This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

February 9, 2014

Creating a jewel-like setting for your small plants

Tiny plants, such as this variegated form of Haworthia attenuata (Wide Zebra), are like jewels. They are tiny, can be very expensive, and if not shown off correctly, they look terrible. But if you do the proper setting, they shine like the jewels that they are.

I just picked up some tricks this weekend from visiting some nurseries in Tucson that sell these types of plants. Of course, you see them in the little plastic pots, but they also have them grouped together in containers, and staged for effect. Here are some of the tricks:

• Put them in a large pot. Don't be tempted to put them in a lot of tiny, decorative pots. That's for people who can't do the composition. If you want to see how it's done, visit an upscale nursery. I have this one in a pot that about two feet tall. It isn't for the roots, which are shallow, it's so that it brings the plants to the perfect viewing level. Assuming the average viewer is between five and six feet tall, having it at about "knee height" for people is perfect. The best view is slightly down, so you don't want them too tall, and you definitely don't want them close to the ground, where people will probably step on them, and not even notice them.

• Add rocks to highlight the plants. Small, craggy rocks. No, not goofy, shiny rocks or gemstones. This is part of the supporting cast, they should enhance the plants, not overshadow them. And some nice roughly-textured tiny rocks for the surface. I have volcanic pumice, which looks really nice.

• Do a tall center plant surrounded by smaller ones. And vary them a bit, not so much that it looks like you are planting without thinking about it, but don't try to match them all up.

And there you go. And by the way, these are real plants that are outdoors, not plastic plants under glass. Some small imperfections in their environment is OK. You don't need to be fussing about the occasional small leaf or stick that gets in there. Yeah, I wish I could follow my own advice. I'm gonna go get some pointy scissors and trim that dead leaf and that end of the flower stalk that I didn't notice right now. But then I will relax. I promise!
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