“Most succulents thrive on a bit of neglect,” says Madeline Arnott-Bryce, a senior horticulturist at Centennial Park, when asked to give a couple of tips on how to grow them. In some ways it explains their widespread appeal – they seem virtually impossible to kill.
Succulents – and easy-care plants in general – are having a moment. Every week there seems to be another sell-out warehouse plant sale in the ’burbs, and inner-city cafes are starting to look more like greenhouses. And there are a couple tricks when it comes to keeping your plants healthy throughout the year.
First, make a welcoming home for your succulent. Pick a pot that’s the right size – you want your new plant to have enough room to grow – and make sure it has good drainage.
“Plants don’t like wet soil,” says Arnott-Bryce. “Be sure the pot has a draining hole, [though] you can sometimes drill your own hole if you fall in love with a hole-less pot.”
To maximise soil drainage, Arnott-Bryce also recommends adding a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot.
Next, find a sunny spot for your plant. Succulents may thrive on neglect, but they still need ample sunlight for healthy growth. Grab a compass (or a compass smartphone app) and find a room or window that faces north. That’s where your plant is likely to receive optimal sunlight throughout the day.
And most of all, don’t over water. When it comes to succulents, too much liquid love can cause your plant to rot. “Most succulents require as little as quarter cup of water applied to the soil around the plant,” says Arnott-Bryce, adding it’s also important to allow your plant to dry out properly between waterings.
For hardy indoor plants, Arnott-Bryce recommends the jade plant (otherwise known as the “money tree”), with its attractive round, dark-green leaves; the snake plant (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue); and the alien-looking sedum compressum.
If you’re looking for some outdoor plants, “hens and chicks” are ideal says Arnott-Bryce. “[They’re] really tolerant and look like little rubbery roses.”
Centennial Park is holding a workshop on how to care and style succulent plants on Friday July 20, 6pm–7.30pm. Tickets are $65, which includes snacks and wine.