Garden Photo of the Day

San Diego Succulents

Otherworldly plants from a California garden

If you think aloe just means that old houseplant with the juicy leaves that are soothing on a burn, think again. There are over 500 species of aloes!  The majority come from South Africa, where they boast an endless variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.

Jeff Carlton has shared gardens with us before from his usual home base in Tennessee. But today, he’s got a different point of view. He writes:

Just returned from a week in the San Diego area, where I was treated to an evening in the most amazing private garden. It was like walking around on a foreign planet being so very different from the gardening I am accustomed to. No way to identify all the plants in each photo, as with every turn of my head I saw a multitude of plants I have no idea how to identity. So if you are living in the North, cursing the endlessly delayed arrival of spring, indulge in a fantasy trip to a different world where it is always sunny and warm.

A succulent wonderland, with a massive agave in the foreground.

A hillside agave planting. Native primarily to western North America, agaves come in about 200 species.

A succulent container. Though these succulents are not hardy outside in most climates, you could recreate this look over the summer in a container nearly anywhere. Then overwinter the succulents on a sunny windowsill.

More succulent containers! The brightest colors in succulent foliage are brought out by giving them lots of bright sun.

What do you do if you want a fountain in the garden but live in a dry climate where water is at a premium? Make a fountain out of succulents, of course.

A big Yucca rostrata (beaked yucca, Zones 6–10) standing over three agaves.

A massive aloe showing off its spires of bright gold blooms.


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View Comments


  1. flowerladydi 04/09/2018

    Fabulous Jeff! LOVE those Giant Agave's!! Beautiful planters,, just Fabulous!!

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      This house and garden were unbelievable. I wanted to move in.

  2. User avater
    treasuresmom 04/09/2018

    Wow! It is all amazing. Was this a planned tour?

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      yes, I attended the succulent celebration there and this garden tour was organized by a Facebook group I belong to. private home

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/09/2018

    Are you sure you weren't the victim/beneficiary of an alien abduction? The size, drama and exotic beauty of these aloes and agaves are other worldly to me. It's amazing that they grow somewhere within the boundaries of the good old USA and not millions of miles away on another planet. Thanks so much, Jeff, for sharing these pictures.

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      Mike, I thought my succulent collection looked pretty good until I saw this place and all the others growing there. Came home and my stuff looks so tiny and wimpy

  4. cheryl_c 04/09/2018

    Such gorgeous plants and outstanding photos! Jeff, you have inspired all of us in the past with your succulent collection - how wonderful for you to find a place that inspires you! This morning's pictures are truly mind-bending for me! Did you bring home any babies?

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I only brought 2 Dyckia home that a CA friend gave me from her yard . BUT a friend who was with us had to hit a goodwill for extra suitcases to bring all her plants home

  5. sheila_schultz 04/09/2018

    What a dreamscape! Your jaw must have been dropped for the entire visit, Jeff. Wow! It's simply extraordinary to be able to see all of those magnificent succulents growing outside in a climate that encourages them to thrive and do what comes naturally. I'm green with envy... what great start to my week!!! Thanks!

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I think the tree aloes amazed me more than anything else

  6. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/09/2018

    Thanks for sharing photos of your trip, Jeff. So wonderful. It's been a long time since I've been to San Diego. Love that place. I fantasized about moving there for years after our trip. It was crazy to me to see plants and trees growing outdoors that were houseplants to me as a kid.

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I found the perfect house/property for sale while there. Do you have a spare 7 million I could borrow for a few decades

  7. Musette1 04/09/2018

    woke up to 4" of wet, heavy snow in Central IL - wanted to cry. Then I came upon this, which made me smile. Thank you SO much for sharing!

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I am so so so over winter. it's cold/rainy here today

      1. Cenepk10 04/09/2018

        OHHHHH me tooooooooo

  8. wittyone 04/09/2018

    Wow, these succulents are really amazing! Maybe a few years down the road, climate change you know, we will all be able to grow them in our own backyards.

  9. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 04/09/2018

    Being new to winter migration, I agree with you, Jeff, that what can grow in the desert is rather mind blowing. This garden that you went to did a great job of displaying all of their beautiful cacti and succulents in such a creative way and your photography captured it beautifully.

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I walked around with my mouth open just drooling. What made it even better was that the homeowners were SO nice and fun to talk with. I told them that if I lived there it would be hard for me to remain humble. They were the greatest.

  10. Chris_N 04/09/2018

    Thanks for sharing, Jeff. Great photos as usual. Like one of the other commenters, I woke up to snow again this morning. This was a refreshing change.

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      ugh, I don't know what I will do if it snows again here. It finally reached 50 today but drizzly rain, gray skies but up to 80 on Friday! I might have forgotten how to sweat

  11. btucker9675 04/09/2018

    Succulent fountain... best idea ever!!!

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I saw several succulent fountains around SD

  12. Cenepk10 04/09/2018

    Jeff !!!!! Looks like a underwater ocean scape without the ocean. Fabulous ! Love the Agaves the most

    1. user-1020932 04/09/2018

      I loved this place and I think they said there were 50 avocado trees on the property. They were hanging FULL. All are harvested and distributed to local food banks

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