These Exotic Eye Catchers Will be The Biggest Trend of All This Summer and it’s Easy to Ensure They Survive in Your Garden
Succulent: it’s such a juicy and luscious- sounding word! And it means ‘rich in desirable qualities’, which perfectly sums up this year’s biggest and best garden plant trend! Succulents have already become the must-have plant for indoors, and their hardy cousins are now topping the most-wanted list for outdoor style, too. They’re surprisingly easy to grow, and lots survive outdoors year-round. Thanks to their increasing popularity among us lazy gardeners, there are now over 3,000 different types available in the UK so there’s plenty of choice to create the right look to suit your plot, like in Joanne’s garden, see p48. You can do all sorts of creative things with succulents and now’s the perfect time to plant them and get ahead of the trend for summer.
NEED TO KNOW
One of the most popular hardy succulents is ‘sempervivum’. Roughly translated from Latin, it means ‘always alive’ and refers to the fact they are tolerant of low temperatures and drought and need very little care – just the sort of plant we like! Also known as houseleeks, back in olden days, they were grown on the tops of houses to ward off evil spirits – and not, as some think, to fill the ‘leaks’ in the roof. They also go by the name of ‘hen and chicks’, which alludes to their habit of making lots of baby plants.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL
Sempervivums are shaped like rosettes and have roots that grow out of the bottom. These exquisite rosettes range in size from an itsy-bitsy 1cm across to absolutely huge – up to 15cm! The leaves come in stunning colours including yellow, orange, pink and red, and are thick and fleshy because they’re full of water to survive long spells of hot, dry weather. The edges of the leaves have tiny, sharp teeth, although you’ll probably need a magnifying glass to see them! Some varieties are covered in a network of silky threads with star-shaped flowers resembling alien lifeforms. One sempervivum will produce lots of offspring, forming a mat of more rosettes but, once this mother plant has flowered, it will die and the remaining offspring will create their own roots and become mother plants in their own right.
CREATE A TALKING POINT
Known as the cobweb houseleek, Sempervivum arachnoideum has cobwebby threads and plantlets that hang down like spider legs. Pop it on your patio table for a great conversation starter!
PLANT A STATEMENT POT
You’ll need three pots of different sizes for this display. Starting with the largest pot, cover the drainage hole with a large stone and fill three-quarters full with a gritty compost mix. Sink the next size pot into the compost and fill three-quarters with polystyrene. Pop the third and final pot on top and fill three-quarters with a gritty compost mix, and add some succulents. Top the middle pot with gravel. Add succulents and slate to the largest pot, filling in any gaps with gravel. Water the plants sparingly until just damp.
STYLE UP A SHED WALL
Succulents only need shallow compost, so will be happy to grow anywhere, even in a length of old guttering! Spray paint it first and drill a few drainage holes in the bottom before fixing to your wall.
If you’re looking to buy a succulent that will grow, live and be happy all year-round in your garden with minimal TLC from you, then make sure it’s a hardy sempervivum (see our pick of the best on page 55). These sempervivums are perfectly happy in temperatures plummeting to -40°C and there are lots of fabulously different varieties to choose from. The secret to year-round sempervivum survival is to make sure it doesn’t ever get waterlogged. Plant it in compost that will drain freely – buy a specialist succulent mix or just add one-part horticultural grit to three-parts John Innes No2 Compost – and ensure the planter has plenty of drainage holes. Although they’ll grow happily in pots, a shallow trough or bowl is better as it allows them to spread. Adding a layer of grit on top of the compost will help protect plants from wet and rotting.
If you’re prepared to move your pots under cover into a sheltered spot through the worst of the winter, then a world of choice opens up. As well as those tough sempervivums, there are lots of succulents that don’t really like the cold but love living outside in warm months. Cater for their winter whims and you can grow echeveria (the popular indoor houseplant) and aeonium (also called the tree houseleek, which can grow into the most amazing rosette-filled mini-tree). They’re absolutely fine living outdoors for most of the year, but need moving to a dry, frost-free spot before the weather turns cold. But then ignore them – it’s best not to water them through the winter.
There are so many cool and clever ways to use hardy succulents in your modern garden. If you’re getting creative, stick with sempervivums they need very little attention and by that we mean they love dry soil, minimal watering and a bit of neglect, so you can plant or display them pretty much anywhere. Planning your hanging baskets for this summer? Then swap the usual lots-of-effort and expensive bedding plants for a collection of flowering and trailing succulents that will bring joy all year-round instead. Plant a shallow, concrete-look bowl with sempervivums top-dressed with white gravel to bring a chic interior feel to your patio table.
And don’t stop there! Create a succulent chandelier for your pergola: just take a few pots of green rosettes, pop a battery-operated tea light in the middle of each, tie string around each pot to make hanging loops and fix to the centre struts of the wooden structure. Sempervivums will happily grow when planted in a vertical frame, too. You’ll need a box frame (try amazon.co.uk, approximately £16). Remove the glass, drill a few drainage holes in the back of the frame, then line it with a hole-punched bin liner. Add a mix of compost and grit to the depth of the box and firm down. Fix a piece of chicken wire over the frame using a staple gun. Poke in your sempervivums, filling as much of the compost as possible so when you stand the frame upright, none falls out.
START A COLLECTION
Chick Charms (try yougarden.com, £19.99) is the brand name of a collection of varied and colourful succulents including (1) ‘Gold Nugget’ (2) ‘Bing Cherry’ (3) ‘Appletini’ (4) ‘Key Lime Kiss’ (5) ‘Cotton Candy’. Show them off at their best in matching concrete pots – try Round Cement Flower Pot, H11cm, £2.50 each hobbycraft.co.uk.
UPCYCLE TINS EASY IDEAS
Shiny Golden Syrup tins complement the matt greenery of succulents – just make drainage holes in the bottom of each tin using a hammer and nail.
Add a pop of colour with these green and pink rosettes that turn red in summer. £3/9cm pot craigiehallnursery.co.uk.
The lime-green rosettes of ‘Emerald Joy’ look chic in a black pot topped with black gravel. £4.45/6-9cm bare root plant surrealsucculents.co.uk.
The soft, green leaves of this echeveria turn silvery, edged in pale lilac, during winter. £7.99/10.5cm pot waitrosegarden.com.
This stunner has deep burgundy leaves edged with silvery hairs, perfect for the current dark plant trend. £3/9cm pot craigiehallnursery.co.uk.
An unusual plant with flaming yellow, orange-tipped leaves. It looks amazing in a sunny corner. £9.99/10.5cm pot crocus.co.uk.
Practically impossible to kill, this beauty has pretty red-tipped leaves and grows into large clusters. £7.99/10.5cm pot crocus.co.uk.
YOU WILL NEED
Large shallow planter with drainage holes, or small pots for individual plants @ Handful of grit/gravel Handful of Succulent Compost Mix, £5.94/1L surrealsucculents.co.uk.
WHAT TO DO
Fill the bottom of the planter with a layer of grit or gravel. Fill the planter with the succulent compost mix. Use your finger to make a hole in the compost. Pop a plant into the hole, filling it with compost so all the roots are covered, then firm the compost down around it. Add a rose to a watering can and water sparingly, so the top of the compost is just damp. 5 Position the planter in a bright, sunny spot in your garden. How to plant outdoors.
Succulents are the go-to garden plant this year they’re easy to grow, come in a myriad of colours and are very versatile. Hardy succulents also give year-round satisfaction as they don’t die or fade away in winter and most varieties offer up pretty blooms in summer. And with this house number in a pot idea, you can create a display that will make all your visitors smile!
YOU WILL NEED
Large pot with drainage holes – use the largest pot you can as the plants will continue to grow Crocks Succulent compost Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ x 3 Small houseplant fork or spade Sempervivum ‘Pixie’ x 3 Small white chippings.
WHAT TO DO
Cover each drainage hole in the pot with a piece of broken terracotta to prevent the compost falling through and blocking it. Fill up the pot with the succulent compost to within 2cm of the rim. Carefully tip the sedums out and plant around the outer edge of your pot. Each sedum will have little offspring, which will root and soon create a bushy effect. With your finger, draw the shape of your house number in the compost. Carefully take the sempervivums out of the pots they came in, remove any excess compost to expose the roots and then cut off each rosette using a sharp knife. Use these to fill the number shape, gently pressing down the compost around each one. Sprinkle the chippings around the plants – as well as stopping the plants getting too wet, they’ll help the number to stand out. Put a rose on a watering can and water until the compost is just damp.