shrub with slim zipper-like stems. It has compact, tree-like branching and the leaves are placed in tiny rows opposite to each other.
The Crassula muscosa plant generally does not have any recognizable scent.
There are many variations to the typical watch chain species. Some look like a cockscomb while others have a red or brownish-yellow tint.
It also comes with silver stripes and grows out like a corkscrew. However, the main variety, with its simple and beautiful of greenish-white flowers, remains the most attractive.
When growing Crassula muscosa (Crassula lycopodioides) indoors, it is unlikely to bloom.
However, in certain conditions, small, pale yellowish-green, musty smelling flowers may appear along with the leaves on the branching stems during spring to mid-summer. It usually happens after a bout of rains or irrigation.
Like most types of succulents, the Watch Chain Crassula muscosa enjoys full sun. However, it is still able to flourish in darker areas if it is kept in a cool room.
It is hardy to around 20° degrees Fahrenheit but it doesn’t bode well when it’s cold and wet at the same time.
On the other hand, then muscosa watch chain should not be kept at temperatures higher than 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
The Crassula muscosa Watch Chain is drought tolerant. It does best when watered regularly during the summer and about once a week, or even less, in winter. Like all succulents, be careful not to overwater or roots will rot.
These plants should be fed monthly during the summer with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. They can be fed weekly as well, with a weak liquid solution.
Plant Crassula muscosa plants in well-draining soil and grow plants in partial or full sunlight. When choosing a pot, make sure that it’s not too large.
An ideal option is a 4″ inch clay pot. Use a cactus mix or a mixture of half potting soil and half perlite or pumice with good drainage.
If you’re going to relocate your zipper plant, relocate during the warmer seasons. Make sure the soil is dry while repotting the plant.
Remove any old soil by shaking off the roots before planting them in a new pot. Discard any dry or damaged roots.
The muscosa watch chain crassula plant can deal with excessive pruning. However, in order to promote branching, it is advisable to pick out the tips only occasionally.
Pachyphytum is a genus of slow-growing succulents in the family Crassulaceae, native to Mexico. They form loose rosettes of plump and fleshy leaves that range in color from green to lovely orange and even purple. Plants may be grape-shaped or tubular and may have a powdery coating called farina. Pachyphytums forms small, bell-shaped flowers in spring and summer, usually greenish-white and deep red, and grow on long spikey inflorescences. The rosettes will not die after flowering. The genus name Pachyphytum comes from the Greek for "thick leaves." The plants grow in both shrub-forming and stemless rosettes and eventually form clumps.
Pachyphytums are fairly hardy and are common houseplants. However, like Graptopetalum, Pachyphytum is sensitive to being handled, as skin oil can damage leaves, particularly those with a pearlescent coloration or farina.
Pachyphytum will not tolerate frosts well. Temperatures below 20 °F (-6 °C) will kill the plant, and temperatures which may go below 45 °F (7 °C) during an extended period should be avoided. These succulents tolerate high heat and intense sunlight. As with most Crassulaceae, Pachyphytums can tolerate (and even appreciated) poor soil conditions, so long as it is well-draining. They can thrive in full or partial sunlight.
Allow the soil to dry out before watering and avoid getting water on the leaves. In winter, the plants will require more water as winter begins its active growth season. If you are unsure when to water your Pachyphytum, watch the lowermost leaves for drying signs and water them then. Pachyphytum is far more likely to survive under-watering than overwatering. The thick fleshy leaves will appear wilted and a bit "under-full" when they need water.
Leaf-cutting entails cutting a young leaf from near the center of the rosette. Leave the leaf out in the open air for a day to allow the wound to callous over. Dip the leaf into the rooting hormone and place the leaf (cut-side down) into a slightly moist succulent potting mix. Soon, a new rosette will grow from the base of the leaf. As soon as enough roots are present to repot, remove the original leaf cutting and repot the rosette.
No pruning is necessary except to remove any leaves which have died. This will help to avoid rot and bugs. Avoid touching the healthy leaves of the plant, as your body oils will leave marks.
Whether grown outdoors or in, these plants are good to forget about. Too much attention by nervous gardeners will kill the plant. When grown outdoors in a wet environment, make sure that the soil is sandy and well-draining. If you are not careful, your plant will turn to rotten mush. When grown indoors, a standard commercial succulent soil mix works well.
One of the most common pests to houseplants is the mealybug, and your Pachyphytum may fall prey to this pest. The symptoms of a mealybug infestation are slowed or stopped growth (though in summer, this is a normal sign of dormancy). If this occurs without apparent cause, remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots or look at the leaf-stem junctions. A white cottony substance is a sure sign of mealybug infestation. Remove all soil and wash the roots gently. Dab the cottony spots with a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Remove any roots which appear damaged with a sharp, sterile knife or scissors. Let them dry very thoroughly before replanting.
In the event of an unhealthy plant, the first thing to examine is your watering habits. The most common problem is root rot due to overwatering. If the soil is too wet, do not hope it will safely dry out so long as you do not water it for a while. Replace the soil immediately, but be very careful in handling your Pachyphytum because its leaves are very sensitive.
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There are a lot of reasons why every plant lover should proplift. Although, make sure you have enough space for all these plants because even we have run into the trap of collecting too much.
The main reason is that this way you will start acquiring new plants that you don’t know much about. Because let’s be honest, if you knew about the succulent that you want to proplift, then you would already have it. But this way you see something you like and take it. You can learn the ropes later.
This provides a way for you to learn along the way instead of just looking everything up online. It’s way more fun to watch a plant grow, not knowing what’s going to happen next or what you need to know in the next life phase of it.
If you buy something in the store, then you already know the name of it. Then you will search for its’ needs and what pH, temperature, and shade it likes. And yes, it does make it easier. But easier most definitely doesn’t mean more fun.
Take a look at “8 Beautiful Succulents That Flower” for a list of succulents that bloom during season.
This one is pretty obvious. If you go to a store or a market to get new plants, then you will spend money. There’s no going around it.
Although we know, seeds don’t cost that much, and if you want something of quality, then you shouldn’t be a cheapskate. Yeah, but have you counted how much you spend on seeds usually? That could be used for better soil or nutrients for your already grown plants. Because in reality, it’s not a huge amount, but it could still be used for other things.
Each time you proplift something, count it as a saved dollar. It will add up quickly if you pay close attention to your surroundings and try to find things you like.
Also, who doesn’t like free seeds?
Asking for seeds is a great way to start talking to other plant lovers. It opens up the conversation to not only talk about that one given succulent but to also converse about others you two have. This works exceptionally well if you are asking this favor of your neighbor.
You will quickly find a friend that is equally as invested in growing plants as you. You need to put yourself out there.
Check out “How to Grow Succulents from Seeds” to see also a guide on growing succulents right from scratch.
If you want all the benefits listed above, plus the happiness that comes with acquiring a completely new plant, then you need to start proplifting. If you do it the right way, then nobody will see you as a thief or a bad person, just as someone who has a love for succulents. It’s a perfectly fine thing to do, so don’t let people deter you with their judgment.
Have you proplifted before? What kind of plant was it? Tell us down in the comments below!
Make sure to check out related articles to improve your succulent knowledge like “Choosing the Right Pot for Your Succulents” or even “Thanksgiving Cactus – Schlumbergera Truncata“.
Enjoyed learning about proplifting succulents? If so, you’ll really enjoy our ebook about “Essential Tools for Planting the Best Succulents“. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.