The low maintenance growth habit of succulents, including infrequent supplemental waterings, makes these perennial plants garden favorites for busy people, as well as both novices and experts. For a successful garden in your small side yard, choose succulents based on the amount of sun, type of soil and size of the space available in the target area. The defining characteristic of these plants are their thick water-retaining leaves, roots or stems.
1. Mixed Containers
Optimize your small space with certain succulents ideal for mixed perennial containers. Stonecrop “Pinky” (Sedum “Pinky”) offers deer- and rabbit-resistant foliage painted with pink and cream, and its light-pink blossoms attract bees and butterflies. This drought-tolerant plant spreads 8 to 12 inches wide in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Just the right choice for partial shade, cotyledon (Chiastophyllum oppositifolium) sprouts weeping chains of small, bright-yellow blossoms. This unique evergreen enjoys average or moist soil and spreads 10 to 12 inches wide in USDA zones 5 through 9. Both succulents grow 6 to 8 inches tall.
2. Afternoon Shade, Attracts Butterflies
A plant doesn't have to be big to attract butterflies. Gold nugget ice plant (Delosperma congestum) produces yellow flowers from spring into fall and thrives in poor soil, such as gravel scree. This drought-tolerant, evergreen grows 2 to 3 inches tall by 18 to 23 inches wide in USDA zones 4 through 9. Harvest light blue, fragrant blossoms for cut flower arrangements with creeping Jacob’s ladder “Touch of Class” (Polemonium reptans “Touch of Class”). In average to moist soil, its foliage looks lush all season. “Touch of Class” grows 10 to 16 inches tall by 16 to 18 inches wide in USDA zones 3 through 9.
3. Edging for Hot, Dry Rock Gardens
Certain succulents make wonderful edging for small garden beds in hot, dry rock gardens. Silver gem stonecrop (Rhodiola pachyclados) displays white to soft-pink blossoms and grows 2 to 4 inches tall by 8 to 12 inches wide in USDA zones 3 through 9. Evergreen in mild winter climates, deer and rabbits leave it alone. Century plant (Agave parryi) forms rosettes that rarely flower and grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet high by 2 to 3 feet wide in USDA zones 7 through 10. This evergreen looks spectacular as ground cover and is the plant used to make tequila.
4. Compact Shrubs
A compact, evergreen succulent shrub adds vertical interest and a focal point to your small side yard year-round without taking up too much space. Slipper plant (Pedilanthus tithymaloides) displays zig-zag stems you can prune to maintain a desired size. This succulent grows 2 to 6 feet tall by 1 to 2 feet wide in USDA zones 9 through 11 and offers red flowers. Slipper plant’s milky sap is poisonous. Dollar plant (Crassula ovata), also known as jade plant, begets white to pink flowers and grows 3 to 6 feet tall in USDA zones 11 through 12. In cooler climates, you can grow both succulents indoors and escort them outside in the summer.
- University of Florida Extension: Succulent Gardens
- Perennials.com: Chiastophyllum Oppositifolium
- Perennials.com: Sedum "Pinky"
- Perennials.com: Polemonium Reptans "Touch of Class"
- Perennials.com: Delosperma Congestum
- Perennials.com: Rhodiola Pachyclados
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Agave Parryi
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Pedilanthus Tithymaloides
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Crassula Ovata
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images