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How to grow succulents

Seduced by succulents but think they’re tricky to grow? Think again.

Eden Project horticulturist Colin Skelly shares his top tips to help you successfully grow and care for these intriguing plants.


Succulents: the wow factor

From tree-sized aloes to ground-hugging houseleeks no bigger than a coin, succulents are a real statement plant. Their striking forms and beautiful rosettes have a habit of stopping people in their tracks. And some, like the spiral aloe, have got to be the most pleasing embodiment of the Fibonacci sequence found in nature. 

They’re so versatile, too. Succulents look great grown together in pots on a patio, or as table-top decoration; they can give summer borders an exotic feel, or pique interest on a sunny windowsill. Featuring a whole range of colours and textures, from shiny dark leaves and furry greens to powdery silvers and crimson tints, there is a succulent to suit everyone. 

The good news is that they’re surprisingly easy to grow. Read on to find out how to care for succulents, which types to grow, and even how to propagate them… 

Top tips for succulent growing

A little preparation will go a long way to achieving success; get it right and succulents will provide you with a stunning display and minimal maintenance.

More details

A close up of the aeonium smithii

1. Aeonium smithii

With attractive markings and an usual wavy leaf edge, this species is a bit hardier than some succulents, its native habitat being the mountains of Tenerife. Watch out for winter rotting in the UK. Full sun.


A close up of the aeonium cyclops

2. Aeonium ‘Cyclops’

This cultivar gets the ‘cyclops’ name from its one large rosette with a dark green centre. It can reach 50cm across on a stem up to around 1.5 metres tall. Full sun.


A close up of the aeonium tabuliforme succulent

3. Aeonium tabuliforme

Perhaps the best known Aeonium with flat rosettes, those of the tabuliforme can grow up to 50cm in diameter in favourable conditions. Partial shade.


A close up of the Echeveria Pulvinata succulents growing on a wall

4. Echeveria pulvinata

A hairy-leaved succulent with a silvery, shiny appearance featuring rosettes 20-30cm across, Echeveria pulvinata is available in many different cultivars. An easy succulent to propagate, as it offsets freely. Full sun.


A close up of an echeveria agavoides succulent with red tips on the leaves

5. Echeveria agavoides

A structural Echeveria that can grow quite large (around 30cm diameter by 20cm height) and in certain cultivars has a beautiful red tone. Full sun/partial shade.

A close up of sedum morganianum succulent

6. Sedum morganianum

This trailing succulent is also known as burro’s tails and is really useful for pot displays. It trails indefinitely and offsets, and also grows new plants freely from its leaves. Full sun.


A view of the aloe polyphylla succulent

7. Aloe polyphylla

With a stunning spiral leaf structure, this aloe is accustomed to cool, moist conditions from its native mountainous Lesotho, making it a great candidate for UK gardens. An endangered species, it is hard to obtain from seed, but is becoming more freely available through tissue culture carried out in labs. Full sun/partial shade.


A view of the aloe plicatilis succulent

8. Aloe plicatilis

A fantastically structural succulent, the large fan aloe is ideal for potting up inside a conservatory or greenhouse, as it’s happy outside during the summer, but needs winter protection. Full sun.


A close up of the sempervivum calcareum succulent

9. Sempervivum calcareum

A native of the southern Alps, this species is the only succulent that is fully hardy in the UK – although it will require good drainage. It also spreads easily, so can cover a lot of ground! Full sun/partial shade.


A close up of the crassula muscosa succulent

10. Crassula muscosa

Commonly known as the rat-tail Crassula, this succulent is great fun. With its unusual structure it looks particularly good as a textural contrast when planted in pots with other succulents. Full sun/partial shade.

Succulents at the Eden Project

Come and see a wide variety of succulents here at the Eden Project, where they thrive all year in the Mediterranean Biome, and outdoors in the summer in our experimental climate change garden.

Colin Skelly is an Outdoor Gardens Skilled Horticulturist – and succulent enthusiast – at the Eden Project.

Image credits: Aeonium smithii and Aeonium tabuliforme: OpuntiaEcheveria pulvinata: Amante DarmaninEcheveria agavoides: Stephen BoisvertSedum morganianum: Morningdew51; Aloe polyphylla: Stan ShebsAloe plicatilis: Esculapio; Sempervivum calcareum: Bouba; Crassula muscosa: Agnieszka Kwiecień.