Social media and interiors blogs are filled with succulents – those small plants with fat rubbery leaves that can live for up to 150 years. What’s all the fuss about?
“Technically, a succulent is any plant with thick, fleshy (succulent) water storage organs,” says Sophie Lee, succulent specialist and founder of homeware website Geo-Fleur. “These plants have adapted to survive arid conditions throughout the world (typically Africa, Central and South America, the European Alps and South Africa) and have interesting leaf forms and plant shapes, including paddle leaves, tight rosettes and bushy or trailing teardrop leaves.” It’s a large plant species, which includes cacti, but note: while cacti are succulents, not all succulents are cacti.
Annie Guilfoyle, director of garden design at KLC School of Design, traces the succulent trend to the US where “they’re a popular prop with interior designers and stylists. They can grow outside in more places in the US – but also be used in funky indoor displays.” It was 2014 when Sophie Lee noticed the plants becoming popular with British professionals living in flats with no gardens. “Succulents are beautiful and nearly indestructible,” she says. “They have an incredible ability to thrive with low maintenance because they store water in their leaves, stems, or roots. Also, since there are so many different varieties, they make for an awesome display.”
Pinterest, Instagram and BuzzFeed are good resources for inspiration. Annie Guilfoyle’s tip is to create a wreath, growing the succulents into moss and florist foam and then hanging it over a table like a chandelier. Sophie Lee advises using them in bridal bouquets, or in a wooden crate with trailing plants to create a small urban garden. Through Geo-Fleur, Lee offers workshops in the art of terrariums (glass plant houses), kokedama (hanging plant balls) and macramé (using the knotted string to suspend plants). For £15 per month, Geo-Fleur will send you a potted cactus or succulent, an accessory (a macramé plant hanger for example) and advice on how to look after it.
“They are the perfect house plant: they enjoy dry, humid conditions and they are happy in direct sunlight or slight shade,” says Guilfoyle. “Varieties such as sedum morganianum, crassula ovata, aloe vera and kalanchoe tomentosa enjoy a warm, protected environment and free draining soil. Don’t overwater or leave in a place where the temperature fluctuates too much [for example above a radiator].” Sophie Lee suggests giving them a spray of water 1-2 times a week and if they start to look leggy (a gardening term for when a plant has more stem than leaves), snip off the stems, strip the leaves, and root the leaves in potting soil.
(*You can kill succulents but you have to try really hard.)
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