Beautiful brutes

These succulents lend grace to any garden
Debra Lee Baldwin

Following is a list of Patrick Anderson's favorite succulents. Large succulents do best in frost-free areas but may tolerate a few degrees below freezing. Inland, they like dappled shade during the summer months (keep them clean of leaf litter that might harbor snails, mealybugs, and other pests).

Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'. Deep bronze, almost black rosettes, up to 6 inches wide. Grows to a 3-foot branched shrub. Good bedding plant; cut back every couple of years to keep it low and replant cuttings.

Agave attenuata. Forms huge rosettes of spineless, gray-green leaves. Very sculptural. 'Nova', a blue-gray variety, is more difficult to find but worth seeking for its striking color.

Agave parryi huachucensis. Spiny, symmetrical rosettes resemble foot-wide gray artichokes edged with black. Offsets freely; eventually forms attractive colonies. Good for smaller garden areas, but not where children play.

Aloe arborescens (tree aloe). Branches from the base to form a large shrub of overlapping gray-green, spiny leaves. Numerous deep orange flower spikes appear in early winter and stay six weeks or more. Attracts hummingbirds.

Aloe brevifolia. Small (6-inch) blue-gray rosettes have white teeth on leaf edges. Offsets can be transplanted to create an attractive ground cover, or left alongside the mother plant to form low-growing clumps. Salmon-orange flowers on 16-inch spikes in summer.

Aloe cameronii. Hard to find, but worth seeking. Produces bright scarlet flowers in midwinter. Leaves turn brilliant red in the summer sun. Branches freely to form a low, mounding shrub about 18 inches tall by 3 feet wide.

Aloe ferox. Large (2-foot-wide) solitary rosettes in gray or green with thorned leaves eventually form a single-trunk tree. Upright, multibranched stems bear yellow to deep orange flowers from December through February. A striking, if intimidating, specimen plant.

Aloe striata (coral aloe). Tapered pale green leaves bordered in red are smooth, fleshy, and thornless. Solitary ground-hugging rosettes rarely offset, but each produces brilliant orange flowers. Stunning when planted in groups.

Crassula falcata (propeller plant). Low, sprawling succulent with sickle-shaped, leathery gray leaves in opposite pairs. Fragrant flowers in late summer resemble scarlet heads of broccoli.

Echinocactus grusonii (golden barrel cactus). Magnificent, spherical cactus covered with bright yellow curved spines. Position where it will be illuminated by late-afternoon sun. Large specimens can be expensive and tend to be snapped up by professional landscapers. Plant small and be patient.

Euphorbia ingens. Valuable for large, vertical form. Bright green branching trunks eventually form a tree. Make sure you have room for it--cutting it back is dangerous because of its caustic sap.

Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns). A small woody shrub with branches covered by fierce-looking but fairly harmless spines. Blooms (technically, bracts) appear all year, in various shades of pink, yellow, or red.

Euphorbia rigida. Scaly gray leaves on branches up to 2 feet tall are topped by clusters of brilliant chartreuse bracts in late winter. Reseeds; weed out the ones you don't want.