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Introducing AnOther's Dedicated 'Agony Plant'

In the first of her new monthly Agony Plant column, Nik Southern of esteemed florist Grace & Thorn tackles watering etiquette, and reveals the perfect low-maintenance, high-impact plants...

Photography by Emma Hartvig

Nik Southern has cultivated an impressive following with her wildly innovative floral arrangements, which are showcased in the east and west London branches of her celebrated shop, Grace & Thorn. From toy dinosaurs sprouting exotic fawns to whimsical, asymmetric bouquets and giant glass terrariums filled with rare succulents and polished stones, Southern's clever compositions defy tradition, champion the avant-garde and make botany and floristry all the more fun. Here, she takes time out of her busy schedule to share her green-fingered advice and expertise for AnOther. 

Dear Agony Plant, 

I'm a 30-year-old man who lives in Bristol with a wire-haired dachshund named Frank. Frank and I are especially fond of our yucca floor plants and flowering succulents, but I've noticed they're not looking as verdant as they once were, despite giving them lots of drink. Is it the winter? Are they depressed? How can I revive them and get them looking as resplendent as they were in the summer? Even Frank has noticed a change, and my boyfriend's parents are staying over for the first time this Christmas, so I'm in need of a quick fix. Help! 

Yours truly, Fern Gully (Anon)

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Photography by Emma Hartvig

Dear Fern Gully (excellent name),

Before you start chucking water at the situation, you need to start checking your plants' roots. 

For example, ferns are woodland plants so love moisture and humidity and don't need to be in direct sunlight. Succulents (yuccas are succulents too), on the other hand, are desert native plants, which means they like lots of sunlight and can survive with very little water, being drought resistant.

It's winter, and plants are less active in winter, so need less watering than they do in the spring and summer, so back away from the watering can. Reduce watering to just once a month during the winter period, maybe slightly more if you're a fan of whacking the heating up, but just keep an eye on the soil. You’ll want to let it dry out completely and then give it about a week before you water again. Use your finger to test the soil for moisture absorption. 

Succulents like sunny parts of the house too, so think about moving them if you have them festering away in the basement: the best place is as close to the window as possible. ​

Also, Fern Gully, I think you should add some more plants into the mix. Why don't you put some new varities on your Christmas list? ​Bec​au​se you have the long slim leaves of the yucca, and the small fleshy leaves of the succulents, you need something in the middle to tie them tog​e​ther nicely. Seeing as you are somewhat of a plant amateur, I would suggest something low maintenance but impactful, such as the Swiss cheese plant. Always a winner, this plant is native to the rainforest and does well in full sun and/or shade, loves humidity, and also benefits from a little misting of its leaves once a week too. 

​Hope this helps! 

KEEP IT GREEN. 

The Agony Plant 

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Have a burning question about botany? Want to ask the Agony Plant for advice? Email: theagonyplant@dazedmedia.com