The Great Outdoors – gardening with succulents

The Great Outdoors – gardening with succulents

The Great Outdoors – gardening with succulents

Our expert speaker for October meeting was Paul Spracklin. Paul always wanted to make an exotic garden, inspired by examples displaying tropical style planting such the Exotic Garden in Norwich by his friend, the late Will Giles. However, Paul lives in south east Essex, known for its dry weather and so he looked to cacti and succulents.

Paul began by explaining the key requirements for growing these plants:

sunshine – in the UK plants need the brightest, sunniest spot
good drainage – these plants need excellent drainage. It is better to give them water than try to remove it!
winter protection – to keep rain off in winter and also to protect from the UK’s typically wet snow. Examples include a clear umbrella or horticultural cloche or an old fleece blanket whilst it is snowing
air movement – to wick away moisture
provenance – i.e. plants originating from from hotter climate countries but growing at but high altitudes and plants from wetter sides of mountains

Paul then introduced a selection of plants and their characteristics, a few of which are listed below. Thank you Paul for introducing us to your incredible garden.


Yucca faxoniana – large trunk and huge inflorescence, from cold areas of Texas

Yucca linearifolia – highly recommended, forms a globe of thin, blue leaves. Originates on the shady side of a canyon in Mexico, with some tolerance for moisture

Nolinia hiburnica – the most suitable of this genus for the UK, originating from wet mountainsides. Dead leaves are retained to insulate the plant and also to protect against flash fires – this ‘petticoat’ burns quickly and at lower temperatures. Hardy to -20C

Agave gentryi – Paul’s recommendation, a strikingly architectural Agave from the Sierra Madre Oriental in northeastern Mexico where it grows at elevations of 2300-2700 metres in the open or as an understory plant beneath pine and oak forest. On the mountain slopes it experiences cold wet conditions – considerably wetter than Agaves from more desert regions. Given good drainage it will tolerate frost and sub-zero temperatures down to about -10C.


Aloiampelos striatula – fleshly, lax shrub with Kniphofia -like flowers

Aloe aristata – hardy to -8C if dry

Beschorneria albiflora – very striking with green flowers on red stems, plants form a small trunk


Fascicularia bicolor ssp. canaliculata – will tolerate down to -15C as long as well drained, in sun or shade

Bilbergia nutans – a common house plant, Paul has been growing is outside in the branches of a yew tree for 25 years!


Echinopsis schickendantzii – multiple stems that clamber along the ground, many tiny spines!

Echeveria elegans – forms carpets in its native habitat in Mexico, with delicate red flowers and rounded leaves. Paul saw this growing in trees in the wild and grows his secured to his yew tree.

Images below courtesy of Paul Spracklin. Find out more on his website: