Why are we so restricted when it comes to the succulents that we can plant outside and leave all year round without winter cover? That’s what Mark Lea from Surreal Succulents thought, while his colleague, Daniel, enjoys the colourful and ornamental forms of all succulents, taking pleasure in the responsibility of winter care. This was before Surreal Semponium was created.
This collection is composed of intergeneric hybrids consisting of a Sempervivum and Aeonium, resulting in xSemponium. To you, the consumer, that means huge, eye-catching succulents in a variety of colours that can be planted in the garden, carefree, even throughout winter.
How to grow Surreal Semponium
Flowering time: Differs by variety
Location: Rockeries, coastal gardens, containers, conservatories
Soil: Any well-draining soil
Light: Sun to semi-shade
Water: Water well while establishing and throughout periods of drought
Size: Differs by variety (see below)
Semponiums in flower
What’s different about these plants?
Sempervivums are compact succulents that can withstand freezing temperatures – even to as low as -20 degrees Celsius! Meanwhile, Aeoniums are large and usually frost tender, with glossy leaves arranged in rosettes.
Hybridised, these plants make Semponium, a collection of hardy (to around -4) succulents in a variety of vivid colours – from fiery reds, to fresh greens, to almost-black burgundies – and attractive shapes.
Semponium establish and grow incredibly quickly, and have a shorter dormancy period than their parentage.
How were these plants created?
While it might seem easy to cross two succulents, the flowering periods of Sempervivum and Aeonium are actually really far apart (the former flowering in the summer, and the latter in the winter), making this process quite challenging! To get around this, Surreal Succulents moved a late flowering Aeonium (‘Ice Warrior’) to the coolest part of their conservatory to slow down the flowering, and Sempervivum ‘Green Ice’ was chosen as a strong cultivar.
Daniel Michael of Surreal Succulents
The fresh pollen was carefully transferred from the Aeonium to the Sempervivum using a soft paintbrush and tweezers, and then kept out of reach of pollinators to avoid cross contamination. The flower was left to ripen for eight weeks; they then collected the flowerheads and left them to dry in a brown paper bag for two weeks. After this, the seeds were collected, packaged, labelled and stored in a fridge before sowing.
Two to three months after sowing, Surreal Succulents saw great variation in the seedlings – a huge win! Six varieties were chosen for their unique distinctions in form, colour and vigour. xSemponium was born!
An incredible vivid red with neat layers of rosettes, growing to form a pyramid shape.
A gorgeous central rosette featuring a vortex-like spiral, with a head that grows up to 50cm across.
Features uniquely veiny leaves which grow in a large 60cm head, plus branching offsets.
The leaves develop white edges in strong sunlight – hence the name! Forms tight clumps as it spreads.
Beautiful diamond-shaped leaves in bright green with a fiery red outline. Grows up to 30cm across and produces offsets at the base.
xSemponium ‘Mrs Frosty’
Named after TV presenter Adam Frost’s wife, this variety has elongated, spoon-shaped leaves which turn a brown-pink in strong sunlight. Grows up to 60cm in height and width.
Where can you plant Surreal Semponium?
Semponium makes stunning plants in any collection, but are particularly well suited to containers and rockeries. They thrive in full sun in a well-draining soil, and can be left outside throughout the winter in temperatures down to -4 degrees Celsius.
Where can you buy Surreal Semponium?
You can find Semponiums in the UK at Suttons and Thompson & Morgan, or in the EU at Nelumbo Garden.
Plant of the Month is sponsored by Plantipp, a company based in The Netherlands who handle the introduction of new plants into Europe.
See every Plant of the Month here.
Images courtesy of Plantipp.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.