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Let The Plant Speak For Itself

When it comes to indoor gardening that requires little maintenance, echeverias go to the top of the table - literally. Ideal for tabletop arrangements, they look good in individual pots or in tray-sized landscapes. These succulents (plants that store water in their fleshy leaves and stems) are members of the crassula family, best represented by the popular jade plant.

A native of Mexico, echeverias are named after the 18th-century Mexican botanical artist Anthanasia Echeverria Godoy who documented its many varieties in his paintings. Today, there are over 150 species of this ornamental perennial. It is most easily identified by its neat rosette of fleshy leaves that ranges in colour from a pinkish blush, through purple, to bright lettuce green.

A slow grower, it requires little maintenance in the way of pruning. It also requires very little water. In fact, one of the easiest ways to kill it is to get it wet. One tip if you are buying one is to add some sand to the soil in the pot to soak up any excess moisture. Or you could repot it in a gritty mix of gravel and soil, which is closer to its natural environment.

Also, when watering, take care not to wet the leaves. Instead, water it by putting a saucer of water underneath and letting it draw up what it needs by capillary action. If you are keeping it as a houseplant, you should not need to water it more often than once in 10 days to a fortnight. In fact, it is better to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering.

All of which makes the echeveria a good option for the forgetful, lazy or time-stressed gardener. It also makes the plant ideal for tabletop arrangements since you hardly need to prune or weed it. And you can leave it on the table for a fortnight or longer before it needs to be watered or sunned (avoid exposing it to direct sun as it could scorch the leaves).

With their strong, sculptural shapes, echeverias work well in modern arrangements. Their slightly frosted appearance also pairs well with materials such as lacquered wood, galvanised iron or chrome containers. And while it is tempting to buy as many varieties as possible, from a flower arranger's point of view, it is best to keep the display simple, says floral designer Anson Low of Nobleman School of Floral Design. 

".lust one or a cluster of three of the same echeveria species makes a very powerful statement," he says. `Let the plant speak for itself. And choose complementary materials and settings. For a plant that comes from a hard life, pall-it with similar materials such as metal, rock and gravel."

 

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