Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
Our plant of the week is the Echeveria. Maybe not the prettiest but definitely one of the coolest. Her name is dedicated to a Mexican plant illustrator from the 18th century.
If a garden was a circus, then there are a number of plants that would spring to mind to take part in the freak show. You might suggest ‘Wolffia Angusta,’ the world’s smallest flower. Two plants in bloom would fit into the printed letter ‘o.’ Or, of course, the amorphophallus (we won’t tell you the direct translation of that) which gives off a smell of rotting flesh. But if there’s one plant that probably wouldn’t come into your mind, its echeveria.
A great option for the perfectionist gardener, echeverias have a symmetrical leaf rosette that creates an appearance of order. They are also perennial which means that your garden will continue to look neat throughout the winter.
At first sight, the only thing that seems unusual about the echeveria is the fact that it can be grown on almost any surface as long as you provide nutrients – even on wood, if these bloggers are to be believed. This means that there are a huge variety of ways in which to use these succulents as part of striking and unusual displays, like in a living wreath or a hanging sphere.
But the echeveria is one of the biggest freaks of the plant world. The Crassulaceae family, of which echeveria is part, is fascinating to scientists, as unlike in most species, the chromosome count of echeveria varies. Humans, for example, always have 46 chromosomes. Cabbage (as well as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower) always have 18. But in this family of plants alone, it varies from 12 to 34.
But regardless of whether it’s a freak, it’s a very pretty one. In addition, it’s drought resistant (although it will flourish with regular deep watering and fertilising) and has been extensively bred and hybridised, leading to a huge number of new varieties like ‘lipstick’ with its bright reddish pink edges and ‘wavy curls’ with bluish wavy leaves. The wide variety of colours and shapes, as well as their ordered appearance, makes it a popular choice for wedding bouquets and buttonholes – meaning that Uncle Fred won’t be the only weirdo at your wedding.