Gardeners come to Gene Joseph fed up with daily watering.

So he points them right to the succulents.

Joseph has worked at the nursery Plants for the Southwest — which he owns with his wife, Jane Evans — for 27 years.

The space holds nine greenhouses, brimming with wildflowers, succulents and all things green.

Succulent gardens can brighten up a space even for those lacking a green thumb.

The space: The best environment for any succulent garden is somewhere with good eastern exposure that gets sun until noon, Joseph says. Although overcrowding is not a huge risk, Joseph considers how large the fully mature plants will grow — especially in dish gardens. He prefers to use containers with one gallon in volume for one plant, increasing size proportionally for additional plants. Joseph does not recommend keeping dish gardens indoors.

“The amount of light the plants need will ruin the furniture,” Joseph says. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Keeping the garden on a sunny windowsill and rotating it 90 degrees once a week can help.

The spray: These gardens work well for the traveler — they need watering only about once a week. If you keep the garden indoors, they need half that. During drier months, spray the plants down, wetting the top of the soil to cool the plant.

The soil: Any cactus mix soil works well for succulents, as long as it has good drainage. Top the soil with a rock dressing to help the plants maintain water. Add some rocks you collect from the desert, Joseph suggests, to add to a more natural look. Wait to fertilize until after the plant is established, then maybe once a month.

The species: Research when specific succulents thrive, and plant winter and summer growers with their own kind. Mixing plants won’t doom the garden, but it will require a little more babying. Plant winter growers in the fall, and summer growers in the spring.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett

at or 573-4357.

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.