In botany, succulent plants, also known as succulents or sometimes fat plants, are plants that have some parts that are more than normally thickened and fleshy, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions.
Succulent plants grow anywhere. They thrive with minimum fuss, flourish with little care and grow in small amounts of soil and the maximum amount of sunshine. Better still, they require little moisture, making them a stylish solution to Australia’s water crisis.
Succulents have bold foliage forms and bright colours, and their ease of growing has ensured the revival of their popularity. Embrace them in all corners of your garden, in pots in your courtyard, on windowsills and even as indoor plants. They are one of nature’s most versatile beauties.
Succulents are fun to work with, and with so many varieties there is something for everyone. Your local nursery is a good place to start. Select the colours, forms and sizes that suit you and your garden and ask how they grow — do they spread along the ground, or do they get much taller? Avoid the really prickly ones, as they will be difficult to control.
Concentrate on the smooth-leafed succulents for your garden such as Echeveria, Aeonium, Crassula, Sempervivum, Sedum, Agave and Cotyledons. Arrange them into artistic designs — planting many of the same variety will create a sweep of colour like a painting and will be more visually effective. Focus on harmonising colours, not clashing ones, and you will create a tranquil collection pleasing to the eye.
In the garden
Planting can be done during autumn and spring; avoid winter as it’s usually too cold and wet. Plant into well-drained soils in plenty of sunshine — however, many of the Echeveria, Cotyledons and Sempervivums will take partly shaded conditions as well. You can also plant succulents as a low border to a garden bed. Some succulents particularly suit this job, including Echeveria and Sedums, as they clump and spread better than others.
Larger succulents such as Agave, Aloe and Yucca attract the eye with their large forms and wild, striped colours. These focal plants should be planted where they won’t be a problem in later years — planting them at the back of the garden will often result in dramatic forms and shapes. Planting flexible foliage plants nearby such as flax, daisies and lavender will help soften the look.
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Pots and containers
Perfect for the gardener without a garden, succulents love growing in pots. Choosing the right succulent and the right pot can pretty up a balcony, deck, porch, pool area, terrace or even a windowsill. Those of us who rent will be able to take their beloved collection from house to house.
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