Create a desert landscape

Make a mini desert1.jpg

Plant up this dramatic mini desert in a shallow bowl. Rose Ray and Caro Langton explain how to do it in their new book, House of Plants (£20, Frances Lincoln)

A shallow dish container is the perfect way to display favourite succulents indoors. Group the plants together to make an intriguing desert scene in miniature, positioned on your brightest windowsill.

More elaborate than simply placing potted plants together, a container garden allows you to add textural elements such as dried lichen, lengths of preserved driftwood and attractive stones. These add an extra dimension to the scene, providing a contrast for the complex geometric plant forms.

Since desert cacti and succulents are slow-growing and require similar care, they work very well arranged together in one container. Here we’ve tried to include plants of different shapes, colours and textures for maximum visual variety.

For example, try contrasting juicy aloes with spiky cacti, colourful echeverias with hairy haworthias or low-lying lithops with sculptural euphorbias. Most importantly, pick plants that have similar needs for light, water and humidity so the container is easy to care for as a whole.

When it comes to choosing a container, bear in mind these plants don’t like to be enclosed. They prefer a bright, open setting surrounded by warm, dry air, so pick a shallow dish with a wide neck. Look for a watertight container (if you’re using one made of wood, either apply a thin layer of polyurethane varnish or line the base with a sheet of plastic). A simple metal or plastic tray, dish or bowl will do: young cacti and succulents have very shallow root systems, so the container only needs to be around 10cm (4in) deep. Scour secondhand shops and flea markets for containers with an interesting design or back story.

After a few months, you may find thatsome plants are growing strongly while others stay seemingly unchanged. You can prune any overgrown areas with clean, sharp scissors, eventually replacing those that outgrow the container. If any plants start to suffer, simply remove and replace them.


This is an edited extract from House of Plants by Caro Langton and Rose Ray (£20, Frances Lincoln). To order for just £16 (inc p&p) call 01903 828503 quoting offer code HOP2016. Offer extends to UK mainland only. Overseas orders please add £2.50.


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