One plant that keeps me company while I am typing columns and doing other things on the computer is Echeveria prolifica, a sedum.

I only know the name of this succulent because my wife, Nancy, bought it online from Avant Gardens, an excellent nursery in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and the label is still in the pot. At many local nurseries, the small, inexpensive succulents come without labels, so you have no idea exactly what you’re buying and growing.

Echeveria is one of two prime families for sedums. The other is Sempervivum. The major difference between them is that Echeveria gets killed off by cold temperatures and is a houseplant in Maine. Sempervivum is more cold tolerant, and many can be grown outside. You can also tell them apart because Echeveria leaf edges are smooth, while Sempervivum leaves have tiny teeth.

Echeveria prolifica is easy to grow. It has clusters of thick silvery green leaves that spread quickly (hence the name “prolifica”) forming a mat. It creates multiple offshoots, so you can give small versions to family and friends.

In early spring and summer, Echeveria produce small flowers on 10-inch-long stems.

Its care is simple. Provide as much light as possible. Water fairly often in spring and summer, making sure not to allow droplets to remain on the leaves, which can cause rot. Reduce watering to monthly in the fall and winter. Remove any leaves that die off on the bottom.

Than sit back and enjoy while your computer takes too much time loading websites.

— TOM ATWELL

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