If you are looking for plants with that exotic, tropical look then you could do a lot worse than to choose Aeonium arboreum, and in particular the stunning 'Zwartkop' cultivar. Native to the hillsides of the Canary Islands, it isn't quite hardy enough to overwinter unprotected in your typical northern European garden, but don't let that stop you enjoying it over the warmer months. This means that plenty of straw and fleece will be the order of the day come the first frosts. However, so handsome is its foliage that it will pass for a rather fine houseplant - all you need is a suitably ornamental pot.

Aeonium arboreum is an evergreen succulent often of shrubby habit, with polished, fleshy leaves in terminal rosettes on the shoots. It produces panicles of small, star-shaped flowers from early summer onwards.

It has a height and spread of up to 4 feet, and while the new leaves are green in the centre of the rosette, the overall colour will turn darker, almost black, when in full sun.

When grown outside, the Aeonium arboreum will require a moderately fertile soil, but more importantly it will need to be free draining. With that in mind, add plenty of organic matter and horticultural grit to improve drainage. In heavy soils you may need to create a raised bed or mound and plant into that

It does best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Be aware that lower light levels will reduce the depth of its colour.

Water moderately when in growth, and not at all when dormant. Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser two or three in the growing season but no more.

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Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'
Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'

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