Winter succulents

Discover winter-to-spring planting combinations

Don't be afraid to break the rules for displays that look great indoors over winter, then can be transferred outdoors in the spring. Ben Preston inspires. Photography Eva Nemeth.

Don’t be afraid to play around with planting combinations or to bend the rules. These exotic and tender houseplants live inside in the winter months and are moved outside for the summer. The evergreen and textural foliage of Plerandra elegantissima and soft lime-green hue of the Adiantum capillus-veneris provide year-round interest while the eye-popping purple blooms of Tibouchina urvilleana are produced all summer but often flush again in the depths of winter.

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How to Achieve The Look

Container and composition

Composite planters such as this slate-style pot are both more affordable and weigh far less than their slate counterparts. They’re also easily sourced. The lime-green froth of Adiantum capillus-veneris sets the combination off, contrasting well with the metallic effect of the container and the much darker, linear and strongly toothed leaves of the Plerandra elegantissima. The flare of the combination comes from the very flamboyant blooms of the Tibouchina urvilleana, which are produced all summer and keep throwing out the odd flower through the winter, even the spent, fallen petals look attractive. This display is perfect for gardeners who have little space with perhaps only a courtyard outside

Care and cultivation

All three species need reasonable humidity and temperatures above 5-10oC. I place this display on an east-facing window ledge, so it receives direct light through the winter months. Misting the foliage at least once a week will help keep the humidity high. Using a small hand-held sprayer will vastly improve overall plant health. Low humidity can often be the failing of many houseplants in modern houses with little ventilation and dry central heating. Outside Tibouchina urvilleana grows vigorously in the summer months and requires direct sunlight to produce plentiful blooms, it also helps to cast adequate dappled shade for both the Plerandra elegantissima and Adiantum capillus-veneris to perform at their best in midsummer.

Plants to use

Left to right:

Tibouchina urvilleana
© Eva Nemeth

Plerandra elegantissima

A slow- growing tender shrub that is a popular houseplant. Its open, dark- bronze palmate leaves are very attractive. Needs winter protection. Part shade. 2.5m. AGM. RHS H1B.

Tibouchina urvilleana

Striking, purple-violet flowers throughout the summer and sporadically in winter. Full sun to part shade. 3m. AGM. RHS H2, USDA 9a-11.

Tibouchina urvilleana
© Eva Nemeth

Far right:

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Adiantum capillus-veneris

An airy, tender evergreen fern. New foliage is a flush of bright lime green that becomes deeper as it ages. Requires bright but indirect sunlight. Part to full shade. 40cm. RHS H2, USDA 5a-8b.