Deja Vu Plants

In my garden, succulents are the deja vu plants extraordinaire. New acquisitions can look suspiciously familiar because, in fact, they have been brought home before. Maybe they became submerged under rampant growers, like the soft-leaved yucca I just unearthed when cleaning out some succulents, or malingered and withered away unnoticed in a pot. Whatever the case, after their disappearance or demise total amnesia sets in, just as it did with this succulent. Perhaps the amnesia is partially willful. Who can say? Not helping matters is the fact that so many succulents come without identification tags. Having a name for anything is an important step in forming a relationship. That’s my excuse, anyway.

To experience the excitement of discovery twice is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave one feeling sheepish when the buzz of acquiring something new eventually turns into a queasy flicker of recognition. Stranger, I’ve seen your face before.

Kalanchoe? Adromischus? Purchased nameless in 2010, lost and forgotten shortly thereafter. Found again at Terra Sol Garden Center this January, the first deja vu plant of 2011. No doubt there’ll be more.


Kalanchoe humilis ‘Desert Surprise’

Reading about Far Out Flora’s recent trip to Terra Sol Garden Center in Santa Barbara was all the encouragement I needed for a 2-hour road trip to Santa Barbara. The nursery is worth every bit of FFF’s praise. Before the engine was turned off, my blood was already up. Through the parking lot fence I could see an enormous Agave americana with unusual markings, A. americana var. striata. The blurred striping gives a softer, more painterly effect than the stark striping seen in the common ‘Variegata,’ a beautiful agave in its own right. But that soft, greyish effect had my heart aflutter even before stepping through the gate. If I’d ever seen this agave before, I’ve no memory of it. And I know I’ve never grown it before.


(Agave americana var. striata. Photo from the French palm brokers Palmaris.)

I was told it’s every bit as vigorous in habit as the species, if not more so. If it came in a size less than 10 gallons, I’d have bought it anyway. They did have a small pot of the legendary Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak,’ which came home along with the deja vu succulent.

There wasn’t a tag on this succulent, or it’s possible I lost it in transit, so I called Terra Sol about a week after purchase and was kindly given its name, Kalanchoe humilis ‘Desert Surprise.’ I made a complete fool of myself over the phone trying to describe the color striations of its scalloped leaves. Not spots exactly, but not stripes either. Blotchy stripes? Richter scale-like zig-zagging? Bruised mottling? When I mentioned it was sitting next to the pink mother-of-thousands, Kalanchoe delagoensis x daigremontiana “Pink Butterflies,” an ID was finally made.

San Marcos Growers says this plant was introduced to nurseries in 2010, which coincides with when I first found this unnamed succulent at a local nursery. Deja vu all over again.


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5 Responses to Deja Vu Plants

  1. Kathy says:

    I don’t remember what exactly I bought at Terra Sol last April, but I did have quite a display on the counter in my hotel bathroom. I would have bought that Kalanchoe in 2 seconds-I think I now collect them.

  2. Megan says:

    Whoa! That Kalanchoe is beautiful. The first plant I noticed was the A. americana var. striata too. Glad you made the trip, and found some good plants.

  3. I first saw an Agave americana var. striata at San Marcos Growers, planted in one of their “Agave mounds” (my description not theirs), and in fact that was also my first sighting of A. desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’…so jealous that you got one! Nice work!

  4. Denise says:

    Kathy, next time it won’t be a banzai run and I’ll make it finally to Lotusland.
    Megan, thanks again for pointing out this great nursery so close to home!
    Loree, it’s so rare to find ‘Joe Hoak,’ you bet I jumped on it.

  5. Kathy D. says:

    I just bought this “Deja vu” plant at my local supermarket. I snapped it up…first time I have ever seen this type of plant. I love the colorful markings. Even though I read the flowers are uninteresting…I’m still looking forward to the bloom spike it has opening up. Thanks for the great post.

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