If houseplants are currently the biggest gardening show in town, succulents have a strong claim to be the star. They seem to be everywhere from supermarket shelves and magazine articles to garden show displays and Instagram feeds.
Their popularity, say John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller in Success with Succulents, is down to a combination of things: a greater range available to home growers thanks to online shopping, their suitability for container gardening, ability to cope with a degree of neglect, and their looks.
“Succulents look great on camera,” they tell us, pointing out that the hashtag #succulent has more than one million posts on Instagram alone.
Given what they describe as this “stylish plant swank”, I did wonder if the book would be full of trend-following style rather than horticultural usefulness.
In fact, it is more horticulture than gardening fashion. There are detail explanations of the difference between cactus and succulents – “all cactuses are succulents, but not all succulents are cactuses” – and how you can tell the difference; a look at the different types from “mimicry plants”, such as Lithops, to Echeverias, one of the most sought after plants; and reference to some of the uses of the plants from tequila to rope-making.
If anything, the pair seem more interested in saving succulents than encouraging their popularity as indoor plants.
They warn that “care often needs to be exacting, without much room for improvisation” and suggest “growing succulents outdoors is by far the best-case scenario for healthy, attractive and colorful succulents.”
They do concede that is not always possible in climates where snow and frost are commonplace and they suggest putting plants outside for as long as the weather will allow.
And if you do grow indoors, the book gives advice on light, watering, containers and how to deal with pests.
They conclude with their top 100 choices. Each entry is illustrated and there is information on care, hardiness, propagation, and when the plant will flower.
The book is unlikely to appeal to the Instagram growers – it’s not glossy enough for that. It’s also probably too specialised for the novice houseplant owner but perfect as a step up from a basic general plant guide.
• Success with Succulents by John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller is published by Cool Springs Press, RRP £16.99. Buy now (If you buy via the link, I get a small payment. The price you pay is not affected.)
• Review copy supplied by Cool Springs Press.
• Read more book reviews here