Bloodspot mangave & succulent wall

My gardening rule of thumb, frequently broken (the rule, not the thumb), is to stop planting by May 1 in order to avoid having to establish new plants under the Death Star. But I make exceptions for cacti and succulents, which require little supplemental water. Still our Death Star is such that many succulents do best in dappled or morning sun, with protection from the midday and afternoon sun. So most of mine are clustered on the upper patio, where a spreading live oak protects them from sunburn. This is ‘Bloodspot’ mangave, which delights me with its color and form.

The concrete-block wall holds another succulent collection.

Something’s been gnawing the echeverias, caterpillars I think, and the occasional squirrel tries to dig in the planting pockets, but overall the wall has been pretty low-care. I really like it.

I bought this container planted with a Kalanchoe and an Aloe zanzibarica, also known as Aloe juvenna (thanks for the IDs, Jenn and RBell!) from Natural Gardener years and years ago. I’ve simply pinched back some of the stems from time to time as they got a little unruly, and I bring it indoors when it freezes. I water it maybe once a week. How easy is that?

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

18 Responses

  1. Colleen Dean says:

    I was moving a kalanchoe just like this one last Friday when my hand bumped right into a new Agave Scabra I have still in a pot, deciding where to plant. I broke off a spine into the tender bit of hand between my knuckles and am now on the hunt for a hand surgeon who is willing to go in there and dig it out! I really love agaves, but MAN does that hurt. My joints ache. ugh. Anyhow, I’ll figure it out and keep on planting. Glad I found your blog. – Colleen in Dallas

    Ouch! Agaves have very irritating spines (and sap), as you learned the hard way. Yes, you should get that spine out of your hand as soon as possible. I hope it doesn’t put you off agaves though. They’re such beautiful plants! Thanks for visiting, Colleen. —Pam

  2. Juliet says:

    I love it!! I have been thinking about creating raised beds with cinder blocks and planting them with succulents & cacti but I never would’ve thought about doing some blocks in the other direction! How did you get the soil to stay in the floating cinder blocks? Oh and the Death Star – LOL.

    Hi, Juliet. Click on my link for concrete-block wall for the scoop on how I constructed it. It’s a fun project. Good luck with yours! —Pam

  3. David C. says:

    Which fence is the succulent wall along? Is it also shaded by the live oak? (I am forgetting the N-S orientation of your gardens)

    When you pen your book, my only request is that you incorporate “Death Star” into the title!

    Ha! Maybe I could go with a whole, geeky Star Wars theme for a garden book. What do you think? The squirrels could be Chew-bacca. I’d be Pam Solo, of course. Could talk about Leia-ing stone and mulch. Too much?

    My back garden faces south, and the wood fence you see behind the succulent wall is on the west side of the yard. If it weren’t for the live oak shading the upper patio, the succulent wall (and that end of the house) would be blasted by the Death Star. Thank heavens for trees, as I remind myself each March when the big, messy leaf and pollen drop begins for these live oaks. —Pam

  4. Sheila says:


    Thanks, Sheila. —Pam

  5. Jenn says:

    That first photo is jaw-droppingly awesome. Nice combo.

    Your Kalanchoe is K. luciae, it’s pot companion is an Aloe. Which aloe I should know, but don’t. Hmmm.

    (Aha! My excel spreadsheet IS proving useful. I believe your Aloe is Aloe zanzibarica)

    Thanks for the ID, Jenn. I don’t know why, but I would never have guessed it was an aloe. And I’m glad you like that top photo. I’ve been admiring that combo in my trough planter for weeks and was glad to finally capture it for the blog. —Pam

  6. I love, love, love that combo in the first photo. And I would definitely buy your Star Wars Gardening book!

    Ha! Thanks, Kelly. —Pam

  7. RBell says:

    Think the Aloe is also known as A. juvenna (synonyms perhaps?). And you say you pinch it back occasionally – I never would have thought of that with an aloe; mine certainly gets long then cascades outward. Will have to try a pinch here & there.

    Thanks for the ID, RBell. Dave’s Garden says Aloe juvenna and Aloe zanzibarica are indeed one and the same. As for the pinching, I’d probably never have tried it if I’d realized it was an aloe. But yes, I’ve nipped back the drooping stems a few times with good results. Maybe a pruning back would be a better way to describe it than a pinch. —Pam

  8. Candy Suter says:

    Wonderful plantings! Love that first shot too, what a great combo in color and texture. And of course your wall is looking amazing!

    Many thanks, Candy. —Pam

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is why I love succulents. They don’t demand much attention and look so neat and tidy.

    How’s your succulent picture doing, Lisa? Has it rooted in yet? —Pam

  10. Nicole says:

    Love that mangave! This part of your garden looks really lovely and striking, the concrete block wall quite architectural.

    Thanks, Nicole. I’ve been having fun! —Pam

  11. Beautiful plant combo in the first photo! The cinderblock planting wall is cool too — let us know how it does in the heat of the summer please!

    Will do, Alan. It’s all a big experiment, gardening under the Death Star. ;-) —Pam

  12. Robyn says:

    Zoe planted a small container succulent garden late last summer and was so proud of it. .. .until the dang squirrels discovered it and unplanted everything. Every night. Again and again and again. She finally just gave up. I wonder if a layer of gravel on the top would prevent the squirrel destruction??

    I’m afraid not. I mulched all my succulents with decomposed granite, but the squirrels still get into it. I’ve heard that sprinkling hot pepper can help. —Pam

  13. Your wall is looking so wonderful! The mangave is so perfect with your design.

    Thank you, Cameron. I need a few more of them! —Pam

  14. ricki says:

    Your concrete block wall is stunning: a much better thought-out version of something I have tinkered with in the past. Time to try again after seeing yours.

    Have fun making your own version, Ricki! —Pam

  15. Layanee says:

    I haven’t really seen ‘the death star’ for a week or more. What does it look like? Your wall looks great and I love those platters on the fence. Let’s have a closeup.

    It looks white-hot and bleary, Layanee. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Lately we’ve had a reprieve, and I’m so grateful. I’ll try to remember to get a close-up of my Mexican trays for you soon. —Pam

  16. Gail says:

    I have several gardening rules/guidelines that I try to follow and frequently break. It’s a lot more fun that way! The concrete wall is fantastic…I love it planted up and filling out. gail

    Thanks, Gail. Let’s keep breaking those rules! —Pam

  17. Yep, I’m behind the curve on my May 1 cut-off this year. Not fun to plant in the heat for plants or us. But I must have that Bloodspot mangave. Did you get it in town? Also, really really love your concrete block wall!

    Linda, I can’t remember where I got this ‘Bloodspot’ mangave, but I’ve seen them in the past at Hill Country Water Gardens and the Great Outdoors. Better call before you go, as I haven’t seen any lately. I’d love to have another couple myself. —Pam

  18. Tracey says:

    Hi Pam! I’m a fellow Austinite and have loved reading your blog over the past year. Such gorgeous, inspiring pictures and rich descriptions! What is the variegated succulent in the first photo (next to the stunning mangave)? I bought several of these at Natural Gardener in the spring and I love them, but I don’t know what they are. Thanks!

    Hi, Tracey. Thanks for reading and for the kind words! The variegated sedum is, I think, Sedum lineare ‘Variegatum.’ Isn’t it lovely? —Pam