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WINTER CARE- GLAZED AND TERRA COTTA POTTERY

Glazed and Terra Cotta Pottery

Terra cotta and earthenware are naturally slightly porous to allow plants inside of them to breathe.  So, even though our glazed and terra cotta pottery is subjected to stringent testing in freeze and thaw conditions, damage can still occur in freezing temperatures. If there is any water left in the pots, it can expand and cause the pot to crack. The glazed and terra cotta pots are frost-resistant but there is still the concern that the freeze and thaw cycle will occur.  It is important to either bring them indoors during the winter or to follow the winter care instructions for the fountains and planters above.

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WINTER CARE- CAST STONE PLANTERS AND STATUARY

Planters and Statuary

Bringing your planters and statuary indoors for the winter is ideal. This protects them from the freeze/thaw cycle.  If you are planning to leave your planter or garden statuary outside during the freezing cold weather, please follow these steps-

  1. Raise planters up off the ground making sure the drainage hole is not blocked. Pressure treated wood should be used. This allows the soil to drain and will keep the planter from freezing to the ground. If the planter freezes to the ground, soil may expand inside thus causing cracks or crumbling.
  2. Put small stones, gravel or terra cotta chips at the bottom of the planter before adding the soil to help with drainage.
  3. If the planter is not planted, turn the planter upside down. Place the planter on wood strips and cover or wrap it with burlap or another absorbent material such as old blankets and towels. Then wrap the planter with dark plastic to prevent moisture from accumulating. Periodically check it to make sure moisture is not getting in.
  4. Make sure that water and snow does not pool around the planter or statuary.
  5. Statuary must be cleaned and covered just like planters.

The reason you need to winterize your cast stone decor is because cast stone concrete, is slightly porous. This allows moisture to absorb into the cast stone and it can then freeze. Since there is very little room to expand, the moisture can cause small cracks or chips. It can also lead to the paint peeling.

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WINTER CARE- CAST STONE FOUNTAINS AND BIRDBATHS

Fountains and Birdbaths

It is very important for you to protect your cast stone fountain and birdbath from the freeze-thaw cycle during the winter months. Cast Stone fountains and décor that can collect water, should not be left outside when temperatures dip down to freezing. Any cast stone component that can hold water and freeze has the potential to crack and crumble. Components such as fountain pedestals which remain in a basin/pool can also crack or crumble. Ideally a fountain should be stored indoors or in a dry protected place such as a covered porch or garage that is away from the elements.

If you are unable to bring your fountain indoors, follow the following tips:

  1. Remove the pump, drain pipes, stoppers, finials, and other smaller components and store inside. The stoppers and/or drain pipes are removed to allow moisture to drain in the event water gets into the basin.
  2. It is recommended that you raise the fountain base or any garden accent that will be left outdoors, from the ground. Use wood strips so the base does not freeze to the ground surface.
  3. Use old blankets and towels inside the bowls to absorb any moisture. Properly dry out the fountain including all crevices. It is strongly recommended to cover your cast stone fountain with a waterproof fountain cover. If you do not have a fountain cover, you can cover your fountain or birdbath with waterproof plastic. It is essential that you make sure that moisture will not accumulate in the basin or other fountain components and freeze.
  4. Make sure that this plastic will stay on the garden accents by securing it with rope or other material. If you are using a cover, make sure it fits properly and is taut.  This ensures that snow and water will not pool on the fountain cover.
  5. It is important to check the fountain periodically to make sure the plastic and/or cover is secure and water is not accumulating in any fountain components.

Concrete, including cast stone concrete, is slightly porous. This allows moisture to absorb into the fountain. In freezing temperatures, this moisture can freeze. Since there is very little room to expand, the moisture can cause small cracks or chips. It can also lead to the paint peeling.

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The Ultimate Outdoor Fireplace Guidebook

At Outdoor Art Pros, we offer a variety of products to enhance your outdoor living space. One of our main expertise is in outdoor fireplaces. We offer several types of styles and burning methods. Many of these can even be bought with matching or complimentary outdoor furniture. This guidebook is sure to answer many of your questions and help you choose the perfect outdoor fireplace.


 

What Is an Outdoor Fireplace?

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An outdoor fireplace is exactly what it sounds like, which is a fireplace outside of a home or other building. They can be made from a variety of materials, all non-flammable to prevent injury or destruction. Some of the most common building materials associated with fireplaces include brick and stone, which are unaffected by the flames and take longer to heat than metal.

History
Most fireplaces originated as pits which were constructed outside of the dwelling, even as far back as when humans lived in caves, or just inside for warmth. These old fireplaces lacked significant ventilation or ways for the users to control the flames, but archaeological remains can be found on all five inhabited continents. Being able to make and manage to control fire is actually a significant archaeological marker in the development of ancient groups of homo sapiens, the original forebears of humans.

Eventually, these fire pits became raised hearths which offered a little more protection from the flames spreading throughout a building. Unfortunately, the issue of ventilation still existed. Smoke is harmful to inhale, and older humans were constantly breathing it in while trying to cook and stay warm. Venting was done through holes in the ceiling or high windows, and some buildings from the Middle Ages include smoke canopies to stop the smoke from spreading into the room. Louvers were also used around large vents to stop rain or snow from getting into the building. A louver looks almost exactly like a shutter that consists of thin wooden slats that can be opened and closed.

Figure 1 – A Louver

In some outdoor fireplaces, similar technologies continue to exist. Modern uses of canopies and louvers continue to be used to control where the smoke exits the fireplace to prevent it from blowing towards the people sitting near the fire. However, these older technologies have fallen to the wayside as installers prefer to use a more recent invention: the chimney.

Chimneys originated in northern Europe around the 11th or 12th centuries CE, which makes sense since the region would have been one of the coldest areas where ancient peoples lived. These chimneys were crudely constructed, expensive, and poorly ventilated. It wasn’t until housing became more standardized and modernized around the 18th century that inventors and architects began to develop safer fireplace designs which could be used indoors and outdoors. The three most important developments in fireplace technology, and the ones still used today, are the improved grate design, the convection chamber, and tall and shallow firebox. All help move smoke away from people while pushing the heat forward where it is needed.



Figure 2 – Chimneys in Standardized Housing

So, why is this history of indoor fireplaces significant to the outdoors? The answer is simple. Most of the development and inventions which went towards making the indoor fireplaces safer and easier to use are now mimicked in outdoor models. Without these developments, people would be unable to sit outside and enjoy the luxury of a fire that has devices designed to keep smoke away while pushing the heat towards them.

Many inventions like higher grates and new methods of generating heat also mean that individuals have numerous cosmetic and practical options from which to choose. For example, a homeowner can now install an electric outdoor fireplace that is simple and unadorned or lined with terracotta because the development of reliable vents and new forms of generating power make it safe, easy, and affordable to do so. Not everyone wants to enjoy the aesthetic of a fire pit or campfire, which often ends in people coughing from smoke or dodging errant sparks and flames.

Modern Times
The idea to construct an entire fireplace outdoors is actually a very modern invention, as seen by the brief history above. While people had exterior fire pits or ovens, building a contemporary-style fireplace didn’t really start until the 20th century. This transition signifies and important shift in the function of a fireplace. Before, they were necessary for heating homes and cooking food. Now, a fireplace is decorative or made for enjoyment.

Before the 20th century, outdoor fireplaces were frequently considered luxuries or even downright silly, but they have become more affordable in the 21st century. Unlike simple fire pits, an outdoor fireplace makes a great focal center and is often part of a porch or pavilion. Many are built with group entertainment in mind and there is often a lot of seating space nearby. Now, there are over five different fuel options that people can choose from, each with their pros, cons, and price points that individuals need to consider.

 

Wood and Chiminea

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It makes sense for wood burning outdoor fireplaces  and Chimineas to be listed under the same section because they often go hand in hand with one another. Wood works both as a fuel and as a construction materials for certain segments of a fireplace. As someone could imagine, it’s not a good idea to build the entire fireplace out of wood because it is highly flammable and likely to burst into flames when dry. A Chiminea isn’t a material but is a style of outdoor fireplace which often uses wood as its source of fuel. Both are extremely old fireplace technologies which continue to be popular because of their availability, durability, and natural, rustic appearance. The majority of outdoor fireplaces are wood-burning like the Chiminea.

Wood
Wood is not always a building material for outdoor fireplaces but is a common fuel. Wood is cheap and plentiful in many locations around the United States, especially in the northeast and Midwest. During certain seasons, it’s possible to purchase firewood at the side of the road. People who own a wood-burning fireplace can also gather their own materials, but experts recommend that firewood be allowed to dry out for at least six months to a year to make sure moisture hasn’t built up.
Finally, there are a few basic rules individuals should follow when using a wood-burning exterior fireplace. There are certain woods which work better than others at catching and maintaining a flame, including hickory, oak, hard maple, and ash. These are considered hard woods, which are barks and wood from dicot trees. A dicot tree is any deciduous tree which flowers to reproduce and has broad leaves. The wood does not collect as much moisture and dries out more easily than other types, making it ideal for this style of outdoor fireplace. Surprisingly, it is not harder than softwood.
When it comes to fueling a wood-based outdoor fireplace, some models might recommend different woods over others. Users should read all of the warnings and instructions that come with a premade fireplace or perform some research of their own. An outdoor fireplace with this style of fueling is typically either front-loading or shaped more like a bowl or pit where wood can be added through the top.

Figure 3 – A Front-Loading Wood-Burning Stove

Wood is also available as paneling for an interior or exterior fireplace. With these designs, the actual fireplace itself, especially the parts exposed to heat and flames, are made from another, more durable material. People can find fireplaces constructed of stone, bricks, or even plastic and synthetics covered with wooden slats, tiles, or entire panels. The most common style with a wooden exterior is the traditional, rectangular chimney fireplace with a front-loading section, a grate, and other accoutrements. This is because this style is one of the only ones with a clearly defined interior and exterior.

When wood is used to cover fireplaces for decorative purposes, it needs to be treated. First, because there is still a chance it might be exposed to flames and second, because it is outside. Outdoor fireplaces have many environmental hazards they need to deal with, including wind, rain, and extreme temperatures. Wood is organic and will break down over time, so manufacturers usually treat and seal it with chemicals and varnish. These additives ensure it maintains its luster and beautiful appearance over time.

Some examples of the woods available for outdoor fireplace paneling include maple, oak, mahogany, teak, and even birch. The stains applied to the wood can also change its color, so people can find both light and dark options from premade fireplaces.

Chiminea
Chimineas are extremely popular for individuals who want an outdoor fireplace which is also portable. The name developed from the Spanish word for chimney, which is chimenea. One of the most significant and distinguishing characteristics of this style of fireplace is its bulbous, round body which users load from the front. The most common fuels used inside one are wooden logs – as seen below – or a form of charcoal.

The original design for the Chiminea first appeared over 400 years ago around Spain and can also be found in regions of Latin and South America, including Mexico. Chimineas used to be like an indoor, portable oven and fireplace which could be kept near a window for better ventilation. Once new and safer methods of cooking and home heat became available, the Chiminea gradually moved outside for entertainment purposes.

The full design of the Chiminea keeps smoke away the people using it, but it’s still possible for the smoke to blow back towards those gathered around the fireplace. In particular, the long pipe vents smoke out of the top away from individuals while the small entrance to the rotund body keeps the amount of escaped material to a minimum. It can also be difficult to clean since ashes and soot build up on the inside and an individual needs to stick their hands inside the body to fully wipe the Chiminea down.


Figure 4 – Chiminea
The Chiminea continues to be a popular and inexpensive option for people seeking an outdoor fireplace which can be moved from one location to another.

 

 

 

 

Ethanol and Propane

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Ethanol Outdoor Fireplaces and Propane Outdoor Fireplaces are very different from one another but fall under the category of “medium price range.” These fuel types are cheap and plentiful but require more sophisticated designs than traditional wood. Both fuels are also easy to acquire, especially since many of the regions of the United States are attempting to move away from traditional fossil fuels or require propane to run devices like grills.

Ethanol
People who hear of an ethanol fireplace might be confused. Usually when people refer to ethanol as a fuel, they think of the distilled liquid taken from crops like corn which is used in cars. This liquid is the same kind used in some outdoor fireplaces because it functions as a “clean” fuel. Ethanol fires do not produce as much carbon monoxide or oxides of nitrogen as others, so it is safer to be around than traditional smoke and fire fumes. The trick with an outdoor ethanol fireplace is for the owner to make sure they buy the right kind of ethanol to start a fire. There are dozens of different types, including ethanol which is drinking alcohol and the kind used in labs for experiments. An example of this lab ethanol is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5 – A Bottle of Ethanol

The main pro of an outdoor ethanol fireplace is that it is safer for humans and the environment. The byproducts of an ethanol fire mainly consist of water and carbon dioxide in miniscule amounts. The fire is also so clean that no ash or soot is left behind, meaning the owner has little to know cleaning to do once they are done with the fireplace.

Some other benefits of ethanol fireplaces relate to the product’s flexibility. Unlike many other styles, it takes almost no effort to light an outdoor ethanol fireplace. All an individual has to do is pour the fuel into the appropriate burner and turn the fireplace on. Ignition occurs in minutes or even seconds, meaning the outdoor ethanol fireplace is great for spur of the moment hangouts and entertainment. Outdoor models are also mobile and can be moved from one place to another since they don’t need to be connected to electricity or have a chimney. This gives people more options if they don’t know where in the yard they want the fireplace.

However, there are some important cons to this style. Ethanol fireplaces generate much less heat than other models, mainly because of the primary construction and design. Many of these outdoor fireplaces lack a fan or blower, which has the job of projecting heat away from the flames and towards the room or whoever is sitting in front of the grate. This is safer for the users but means individuals seeking an outdoor fireplace to warm an area for entertainment purposes might be disappointed.

Another crucial feature of ethanol fireplaces is safety. While these are just as safe as other models when used correctly it’s much easier for a novice to mess something up with an ethanol model. Many fireplaces come with a burner system built on top of cups which hold liquid. If some of the ethanol spills underneath this system, it will gather heat and eventually ignite in a place where it shouldn’t, causing damage and posing a significant risk to the people nearby. When purchasing an ethanol fireplace, individuals should carefully research the model they choose and NEVER add additional ethanol once the fireplace has already been lit. This scenario is akin to throwing gasoline on a fire and is extremely dangerous.

When handled properly though, an ethanol fireplace can be a great addition to any porch or backyard.

Propane
Propane fireplaces have been popular in the United States for a long time because they are easier to use than traditional wood models and are also more environmentally friendly. Instead of starting a fire with kindling, the user just needs to make sure there is enough fuel in the fireplace, turn on the gas, and then push a button for it to start. The flame can typically be adjusted with a dial. Propane is also 92% efficient, which means more of it is used for heat and light than wood, which is only 60% efficient as a fuel source.

So, what is propane? Propane is one of the byproducts of natural gas processing. It was discovered in 1857 and is a gas at its natural temperature but can be turned into a liquid for transportation. Propane used to be seen often in homes as the main source of heat and flames for appliances like stovetops, and more rural homes still use it. It is not a clean form of energy, but is one that is frequently found because of many countries’ reliance on natural gas. Almost 90% of the propane used in the United States is produced domestically, while the remaining 10% needs to be imported.


Figure – A Natural Gas Processing Plant
There are many reasons why someone might choose a propane outdoor fireplace. First and foremost, propane is a significantly cleaner fuel source than wood, although it can still be harmful because of the way it is obtained. These fireplaces are also clean and don’t produce soot or ash. Another major benefit is that they heat almost immediately. Anyone who owns a gas stovetop knows that the flames and associated heat kick on immediately once started, and the same is true for a propane fireplace. There is no waiting for the fire to heat up and keep people warm.

One of the main drawbacks of a typical propane fireplace is the necessity of running a gas line from a sizable tank to the fireplace itself. Most construction workers and professionals recommend a reasonable large propane storage unit so the owner doesn’t constantly need to refill it. For many outdoor fireplaces, a small propane tank can work, or there might even be an attached unit which can be filled. However, some will still require the full installation of a gas line, which can be expensive and prevents the fireplace from moving.

Another issue is that propane isn’t really considered an environmentally friendly fuel because of how it is gathered, and it can grow expensive quickly. Propane tanks are costly to refill, so the fireplace owner might not want to run it often. For convenience, though, the propane fireplace receives high marks, especially since it is easily vented outside. Users need to be careful not to breathe in too much of the gas, as it can affect humans and cause medical and health problems. When used outside, though, this problem almost ceases to exist.

 

Natural and Electric

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Natural gas and electric outdoor fireplaces are polar opposites of one another since one typically requires a gas line and the other can be plugged in. Both are more efficient than a traditional wood-burning fire and can be installed outside, although they might be more expensive.

Natural
A natural gas fireplace refers to one which uses something called natural gas. Natural gas is a fossil fuel located around the world. It is a hydrocarbon gas mixture which consists of many different materials like methane, carbon dioxide, helium, and nitrogen. It is a finite resource since it takes millions of years to create. What happens is decaying animal and plant matter slowly moves underneath the earth’s surface and becomes exposed to intense heat and pressure, which releases stored energy as gas.

Many people enjoy using natural gas fireplaces outdoors because they produce heat with relatively little fuel. This style additionally doesn’t create smoke or as many toxic elements while being easy to clean since there aren’t any ashes or soot. Most natural gas fireplaces are one of two types: vented or vent-less. Almost all outdoor models are vent-less since they don’t need a way to safely draw in oxygen and release byproducts. Since there is no room outside, there is no danger of lowering the oxygen levels to a potentially hazardous low. So, in an outdoor vent-less fireplace, the natural gas would suck oxygen in through the front opening and then simply release byproducts. Some of these byproducts include water and carbon monoxide, which can safely release into the atmosphere.

So, what are the pros and cons of natural gas? Well, natural gas is much cheaper than propane while still producing little mess for the owner to clean up. This style of fireplace also comes in many shapes and sizes, allowing owner customization that might not be found for other fuel types. One of the downsides, though, is natural gas is not the most heat efficient. It produces a fraction of the heat seen in propane, and is the rough equivalent of a wooden outdoor firepit. Another problem is that natural gas is not the best for the environment because of how it is produced – companies often engage in practices like fracking and drilling to collect the material.

Finally, a natural gas option could be mobile but might also be immobile. Some require the full establishment and installation of a gas line which connects to a larger tank in the home, while others might use a canister. Both can be costly to set up. However, since many homes in urban areas already run on natural gas, this step could be avoided by having the fireplace connected to a preexisting line.

Electric
Electric fireplaces are an unusual invention. These devices aren’t really fireplaces since they don’t generate or maintain a fire. Instead, they are a machine which runs on electricity and provides heat. Something interesting about this picture for the electric fireplace is that the perceptive observer can see that the logs are synthetic. This is a common feature in electric fireplaces since many people still enjoy the aesthetic of a natural fire even if they don’t like the danger, smoke, or smell. The logs are not real, do not burn, and do not need to be replaced.


Figure – An Electric Fireplace

There are numerous pros and cons with this style. One of the biggest benefits is that there are no potentially harmful byproducts to worry about. An individual who owns this kind of fireplace does not need to worry about smoke, carbon dioxide, or the release of any other gases. They can also start up their fireplace by flipping a switch and don’t need to have a separate gas line installed or stock up on propane or natural gas. A great feature on most electric models is being able to control the exact temperature by using an attached thermostat. Finally, most electric models are portable and can be moved inside or outside as the user sees fit.

One of the downsides of electric fireplaces are that they can be difficult to install outdoors. Most models have a cover to protect them from the elements like wind and rain, since it can be hazardous to get the wires wet. This additional protections adds extra costs to the overall price of the fireplace. Electricity also tends to be more expensive than wood or gas, so people can expect to have higher bills. Finally, the flames in these fireplaces aren’t the most realistic, so someone who owns one might be disappointed if they wanted a natural looking fire.

Electric fireplaces, including outdoor models, come in almost every shape and size and can use the majority of materials. They tend to be small and save people space while still looking great, so they are a wonderful option for people who want something small on the porch.

 

The Process of Installation

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Sometimes the process of installation is as simple as buying the fireplace online or from a store, bringing it home, and setting it out on the patio. In other cases, there is a lot of work which goes into it. A handmade fireplace will require purchasing the materials, working with a designer, and eventually constructing the new structure or pit, which takes a lot of time and money. Below is a full cost guide, as well as some things to consider when buying any style of outdoor fireplace.

Cost
There is a broad range of prices related to outdoor fireplace installation because of the different materials, styles, and systems available. On average, the full installation of an outdoor fireplace, including DIY and professional jobs, can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $20,000. However, these costs are form something built from the ground up. People who choose to purchase a pre-fabricated option can spend far less, usually between $1,000 and $5,000 for the fireplace itself and the installation.

So, what can an individual expect to spend for each of the popular fireplace types? Wood-burning and Chimineas tend to be the least expensive because they are also the simplest. After all, you don’t need any technology or gas lines to light wood on fire. Fire pits are exceptionally inexpensive, usually only costing between $200 and $500 depending on size and complexity. A Chiminea is similarly affordable, with most people only spending between $200 and $600. The only factors which really affect Chimineas are size and style, since they are a straightforward construct.

Ethanol fireplaces tend to be portable but relatively inexpensiveA small model capable of resting on a porch or patio table can be as much as $500 to $600, and the price increases from there. With this style, people tend to be willing to pay more because of the sheer convenience and cleanliness of an ethanol burning model, although they don’t have to in order to receive a beautiful outdoor fireplace.Propane fireplaces are larger and tend to be as low as $800. At first glance, they seem more expensive than ethanol, but ethanol actually costs much more per square inch, meaning a larger ethanol fireplace the size of a small propane one will be more expensive.

Finally, there are natural gas and electric. Natural gas fireplaces tend to be expensive, with the cheapest models still costing $800. Fancier or larger variations can reach up to $1,500, with some even costing $2,000. Despite the initial price, though, natural gas can save individuals money on fuel since the gas costs pennies compared to firewood. Electric is similar to natural gas since these models tend to be inexpensive to run but might require more investment in the beginning. Most people can expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000. Electric fireplaces additionally have fewer safety hazards that could be a problem later on.

Considerations
Before picking any outdoor fireplace, an individual needs to know the environment they live. Someone who lives somewhere hot and humid might have different needs than someone who lives in an area that is cold and dry. While companies design many outdoor fireplaces with the weather in mind, some styles might still come up short when faced with environmental hazards.

Materials like stone and metal work best in cold or stormy climates because they are especially durable and can withstand the wind and rain. Stone, in particular, is difficult to ruin although it can be expensive. Likewise, plastic and thin synthetics should stick to warmer, milder climates where they won’t potentially be blown away. Any fireplace with wooden paneling will need to be sealed but will keep its appearance better in a hot, dry climate. Glass can survive the heat and cold, but might face problems in the wind and storms, so it is a material best reserved for fireplaces that can be brought inside.

For fireplaces, size matters. An outdoor model should have a larger firebox so that wood of all sizes can fit and the heat is pushed towards the gathered people. Someone who needs a small fireplace should consider a clean, efficient fuel like ethanol or electricity. These two types can be the smallest while also wasting few resources, making them ideal for someone who wants a porch or patio accessory. Wood-burning and propane fireplaces can be much larger, and thus are ideal for bigger structures.

One consideration that doesn’t affect the fuel, but will affect the building material is style. Many people want their outdoor firepits to match their home and not look out of place. Someone living in an older, more traditional house might therefore like traditional materials like clay, brick, or stone. Newer homes tend to look better with more recent fireplace materials, such as glass, plastic, and other synthetics. Having a house made of a certain material doesn’t restrict what can be used in the fireplace, but it can affect the entire aesthetic of the yard. Typically, models that use more recent forms of fuel like ethanol or electricity can be made of more modern materials like plastics.

Finally, people need to consider what kind of fuel is available in their region. Not everyone will have natural gas lines running through their neighborhoods or easy access to propane, so those models might not work. Similarly, running an electric fireplace can put additional strain on the electrical system of a small house, so it’s important for anyone interested in an outdoor fireplace to do their research before picking a model.

 

Conclusion

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A lot of work goes into choosing an outdoor fireplace, but it can really bring together a patio or porch while giving people a place to hang out or socialize. Once someone decides what kind they would like to buy, it’s important to know all of the safety rules and regulations designed to keep people safe. Each fireplace will have some unique requirements, such as not pouring ethanol on a lit flame, but most also follow a few fundamental rules.

Basic Outdoor Fireplace Safety

  • Choose a thick material for the firebox to prevent cracking or breaking
  • Remember to keep the fireplace 3 ft. away from nearby surroundings
  • Don’t keep plants near the fireplace
  • Make sure the fuel shut-offs for gas fireplaces are easy to reach
  • Always keep some form of extinguisher (mechanical, water, sand, etc.) near the fireplace when lit
  • Maintain and clean all parts of the structure regularly
  • Do not leave a fire unattended
  • No fireplace should be left on a wooden deck
  • Do not burn trash or plastic
  • Do not put the fireplace near tree branches or electrical wires

A lot of these rules seem like common sense, but many people forget fundamental safety because they are having too much fun with their new fireplace. These rules apply to all types of fireplaces, including ones run by ethanol or electricity. If something does go wrong with the fireplace, the best course of action is to not panic and call the fire department. Be sure to use the extinguisher if possible, and avoid touching any wires or metal in the case of an electrical mishap.

Now that there is a clear understanding of the types of outdoor fireplaces, how they work, and the pros and cons, be prepared to enjoy a brand new centerpiece for all outdoor gatherings.

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The Ultimate Succulent Guidebook by Outdoor Art Pros

Succulent plants have become quite popular, most likely because of their low maintenance and trendy desert appearance. They are great for just about anyone, even if you don’t have a lot of planting experience. Some people are looking for just a couple to place in their kitchen while others may be looking to do an entire garden to compliment other features in their yards, such as a water fountain. Knowing which succulent plants are right for you and your living space can be tricky, so we have provided the ultimate succulent guidebook. This gives you all the information you need to know to take care of succulent plants, and even what types of planters are recommended. 


Table of Contents

What Is a Succulent?

The Two Types of Succulents

What Succulents Are Easy to Grow?

Where to Place Succulents and the Best Containers

Types of Soil Needed to Grow Successful Succulents

How Much to Water Your Succulent

How Much Sunlight Your Succulent Needs

What Is a Succulent?

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Succulents are unusual plants for people who spent their childhood in the United States because they aren’t grown naturally in many regions. For most individuals, these plants look like something fresh from the imagination of a creative writer with their unusual shapes, strange textures, and intriguing names. Raising succulents is one of the most popular, current trends in the United States. It seems like every store sells many varieties, and it’s not uncommon to see succulent growing classes and even planting parties across the country. But what exactly is a succulent?

Succulents are plants which evolved to possess fleshy parts that store water. These sections help the plant survive in arid and dry climates, such as deserts, where there is little moisture to keep the succulent nourished. The fleshy areas can be part of the leaves, stem, or roots. The most important component of this definition is that these areas need to be made of special water-storing tissue. Many look like rosettes, with their leaves or petals clustered around the stem. Colloquially, people will distinguish between succulents and cacti, which technically count but have some different characteristics.

For example, a cactus has something known as areoles. These areoles are where extra features grow, such as the famous cactus needles. Cacti also do not have leaves or branches, unlike the majority of plants which can be considered succulents. Despite these differences, all cacti are succulents even though not all succulents are cacti, sort of like how all thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs.

Fig. 1 Cactus with Defined Areoles

People can further identify succulents by feeling the leaves or stem, or by seeing the inside of these sections. Many people describe the leaves as feeling squishy, or kind of like a stiff container full of jam. Although firm, the areas with water-storing tissue have some give and feel thick and soft. The inside of a succulent will usually be full of a gel-like substance and quite moist. Aloe vera is a popular variety and one that most people will have seen inside and outside.

 

Fig. 2 Aloe Plant Exteriors

As can be seen in Figure 2, the aloe plant consists of bunches of thick green leaves. These can grow to impressive lengths of 29 to 34 in. long. People who have seen the plant in person might recall how the interior is full of a gel that can be used to treat sunburns and other skin ailments. This is a primary characteristic of succulents because of the water-storing tissues. In fact, the word “succulent” is a synonym for juicy or full of juice, which references this particular characteristic.


Succulents themselves are not an actual plant family. Instead, they can be found all throughout the botanical kingdom, with over 25 different scientific families having plants that meet the requirements. The succulents most individuals grow are members of a group called the xerophytes.


Xerophytes are plants designed to survive in arid, dry climates with little rainfall. These come from regions in the southwestern United States, Latin America, and South America. Most of them have waxy leaves in addition to juicy interiors. Stems tend to be thick and stout, and the roots spread out underneath the surface of the soil and don’t go deep. Some examples of xerophyte succulents include the ever-popular aloe vera, the agave, haworthia, peperomia, kalanchoe, and bryophyllum. Surprisingly, pineapples also count!


Compared to other plants found in homes, succulents are some of the healthiest options for gardens. They suffer from few diseases and are typically left alone by pests. They also hold their ground against invasive plants like grass and dandelions, instead being able to thrive despite opposition. Once planted, succulents will last for years, unlike other perennials which might perish after a single season of blooms.

So, a succulent can be any of these plants which have juicy, fleshy leaves, thick stems, shallow roots, and require little water and lots of sunlight. They are easy to care for and require little weekly attention to ensure they thrive. But how should an individual decide what to grow, and how can they care for them?

 

The Two Types of Succulents

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People divide succulents into two primary groups: hardy and soft. These descriptors refer to how durable a plant is and the type of environment it enjoys. Despite sharing similar characteristics, some succulents would rather spend their time in the desert while others thrive in the tundra. When planting outdoors, gardeners should determine the climate they live in, how much rainfall should be expected throughout the year, and the minimum and maximum temperatures reached. This helps individuals determine whether the right succulent for them is hardy or soft.

Hardy Succulents     
Hardy succulents are fleshy plants which survive and even thrive in barren, cold climates where other plants might fail. They originate from northern, frigid regions. Most of them come from the areas known as Zones 3, 4, and 5 for plant hardiness. Zone 3 is the warmest of the trio and refers to a region where the average lowest temperature is -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 4 stops at -30 degrees Fahrenheit, and Zone 5 ends at -20 degrees. Despite preferring the ice and snow, hardy succulents also thrive in semiarid regions and live nicely indoors.

Many people don’t associate succulents with cold climates, but they are popular for outdoor gardens because they are durable and don’t die in frost or snow. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures, but most tend to be compact and grow in clusters. They are easy to propagate and don’t require a lot of work. Strangely, most hardy succulents are also smaller than their soft cousins. Most do not grow more than a foot off of the ground, at which point they begin to struggle and seem to lose their ability to combat frost and cold. Some might require a period of winter dormancy, where they don’t bloom but also don’t die.

When planting a hardy succulent, it’s important that they have well-drained soil with a higher elevation. This prevents the buildup of pools of water, which become cold or freeze during the long winter months. It’s also crucial that snow be cleared from taller plants because the extra weight can damage the leaves and pads. While the succulent might recover, an open scar makes it easier for the water-storing tissue on the inside to form ice crystals and freeze. Internal freezing can kill the plant.

Examples
Some of the most well-known hardy succulents are members of the scientific family Crassulaceae. Among this family are significant species like the hen and chicks. One of their most defining characteristics is the simplistic nature of the plants. Members of Crassulaceae tend to have short, compact shapes with plain flowers of yellow or white. They can be found throughout the world and have been a mainstay in the gardens of homes in the United States for decades.

Sedum is an enormous genus within the Crassulaceae family that features flowering plants also called stonecrops that tend to stretch across the ground. Although there are some longer-leafed varieties and shrubberies, the smaller, tighter plants that seem to crawl along the garden survive the longest. These members of the family can be considered hardy and can survive everything from heavy rainfall to a dry summer to a winter storm. Some popular plants in this category include the Corsican stonecrop, the creeping stonecrop, the woodland stonecrop, and the sedum weinbergii.


Fig.3 Sedum Weinbergii

Soft Succulents
Soft succulents are also called tender succulents and refers to plants which can’t survive in colder climates. Most of the plants in this category need to be in areas labeled Zone 9 and above, which means the maximum low temperature is around 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. If someone wants to grow a soft succulent but lives in a colder area, it’s recommended that the plant be moved indoors before the winter hits.

Many soft succulents look like rosettes with a central stem and thick leaves surrounding the center circle. Plants with thicker leaves can sometimes survive beyond the first frost, but tender succulents with thinner leaves can be killed down to the roots once they encounter the first drop in temperature. One example would be variants of the Kalanchoe succulent, which possesses long, curled leaves with minimal protection from the weather.


Fig. 4 Kalanchoe Gastonis

Unlike a lot of hardy succulents, soft varieties survive much easier in hotter, dryer areas where there is little rainfall and lots of sunlight. They need well-drained, partially sandy soil and should be kept away from shady areas. Soft succulents should be planted in the southern regions of the garden where they receive maximum sunlight. Sometimes, gardeners mix soft and hardy succulents together to create a thorough ground cover capable of surviving most types of weather.

Examples
Similar to hardy succulents, many members of the Crassulaceae family are soft. These include popular options such as the echeveria, jade plant, panda plant, the aloe vera, and the kalanchoe. They possess numerous types of flowers in a variety of colors, including pink, red, white, yellow, and sometimes purple. These succulents prefer dry climates with low rainfall, lots of sunshine, and high temperatures. Most like to live between the temperatures of 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soft succulents are more popular in the United States than hardy variants and make excellent indoor and outdoor plants. They have longer leaves and bloom more often, so individuals enjoy planting them for their beauty and easy care.

Climates in the United States
Climate refers to the standard, predictable, long-term weather patterns in a given area over time. Because the United States encompasses a massive landmass, there are dozens of different climates which affect what succulents a gardener can plant outdoors. These climates can even affect succulents planted indoors, since there will be limited access to sunlight in areas with long winters or a particularly damp, stormy environment. Some examples of the climates across the country include tundra, hot deserts, semi-arid, continental, and subtropics.

Based on climate, the best area to grow hardy succulents would be in the northern states like Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and even Alaska.These regions are more temperate, and places such as Alaska have tundra. Soft succulents work best in southern states in the United States like Arizona, New Mexico, the lower counties of California, Colorado, and Nevada. These places are more arid and dry, with long summers and mild winters that support the lifestyle of the soft succulent.

What Succulents Are Easy to Grow?

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Succulents are amazing plants for beginners because they require little work but still reward their owners with beautiful leaves, interesting shapes, and fragrant scents from blooms. People enjoy succulents because they require minimal effort, but some are still easier to grow than others. Succulents which thrive in indoor environments tend to have simple needs and mean gardeners don’t need to invest too much energy to grow beautiful plants.

Gardeners can grow the following varieties during every season of the year. They prefer environments indoors and typically need little water, a moderate amount of sunlight, and potting soil designed for cacti and arid environments. Under each section will be a sentence or two that explains whether or not the succulent is hardy or soft and whether it prefers to be indoors or outdoors.

Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is an evergreen perennial which is easy to grow indoors. The leaves stretch between 24 and 39 in. long when fully grown and tend to be solid green or tinged with gray. Many have white spots and noticeably serrated leaves, which means they have jagged edges and points. The aloe vera’s leaves are thick and filled with a gelatinous substance frequently found in cosmetic products like sunburn cream.

Aloe vera is simple to take care of. It is a soft succulent, which means it requires little water, well-drained sandy potting soil, and lots of sunlight to remain healthy. It is even resistant against pests like spider mites and aphids, which plague other succulents. Aloe vera is one of the only plants to receive the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit and is sold all around the world and cultivated in foreign regions like Bangladesh, Tanzania, and China.

Fig. 5 Young Aloe Vera

Burro’s Tail
This adorable succulent is named after a donkey’s tail, which tends to be long and tangled from working outdoors. It grows best in a hanging basket so its thick stems covered in leaves have somewhere to go. These leaves are fleshy and range in color from gray-green, to gray-blue, to greenish blue. The perennial flowers that bloom at the end of these stems are bright pink.

Unlike many other succulents, the burro’s tail can grow indoors and outdoors. It does best when exposed to maximum, daily sunlight and will switch color based on exposure. The leaves are quite delicate and separate from the stem easily. The leaves can survive for days away from the main body and many will begin to root, making the burro’s tail easy to propagate. It qualifies as a soft succulent because it prefers warmer climates and doesn’t do well when confronted by frost.

Christmas Cactus
When most people think of a Christmas cactus, they imagine a green cactus with segmented leaves and bright red flowers which bloom at the ends. The Christmas cactus is a member of the family Schlumbergera, which grow in shady areas with lots of humidity. They are native to Brazil but people transplanted them to other places around the world, enjoying their unique bodies and beautiful blooms. They are known as the Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus throughout North America because they are given as presents and decorations from October to January.

These can be grown in a humus-rich, slightly acidic soil that drains easily. Using too little or too much water can kill the cactus, so it’s important to keep the potting mix damp but not dry or soaked. It requires very little sunlight and can be damaged if it spends too much time in the light, so keeping it indoors and away from windows is important. It’s easy to transplant cuttings so they propagate. Most pests don’t touch the Christmas cactus, but it is susceptible to aphids. Despite its name, the Christmas cactus does not enjoy cold weather even though it likes the shade.

Fig. 6 Young Christmas Cactus

Echeveria
Echeveria isn’t a single plant but actually an entire genus of flowering plants native to Mexico, Central America, and sections of northwestern South America. The plants look like compact rosettes and tend to be short and stocky with numerous fleshy leaves. The majority of Echeveria are green, although others have brightly colored leaves that don’t tend to flower. Many people use them in gardens as decoration, and Echeveria plants are important hosts for several species of butterfly.

Different Echeveria species require varying amounts of water. Although they are drought resistant, these plants do enjoy being thoroughly soaked and fertilized throughout the year. They do lose their leaves during the winter and can be easily propagated by planting leaf cuttings, seeds, and other offshoots.

 

Fig. 7 A Young Echeveria

Hen and Chicks or Houseleeks
Hen and chicks are a type of succulent characterized by small, easily propagated succulents which grow in groups. They flower and look like compact rosettes surrounded by their offsets, or the “chicks” in the name. Hen and chicks have thick, stocky leaves and prefer rocky, well-drained soil. The plant will rot if the leaves are kept wet, so it’s important to make sure they receive little water. They enjoy the sun but grow best when kept in light shade outdoors. Houseleeks are hardy succulents which can survive in the frost and work well as ground coverage in gardens.

 

Fig. 8 Hen and Chicks or Houseleeks

Jade Plant
The jade plant is also known as the lucky or money tree and is one of the most popular succulents around the world. It’s believed that the plant brings good fortune when kept in homes and offices. It is an evergreen with thick, dark leaves shaped like ovals. It produces pink or white flowers, and some leaves develop a red tinge once exposed to sunlight.

The jade plant is one of the easiest to care for because it requires little effort. All it needs is well-drained soil, frequent sun exposure, and enough water to dampen the soil once a week. People can propagate the jade plant easily by getting cuttings, allowing them to dry, and then transferring them to similar soil and allowing them to grow. These are soft succulents which can grow to impressive lengths when left alone.

Panda Plant
The panda plant is also called the chocolate soldier and originates in Madagascar. It is typically a faint, gray and green with dark brown specks near the tips of the leaves. The panda plant is a relatively compact succulent and grows easily in warm climates, making it a member of the soft succulent family. It requires moderate sunlight, enough water to soak the soil without filling the pot, and a potting mix which drains easily. The panda plant propagates easily and can be transferred from one pot to another with little effort. 

 

Where to Place Succulents and the Best Containers

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Despite being simple plants, succulents have specific needs when it comes to potting. Most need lots of sunlight and fresh air with temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Although people seem to have them in every environment known to humans, succulents still prefer containers and areas which experience excellent drainage so excess water has somewhere to go. Too much moisture or liquid buildup is bad for these plants because it causes root rot and even drowning.

So, individuals who want to grow succulents need to know how to identify a container or area which has excellent drainage options. Store bought pots with drainage frequently have holes along the bottom of the container where unnecessary water can exit and not build up in the soil. Pots with drainage should not be left on saucers of bowls which will allow the water to filter back into the original container. Clay, terracotta, and ceramic pots continue to be some of the best options because they are breathable materials which won’t suffocate the succulent. It’s also easy to add extra holes as needed without damaging the structural integrity of the pot. Many times you can buy sets of planters so you can have a range of complimentary pots and planters. 

Fig. 9 Clay Pots

Sometimes the drainage holes might be too large for the type of soil needed for the succulent. When this happens, it’s possible to tape or glue mesh over the holes so water escapes but the soil doesn’t. Glue is recommended since tape can be loosened by water. The whole process can take less than five minutes and save gardeners weeks of trouble with their plants.

People with pots that don’t fit the mold can add drainage holes using a diamond-tipped drill bit. Diamond-tipped is recommended because it is one of the strongest materials available and is less likely to damage or shatter the container than other options. All the individual needs to do is mark the bottom of the pot and carefully drill one or two holes into the material. People should use a thin or narrow drill bit in this process.

Even though drainage holes can be beneficial, some people might prefer pots without them. When choosing a container that lacks holes, it’s important to pay attention to size and how much water the soil will absorb. Succulents planted in pots without holes need less water than their counterparts in containers with drainage. There should only be enough water to dampen the soil. The potting mix should then be allowed to dry before the succulent receives water again.
Plastic planters remain a popular option because they come in numerous colors, shapes, and sizes. The main downside with these containers is that plastic is not breathable and the soil won’t dry out easily. Problems with plastic planters can be avoided by giving the succulent less water than its counterparts in different pots. The main idea is making sure that more water isn’t poured onto damp soil. Drilling holes into plastic is almost impossible because the material is brittle and unmalleable.

Concrete or Cast Stone planters are a great option for succulents. They are sturdy and typically provide a drainage hole as well. They come in many shapes and sizes and these are often more customization in that you can choose your stain or finish. The Nyssa Cast Stone Garden Planter is a small cast stone planter measuring at 12.75"L x 9.25"W x 4"H. It's small and petite so it can fit almost anywhere. Another great cast stone planter for succulents ins the Stone Barn Board Garden Planters. These are still cast stone, yet they have a "wood look" to them so they provide a rustic appeal but the concrete durability. 

Fig. 10 Succulents in Small Planters

Glass is one of the worst options for succulent containers even though it is beautiful. Most glass pots lack drainage areas and are completely unbreathable. This means the water might sit too long and root rot could form. Other problems are that glass is breakable and can develop hard water spots which can distract from the natural charm of the succulents. Similarly, metal also shouldn’t be used because it will heat up in the sunlight and raise the temperature of the soil too much. Metal pots should only be used as a temporary container.

After picking a container, the next task for a gardener is determining how to plant it. The typical rule of thumb is that a 2 in. succulent needs a 2.5 in. pot. This means that the pot should always be about ½ to 1 in. larger than the plant that goes inside of it. The container needs to be filled almost to the top with a special type of cacti or succulent soil, but this should be loosely packed. Next, place the succulent inside and allow some of the roots to coil into the soil. A top coat goes over the exposed roots and the potting mix. Don’t water the plant until the roots have had a chance to adapt and heal; usually waiting 1-2 days is sufficient.
Once the succulent is planted, it’s time to pick location. Where the plant goes largely depends on what type of succulent it is. Hardy variations do best in cooler climates and might be able to stay outside all year long, while soft ones need the bright, harsh weather of summer before being brought inside for the winter. Less finicky succulents, like the popular Christmas cactus, can remain inside for their entire lives without issue. When choosing a spot, be sure to pick one with lots of bright sunlight, low humidity and moisture content, and room for the roots to grow.

Therefore, some of the ideal locations are:

  • Near a west-facing window
  • Along a southern bank in the yard
  • On the front porch
  • Near companion plants like poppies, irises, and acacia
    • Companion plants help others grow by attracting beneficial insects or supplying the soil with nutrients. These will help succulents remain healthy in new environments.


Fig. 11 Poppies

Types of Soil Needed to Grow Successful Succulents

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Hardy and soft succulents both require an environment which mimics their natural habitats. For many of these plants, that means living in nutrient-poor dirt. Many gardening stores and suppliers develop special potting mix designed for cacti and succulents so gardeners have an easier time keeping their plants happy. One of the defining traits of this soil is that it is mixed with sand or a similar material to make the overall mix more porous. A major killer of succulents is soil which absorbs too much water that allows the moisture to sit near the roots. This excess water drowns the plant or can lead to rot – many gardeners discovered over the years that too much moisture leads to succulents turning into a black mush. The goal is to mimic the arid environment most succulents enjoy.

Fig. 12 An Arid Area

Arid environments are regions characterized by a lack of water and thin, nutrient-deficient soil. Succulents adapted to these regions by developing their special water-storing tissue, which allows them to retain moisture for weeks when there would be no rain. In many ways, succulents can be considered the camels of the plant world.

It’s possible to create succulent soil at home if none can be found at the store. The main way to do so is by filling a container with 50% of nutrient-rich potting mix and then 50% with a porous material. Some of the best porous elements to include are sand, pumice, small stones, perlite, silt, or clay. This composition should be mixed together so there is an even spread of the two materials. With this mix, succulents will receive the valuable nutrients they need without the soil retaining too much water.

So, how does this work? Porous soil refers to a potting mix which has small empty spaces called “pores” in between the dirt particles. These pores allow water that is poured into the container to drain evenly throughout the soil. When combined with a pot that has drainage holes, the porous soil prevents the container from holding on to too much moisture and either drowning the succulent or causing root rot.
Despite needing porous soil, succulents do react well to being fertilized. One of the problems with such a barren potting mix is that the minimal amount of water used can wash away essential nutrients from the soil. But it can actually be damaging to simply fertilize a succulent like any other plant. Instead of applying the normal amount of fertilizer, people should follow this process to ensure maximum succulent health and nutrition.

  • Pick a fertilizer. Nitrogen-rich variants are bad for succulents because they can cause nitrogen buildup and facilitate rot. Instead, choose a low-balanced, soluble fertilizer.
    • A low-balanced fertilizer means it has a small ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Look for a package that says 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, which means that the mix is made of 8% or 10% of these key nutrients.
  • Next, dilute the fertilizer by mixing the recommended amount with a gallon of water. This amount varies based on the fertilizer used.
  • Finally, water the succulent with the fertilizer concoction until the soil is damp. Allow excess liquid to drain away.
  • Repeat this process as needed every few weeks to prevent nutrient buildup and keep succulents healthy and happy.

How Much to Water Your Succulent

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Humans need a lot of water on a daily basis to survive, but succulents are different. While it’s true that many succulent varieties can survive with minimal water for weeks, this won’t result in thriving, healthy plants. Instead, it’s important to ensure the plant receives enough liquid to keep its stem and leaves plump and juicy without drowning it. For many amateur gardeners, this can be a difficult task.

There are a few simple guidelines people can follow when it comes to watering a succulent. If it is in a proper container with drainage and a porous soil, then the plant will have enough water when the potting mix is slightly damp. Once the soil dries out, it is time to water the succulent again, usually every 3-4 days. This process is easy and ensures that the plant receives the moisture it needs but won’t suffer from root rot. However, this rule changes if the succulent is still growing.

Watering a growing succulent is different from taking care of an older one, just like feeding a toddler should be different from feeding an adult. Growing succulents should be watered at least once a week. The gardener needs to put enough water in the container to thoroughly soak the soil. The caretaker should check to see if excess liquid is running through the drainage holes. If it is, then the succulent has enough and should be left alone for the rest of the week.

Finally, the amount of watering varies based on the time of the year. Most succulents, both hardy and soft, will enter a dormant stage during the winter. At this time, the plant needs little moisture and will not be growing or blooming. Once the succulent enters this phase, the time between watering sessions should be increased by several days. Instead of supplying water once a week, the gardener can wait roughly 10-12 days. While there are a few notable exceptions to this rule, there are rare. People who are unsure about their succulent’s active growing time can contact a local gardening society to figure out the lay of the land.

  • Note: Tap water can contain minerals which will buildup in the soil around the succulent and potentially cause harm. People who use tap water should repot their plants every so often to avoid this problem. If possible, collect and use rainwater or invest in a sink filter.
Fig. 13 What Not To Do

Although it might be tempting for aesthetic reasons, never leave your succulent in a jar with too much water. The plant will not be able to survive and will die quickly, leaving you with a deceased beauty and wounded pride.

How Much Sunlight Your Succulent Needs

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Hardy and soft succulents alike are native to arid or dry areas where they experience lots of sunlight. These plants are additionally used to having winter periods where they will become dormant and conserve their energy instead of growing. On average, succulents will be their happiest when they receive roughly 6 hours of natural sunlight during a regular day. Too much more can be damaging, especially if the temperature reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Too little can also be harmful, since the plant might not receive the light it needs and could gradually become dormant.

The best way to ensure a succulent receives the amount of sunlight it needs is to place it near a window or in a section of the garden that gets plenty of sunshine. The fifth chapter discusses where a succulent works the best, but to reiterate, it should be kept near a window that faces west or in the southern side of the garden.
Since too much sun can be a problem, it’s important to take steps to protect succulents during long, hot summer days. As silly as it might sound, plants need to be shaded for their own protection. There are a couple of different ways to do so. First, nearby plants can provide shade. Figure out which direction the garden faces and then place taller plants to the east or west of succulents to ensure they are protected from part of the sun’s rays. If this isn’t an option, plant succulents in areas where the house or nearby buildings will have the same function. In extreme cases, such as in a desert, it’s possible to purchase overhangs or curtains that can be set up around the garden to protect the plants.

Light exposure indoors is a different story. Although it might be tempting to place the plants under a lamp and leave them there, lightbulbs are not as nourishing as natural sunlight. People who live in an area with long winters can expect their succulents to enter the dormant stage of their natural growth cycle once the weather grows chilly. This is natural and contributes to the overall health of the plant. Individuals who would like to see their succulent in bloom or fuller for longer can invest in a sunlamp or grow light.

Succulents need a light source which emits 2,000 lumens within a square foot of space. A lumen is a unit of measurement that tracks how much light is emitted per second from a source. Gardeners should inspect any grow lights they want to purchase and make sure it meets this requirement. If the bulb doesn’t, then the grow light will not be effective and the succulent will enter its dormant stage.

Succulents also need light which emanates a warm hue, not a cool one. This means that bulbs which possess a yellow, orange, or red glow will be more effective than ones that look blue, purple, or green. Finally, keep the bulb at least 10 in. away from the succulent since the bulb will emanate heat and too high of a temperature will damage the plant.

Fig. 14 Succulent under Sunlamp

Once all of the steps in this guidebook are followed, amateur and experienced succulent growers can let the light shine on their plants and ensure they are happy, healthy, and thriving around the home or office.

 

References
Bagnasco, John. Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and Other Succulents.Minneapolis: Cool Springs Press, 2017.
Dortort, Fred. The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: A Comprehensive Guide of over 2,000 Species. Portland: Timber Press, 2011.
Hewitt, Terry. The Complete Book of Cacti & Succulents. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1997.
Moore Kelaidis, Gwen. Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for Every Climate. North Adams: Storey Publishing.
Moore, Jeff. Soft Succulents: Aeoniums, Echeverias, Crassulas, Sedums, Kalanchoes, and Related Plants. 2017.
Stockwell, Robin. Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing 200 Easy Care Plants. New York: Oxmoor House, 2017.
Tuttle, Cassidy. How to Water Succulents: An In-Depth Guide. Mountain Crest Gardens, 2017.

  • Kayla Zaugg
The Secrets to Illuminating Your Landscape

The Secrets to Illuminating Your Landscape

Adding lighting to your yard is one of the best ways to maximize the usage of your property and learning the secrets to illuminating your landscape properly can be a great way to guarantee your project comes out looking great.  

Lighting is an important and often overlooked part of landscaping and when added correctly, your lighting can bring an entirely new aspect out of your décor.  Accent lighting can be the perfect addition to illuminate walkways, paths, and stairs. You can also use accent lighting that is built into your planters and water fountains like the Radiance Lighted Outdoor Fountain, to add a subtle trail of light to your landscape.  

Radiance Lighted Outdoor Fountain

Radiance Lighted Outdoor Fountain

Spotlighting can be used to accentuate certain décor or home.  Spotlights can be placed to face your home to give your house a stately appeal and this type of lighting can be a great way to spruce your nighttime décor up without breaking the bank. No matter what type of décor your yard currently has, there is a lighting system that is suited to your needs and style.  Below are some additional tips to remember when making your choices

Safety First

There are many reasons to illuminate your landscape but perhaps none is more important than safety. A well-lit yard is inviting to your visitors and the proper lighting can transform an unused patio into the new family hang out. You should try to place your lighting in an area in which it is serving both a decorative and safety purpose. Accent lighting is one of the most subtle but effective ways to add safety lighting to your home.

Accent lighting can be added to your stairways to provide you with the most visibility possible without taking away from your overall décor. A well-lit yard is also a great deterrent to would-be intruders. These unsavory individuals are known to look for homes with little security and lighting as their targets and having a well-lit yard can help to sway any thieves from entering your property.

Revelation Garden Fountain With Light

Revelation Garden Fountain With Light

Options

There are endless lighting options available to you today and narrowing down your selection can seem like it will be a hefty task. To help you with your selection you should venture out around the neighborhoods to see who already has lighting in their yard and how it is used. You want to note any setups you prefer. A quick internet search will also give you a plethora of choices to decide from.

There are a wide variety of styles and bulb types to consider.  Different types of lighting systems will look and operate differently. Some systems give you the option to replace worn out bulbs while others are designed to be discarded once the bulbs are worn out. Low energy bulbs such as LEDs are the best option for homeowners as they provide excellent lighting with little energy use.

LEDs

LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are one of the most energy-efficient forms of lighting available today. These mini two-lead semiconductor lighting sources utilize a special plate that allows electrons to release energy in the form of light protons when electricity is applied. LEDs were originally developed in the early 1960s and today we use LEDs in a myriad of everyday items such as your TV remote.

LEDs have some significant advantages over incandescent lights in that they have lower energy consumption, smaller size, longer lifetime, improved durability, and faster switching times. This has led manufacturers to start using LEDs in all types of lighting systems including aviation lighting, headlights, home lighting, camera flashes, and even traffic signals.  

Go Green

You should consider going green with your yard lighting.  Solar powered yard lights have become very popular as they save the homeowner money and they are extremely easy to install.  Solar yard lighting has no cords to be run and most operate off of a light sensor, so you don’t need to worry about setting any timers.  

Another huge advantage of green-powered lighting is that you can add as much of it as you like without increasing your monthly lighting bill. This means you can really make your backyard a well-lit comfortable conversation hub within your property. Don't be shy about creating an indoor appeal with your lighting effects.

Tiering Rainforest Fountain

Tiering Rainforest Fountain

Timers

You may find that there is no green option for the lighting system that you desire.  When this is the case you should consider adding a timer to your system. Set your timer to automatically go on at dusk hours and off in the morning ad the sun is rising.  Many systems today offer light sensors built in. These are a smart addition as they will automatically turn on your lights when the sensors read below a certain level of sunlight.

You May Need a Professional

Not all lighting systems are easy to install and if you have decided on a more complicated system that requires wiring into your homes electrical, you should consider hiring a professional to complete your installation. There are lighting specific contractors that can help to answer any questions you may have about the cost of installing a lighting system in your home.

You should never attempt to wire a lighting system into your home unless you have the experience to do so. When working with electricity special precautions must be made to avoid serious injury or damaging your home.  

Walk Towards the Light

Now that you have a better understanding of how to illuminate your yard properly, you are ready to go out and find the perfect lighting system to fit your needs. Don't be afraid to ask a professional for help if you need it.  

Be sure to follow the tips in this guide to ensure you get the most out of your plans to brighten up your yard and before you know it you and your guest will be enjoying countless nights in your well-lit personal sanctuary.

  • Catherine Sibi