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Designing with Colour with the RHS Practical Cactus & Succulent Book

For the houseplant lover, the RHS Practical Cactus & Succulent Book is a definitive guide to propagating, nurturing and designing with more than 200 cacti and succulents.

Courtesy of the RHS, we bring you an extract from the book that looks at how to design with colour in mind.


Cactus & Succulents | Designing with Colour

There’s a range of different-coloured cacti and succulents to design with. Sticking with a single, harmonious palette is the easiest way to build a bold arrangement that suits your living space. Working with a mix of contrasting colours is trickier, but if you can balance a variety of different shades without the display looking random, the result will look especially striking.

Understanding Colour

Use the colour wheel, above, to identify the palette(s) that you want to incorporate in your display. Limiting yourself to adjacent tones (such as the warm shades on the right hand side of the wheel) will create a harmonious palette; colours from the opposite sides of the wheel will contrast with one another. A few variegated (two-tone) plants can add further interest to a display.

Contrasting Palette

An effective display of contrasting colour needs to look deliberately curated, or else it will just appear random and disordered. This group evenly balances warm, cool, and green notes, with each plant and pot adding a vibrant pop of colour that draws the eye while never overwhelming the rest of the display.

Refreshing Greens

It may be the most common colour in the foliage spectrum, but a green palette is anything but boring. Combine vibrant green plants, such as Crassula ovata ‘Hobbit’ and Cotyledon tomentosa, with darker, more muted cacti to create a display that is refreshing and restful on the eye, while still feeling full of life.

Warm Tones 

Any group of warm-coloured plants immediately provides an earthy, rustic effect. Red-spined cacti and yellow-tinted succulent foliage subtly evoke a desert or southern Mediterranean landscape. Try using a selection of red and terracotta pots to further emphasise this palette choice.

Cool and Crisp

Blue- and purple-coloured succulents often appear quite pale and silvery, owing to the delicate powdery “bloom” that covers their foliage. To strengthen the impact of a cool-coloured display, the arrangement above includes a couple of brighter, pink-purple echevarias, and some deep blue containers.


RHS Practical Cactus & Succulent Book available now from Hillier Garden Centres.

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