Here’s the plant family that is all the rage this year. Above are two containers of hens and chicks I recently arranged. Then earlier this week I went to NEOCON at the Merchandise Mart to find all sorts of these succulents in major show rooms. They were mixed with orchids, Gerber daisies and peonies. Succulents are considered “fat plants” because they are water-retaining plants adapted to arid climate or soil conditions. They are perennials (will come back year after year) and the above plants are hardy to zone 3 (30+ below). They can also be grown as house plants and, if you don’t overwater them, you can bring them in for the winter and put them outside in the Spring. I did that this past winter. It makes it nice for city dwellers who have balconies, window boxes and limited space.

Sedums, a succulent, are more of a ground cover and were being used as a “green roof” plant. There are hardy varieties but in my experiments most did not survive the winter (especially Irish and Scottish mosses).

Yes, I know, this is a feng shui column and cactus which are also succulents, are frowned upon in feng shui. Cactus (succulents with spines) are not native to most of China. What the ancient feng shui masters were probably objecting to most is the prickly dangerous needles called spines found on some kinds of cactus (the barrel cactus, for example). Some spines are nasty needles yet you can find some that almost look like webby fabric.

In addition to the sharp points, the general shape of the leaves is important. A yucca plant with its sharp pointy leaves is less desirable than the puffy rounded leaves of the jade plant. Think of the different energy each plant would bring into the relationship area of the bagua. Again, we always have to consider the purpose of what we want the plant to do. Normally we want the plants to be peaceful and happy; however, in my last eighteen years of doing feng shui, we have used edgy plants (like holly) for protection for areas that we don’t want anyone to get in – under a window of a business where that widow had been broken into twice, for example. Use the plants to fit your purpose – color, smell, shapes.

From Feng Shui Design newsletter, June 2010