Succulent love

Michael Perry extolls the virtues of succulents. Suited to indoor or outdoor growing, they're easy to grow and very trendy at the moment.

succulent
Succulents are easy-to-care for plants for nearly any garden. Image: Jean Vernon
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Succulents have quietly accelerated in popularity over the past few years. They are cute, colourful and available in a myriad of fascinating shapes and forms. Plus, the best part, they don’t need much water. I actually challenge you to kill a succulent. It isn’t easy. Most succulents store their own water in the leaves. That’s why they’re so plump and.. well.. succulent.

Indoors and out

Although predominantly tender plants, and therefore suited to houseplant culture, there are some that are hardy and can be grown in a container or even a border outdoors. Echeveria are actually tougher than you think, just avoid winter wet and they’ll sparkle year after year. 

When using succulents indoors, you can use them as a living decoration thanks to their architectural handsomeness, Pair them up with unusual decorative containers, perhaps some old tin cans or some shop bought stoneware pots. Succulents don’t need much space either, in fact some are so dinky you can even display them on the dining table, making a fantastic talking point. Soon, everyone will be wanting a cutting. Thankfully, succulents are easy to propagate, just break a small piece of stem- or even leaf- from the plant and it will root.

But, let’s look at the best 5 succulents for indoor culture- some of which I have been growing since I was just 8 years old.

lithops
Lithops. Image: Fotolia

Living Stones (Lithops)

Fab little plants, which have evolved to be camouflaged and drought tolerant in the wilds of Africa. The plants actually photosynthesise through the small ‘windows’ on the top of each fleshy leaf, and have exceptionally long taproots so they can make the most of soil moisture. Once your plants are three years old, they’ll also surprise you.. with completely out of character, daisy-like yellow flowers. Fun to grow from seed, or can be purchased from many different outlets.

Echeveria

Like many succulents, echeveria can cope with drought for long periods of time, thanks to the waxy coating on their leaves. I love their blue sheen, which is a strong contrast to the orange and red florets that appear in the summer. Everything about this plant screams ‘show off’. Unlike most other succulents, you might find these will survive outdoors, as long as you can keep them dry over the winter months. But to be safe, bring them into a cool, protected space if the temperature plummets.

jellybean plant
Jellybean plant. Image: Jean Vernon

Sedum

A huge family of plants which includes indoor and outdoor specimens. In fact, you might recognise the name from Sedum spectacle ‘Brilliant’, a well known autumn flowering plant in borders. My indoor favourites from this family include the Jelly Bean plant (Sedum rubrotinctum), which was in fact one of the first plants I ever bought, and Sedum morganianum, sometimes called Burro’s Tail. 

Kalanchoe

You’ll recognise the name from the flowering houseplants, I’m sure. However, there are two other less known members of the family; Daigremontiana (Mexican Hat Plant) and Delagoensis (Chandelier Plant), which both produce tiny baby plants along the edge of their leaves. Recently reclassified as Bryophyllum, the whole family has the ability to reproduce in this intriguing manner.

house leeks
House leeks. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Houseleek (Sempervivum)

This last succulent is hardy and again, super easy to grow. Sempervivum are also known as houseleek, mainly due to the fact they grow on roofs and were once said we protect the property from lightning and encourage prosperity for the inhabitants. The fleshy leaves store water well, making them drought tolerant. You’ll also find they can grow absolutely anywhere. Midsummer also brings a surprise, as the centre of the plant morphs up like the very best horror movie, exploding into bloom for your pleasure.

Michael Perry

About Michael Perry

Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan. Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media - so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook.
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