It's no secret that the United States is in various stages of drought. Although only parts of the country are labeled "exceptional drought" (think tumbleweeds and cow skulls) by the U.S. Drought Monitor, 38 states are in different stages of dryness.
While this may not have a daily affect on most, the state of drought around the nation is dire. But besides doing the rain dance, what can individuals do to conserve water while still having a garden or outside environment that they enjoy?
One word: succulents.
Don't know what those are? You probably do, but you may not know these plants by that name. Succulents are plants that retain water; therefore, they don't need much of the wet stuff to survive. The most common type of succulents are cacti. But what have become more popular in the recent years are the succulents that are more pleasing to the eyes, plants that come in strange shapes, sizes and colors.
"They look like they are from another planet," says Carl Dykema, the owner of Exotic Gardens, a cactus and succulents nursery. He goes on to say that these plants can grow from ground-crawler size all the way to 10-foot-tall monsters. Plants are available in green, red-orange, purple and every other color in between.
Dykema says that homeowners, especially as of late, are noticing that water prices continue to rise and are looking for ways to cut down that bill. Even municipalities are encouraging homeowners to conserve water; he points to San Diego, where the city is offering rebates to homeowners to tear out their grass and put in succulents because they require less water.
Besides keeping the water bill low, succulents also are affordable, require very little maintenance and -- because of the variety of colors and shapes they come in -- can be mixed and matched to create any look the homeowner dreams up.
These plants not only are great outside and around the house -- pot them inside and they add pops of color and vegetation to any room -- but also are being used in weddings to take the place of traditional cut flowers.
"They are sturdy and can be purchased weeks in advance, unlike standard centerpiece flowers," says Jenn Mobley, a wedding coordinator for Eventity Inc. "We have some clients who purchase the succulents months in advance and care for and water them during the months approaching their wedding."
Mobley cites some of the same reasons that couples are using the succulents for weddings as Dykema noted about homeowners; the plants are hearty, come in a variety of colors and can add a fun look to any arrangement. But Mobley says the kicker is that succulents are almost always cheaper than cut flowers, a big bonus for any bride trying to stick to a budget.
"Succulents are very affordable, especially purchased from a local grower in your community. You will likely spend more on the pots associated with the succulents than with the cost of the plants themselves," she says.
Whether you'll be using these plants around your house or in your upcoming nuptials, it's good to keep a few things in mind.
Dykema says that the most important factor when planting succulents in a garden or lawn is the soil. If the soil is hard and rocky, add sand and compost, following that up with a good rototill to mix everything together. "If you want the plants to grow quickly and look good, the soil is key," he advises.
For weddings, Mobley cautions against including the spikey and sharp succulent varieties; no one likes a poked-out eye.
So the next time you're eyeing your water bill or playing in the grass, think about whether you could conserve water by adding a succulent or two to your home environment.