A pretty, flowering everlasting, and a collection of bright succulents, were the inspiration for this colourful pot.
I wanted to plant up a container as a house-warming gift for a young lady who is very appreciative of – and interested in – pretty plants, but is not good at looking after them. I needed something tough and enduring – which was also lively and modern enough to get her hooked on gardening.
After rooting around in my own gravel garden, I dug up pieces of my showiest and most trustworthy succulents. In my favourite nursery, I found more treasures – a squat clay pot and a lush Syncarpha Argenteus (Pink Everlasting), which not only softens the look of the bold succulents but also supplies great foliage contrast and texture.
Syncarpha Argenteus (Pink Everlasting)
An erect shrublet with many side branches covered in petite, silver leaves. Each stem is topped with deep-pink buds which fade to pink-tipped and white papery flowers, with bright-yellow centres when fully open. It likes full sun and will flower from late summer well into winter.
It needs well-drained sandy soil, little water, and a trim after flowering to encourage bushy growth. The flowers can be kept to attach to gifts and greeting cards, or to add to potpourri.
Cotyledon Orbiculata (Pig’s Ears)
This is a typical rock-garden plant for dry areas and is quite fast-growing. It thrives in full sun, and also grows in semi-shade. It forms a thick clump about 30 cm high, sprouting tall and sturdy flower stems with dark orange, bell-like flowers in late winter.
The leaves are round, fleshy and grey-green, normally with thin, red margins. There are different colour variations in nature. The one I used has powdery, silver-grey leaves with a lime-green undertone and margin.
Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora (Flapjack Plant)
Probably one of the most attractive succulents around, it forms heavy and dense rosettes of large, luminescent and paddle-shaped leaves in a sea-green shade, and lushly tinted rusty-red to maroon margins. The Flapjack Plant will grow in full sun or light shade.
These wonderful plants are usually coated in a layer of thin, white powder, which protects them against excessive light and moisture loss. Each mature rosette will produce a flower stem up to 1 m long in winter, which has bleached white to very pale yellow flowers.
All these parts are also covered in the chalky powder layer. The Flapjack Plant is a ‘monocarp’, which means that once it is flowering, the mother rosette dies off. This is not a concern, as the plant will form many baby rosettes at its base to make up for this strange behaviour before a gardener even notices the loss.
Crassula Capitella ‘Campfire’
This is a succulent ground cover with a prostrate and trailing growth habit. If left unchecked, it can easily reach a spread of about 1 m. It flourishes in full-to-partial sun. Long and winding stems are clothed in propeller-like leaves, which mature from bright lime-green to fiery-red if the plants are not over-watered. The many side stems are topped with sprays of dainty, white flowers in autumn and winter.
A few Succulent Tricks
• All the succulents mentioned above have great hearts, and will easily grow from cuttings or ‘pieces’ taken from the ever-spreading mother plant. Getting these cuttings to root is easy. One can simply plant them into a pot filled with well-draining potting soil, or straight into garden beds where they will quickly root. This is provided when the soil is kept fairly dry for a few days, and then not over-watered for a few days after that until the plants have established. After this, only water them when they get really dry.
• To be on the safe side, you can ‘plant’ them with a piece of stem intact into coarse and just-moist river sand, mixed with a little coarse compost. Keep them in a lightly-shaded, protected spot, and water lightly and sparingly. If you tug at them gently and find resistance, you will know they have rooted into the soil medium. This is when they are ready to be planted out into a container or the garden.
Good to know
The unrooted succulents used in this pot recipe took only two weeks to root strongly, by which time the everlasting had started flowering profusely! To find these plants, visit nurseries which stock a wide range of indigenous plants.