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Gardening How-to Articles

An Indoor Succulent Garden—Welcome the Warmth and Wonder of the Desert into Your Home

It's wintertime, and most gardeners are giving their yards a well-deserved rest. Attention has shifted indoors, where planting options are more limited in terms of scale but certainly no less exciting. One such option is the potted succulent garden, a miniature ecosystem that allows you to experience the warmth and wonder of the desert without having to travel all the way to places like North Africa, Australia, or Yemen. What's more, succulent plants vary widely in form, texture, and flower color, so the design potential is enormous.

Below is a simple, low-maintenance design suitable for a windowsill or conservatory with filtered bright light, or for any room with strong indirect light. Most of the recommended plants bloom primarily in winter or early spring. Grow them in a standard cactus-potting mix. Water only when the container is thoroughly dry, and then water well. Avoid watering Aeonium and Greenovia during their dormancy period in the summer.

Illustration: Paul Harwood
  1. Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'
    An erect sub-shrub with shiny, black-purple leaves and yellow flowers at maturity.

  2. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana 'Tom Thumb'
    A dwarf cultivar of the florist kalanchoe with thick green scalloped leaves and bright red flowers.

  3. Greenovia aurea
    A small succulent rosette with light green leaves and yellow flowers at maturity.

  4. Kalanchoe eriophylla
    A low, clumping groundcover with fuzzy white leaves and pink flowers.

  5. Aloe dorothea
    A small groundcover with a star-shaped rosette and spiny leaves, which are medium green in summer and red in winter.

  6. Kalanchoe uniflora
    A mat-forming succulent with light green leaves and pale salmon flowers.

Susan Aumont was curator of the Desert Pavilion, the Tropical Entry House, and the Trail of Evolution in BBG's Steinhardt Conservatory until 2016.

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