They’ve featured everywhere in style magazines recently, but what exactly is a succulent, and how can make them work for you? Here’s my quick guide.
What is a succulent?
They are plants adapted for arid conditions where they might need to store water to survive. To do this, succulents have thick, fleshy leaves. They come from all round the world – cacti from desert regions and Alpine plants that are more commonly seen in garden rockeries. It’s something of a catch-all, umbrella term, however, and sometimes cacti with needles are though of separately. My drawing, above, illustrates some of the common species of succulent – there are many, many variations within each species.
Are succulents easy to care for?
Yes. This perhaps explains some of their popularity. They’re easy to pick up from the local garden centre or florist (the ones above came from my local florist and B&Q!). Unlike some plants, they’ll cope with a little neglect. Generally, they like moisture but not being overwatered. Let them dry out completely between waterings and never let the the soil get soggy. If you’re planting outdoors, make sure the soil has good drainage. If they’re in a pot, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom.
So are they really outdoor or indoor plants?
Some succulents are hardy and fit to survive northern European climates all year round. Some are from tropical regions that need to be looked after indoors over winter. Check the plant label to see which type of succulent you’ve got. Hardy plants can also be grown indoors, of course, and it’s really this that inspires the current trend. They’re great for small spaces and will be happy brightening a windowsill in any room of the house, as well as being a natural point of interest on a vintage sideboard or bookshelf.
How do I style them to look their best?
The fleshy leaves and range of shapes and colours of succulents means they’re already impressive-looking plants. Try grouping them together against a clean background to show off their various forms and textures.
Succulents look great in vintage glassware and ceramics – the silver glassware below reflects the foliage to fantastic effect.
The mini terrariums, below, would look great hanging in a quiet kitchen space.
And here’s my own test for any flower, foliage and plant trend: does it work for a wedding? The answer, as seen below in a table setting, is yes. Stunning!