Garden Blog

A blog about gardening generally plus a few personal views and moans

The horrors of painted plants

The horrors of painted plants

The Horrors of Painted Plants

By Howard Drury

IMG 6920 Echeveria painted 2

Echeveria agavoides in local supermarket

From trade shows to supermarkets, painted plants can be seen everywhere. Two vital questions, why on earth do we need to do, and secondly does it harm the plant?

There seems to be a quest for even more bizarre looking plants by retailers, my question here is just who are they aiming to sell these poor plants to? The more serious gardener or plant collector will clearly know they are fake.

This leads me to ask what do the purchasers of these weird looking plants expect from them. Do they expect they to look the same unnatural colours all the plants' life, with the new foliage emerging just the same? No, if the plant manages to survive, we all know the new young growth should be the plant's natural colours if the plant is being grown well in good conditions.

As a slightly knowledgeable gardener I know plants photosynthesis through their leaves, as a lover of variegated plants I also accept that variegated plants often need more light than their green counterparts for the lesser amounts of green or chlorophyll to be able to produce food and energy for the plant to grow.

At trade shows, we regularly see overseas sellers with their huge vehicles behind rows of plants such as heathers covered in sprays to make them appear more attractive. Is that fair on the customer buying them – certainly not.

Go into any supermarket, and you will find artificially coloured succulents, especially Echeveria agavoides literally plastered in paint and typically with added glitter in an attempt to make their plant sales sparkle. Just how long will they survive? Surely there are already very attractive named cultivars such as Echeveria agavoides ‘Romeo’ with its extremely attractive pink foliage, especially when the plant is stressed. This is particularly noticeable as plants come towards the end of their winter dormancy. Here is a plant that literally doesn’t need any water from late September until March, but plant labels rarely give even a hint that some succulents are winter dormant while others such as Aeoniums are summer dormant.

Isn’t it time we stopped trying to make a plant something it clearly is not? We must stop kidding these less knowledgeable but potentially new gardeners of the next generation that these plants are fake. We should be showing just how beautiful some plants are, especially the variegated forms. Just look at the huge range of new variegated Aeoniums that are appearing on the market now. Yes some are still making stupid money with one new cultivar being offered for £500 on eBay this week, prices will drop, supply will increase as these plants are so very easy to propagate and branch much more freely than older cultivars. They are appealing, fairly easy to grow and just the sort of plant we should be selling to the whole spectrum of gardeners and none gardeners, instead of selling painted plants doomed to die. We need to encourage tomorrow’s gardeners, not discourage them by failures.


Aeonium 'Medusa'
Aeonium 'Kilmanjaro'
Aeonium 'Big Wave'
Image is designed and maintained by Darren Hodson © 2022, The Drurys