Pots of Style with Ben Preston and succulents

A succulent pot plant display with Caputia tomentosa

Head gardener Ben Preston a succulent pot plant display for indoors over winter and outside in the garden once warm weather returns. Words Ben Preston, photographs Eva Nemeth

Succulents have risen in popularity in recent years and rightly so, coming in so many different weird and wonderful forms. This collection of glaucous silvery species ranges from the intriguing Curio articulatus, with sausage-shaped stem segments topped with a tree-like canopy of succulent leaves, to the very attractive Echeveria ‘Blue Curls’.  Its fleshy undulating rosettes with their pink margins wouldn’t look out of place on a coral reef.

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How to achieve the look

Container and composition

I prefer using traditional, shallow terracotta pots for succulents as they help to show off the individual character of each species. Here my intention was to combine several different silver-formed succulents each with its own unique style. The two taller species from South Africa look very different. Caputia tomentosa has a felt-like appearance with jelly bean-shaped leaves while the unusual Curio articulatus has swollen stems that resemble sausages. My favourite is Echeveria ‘Blue Curls’; its glaucous blue cups defined with a waxy pink leaf margins are very attractive and the peachy-red flowers appear from late-summer to the end of the year. But there is no end to the diverse range
of succulents, the combinations are endless.

Ben Preston creating a succulent planting display
© Eva Nemeth

Care and cultivation

All the succulents in the combination are very drought tolerant, and I have found the best watering regime to be the soak and dry method. Allowing the pot to dry completely before watering mimics the conditions these plants encounter in their natural environments and reduces the risk of rotting through becoming too saturated. Although all four species can tolerate a light frost, a combination of the wet and cold will kill these plants, so I keep them under cover during the cold months. A position in full sun is required to grow these plants to their full potential. I have a small south-facing glasshouse but a windowsill or conservatory in full sun will work just as well.

Plants to use

Succulents for a winter pot planting display
© Eva Nemeth

Left to right:

Echeveria ‘Blue Curls’ Wavy, glaucous-blue leaves with pink hue to the leaf margins. A thin flower spike is topped with peachy-red flowers from late summer to winter. Needs full sun. 30cm. RHS H2. USDA 9a-11.

Pachyveria ‘Glauca’ Compact succulent with a neat glaucous spikey rosette, very drought tolerant. Full sun. 15cm. RHS H3.

Curio articulatus Unusual upright succulent. Leaves go dormant in summer. Full sun. 60cm. RHS H2.

Succulents for a winter pot planting display
© Eva Nemeth
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Right: Caputia tomentosa Upright cylindrical leaves are covered in white hairs, giving a silvery felt effect to the overall plant. Full sun. 30cm. AGM. RHS H1C.