Plants with rich, dark chocolate and plum coloured foliage have great charisma. They are stars of the garden, causing the gaze to linger longingly on their beautiful leaves. The great things about plants which have this star quality is that they’re easy to acquire, and hang onto, unlike charismatic people who tend to move on from our lives as quickly as they appear. One of the most popular plants with these stunning foliage colours has everything going for it except its name - Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’. What a mouthful for such a beautiful plant. If a person of equivalent beauty had popped up in Hollywood there would have been a name change within days!
Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ is a reliable beauty, looking dark and sensual all year round. When you think how fleeting some flowers are in the garden, you really appreciate a plant such as this which goes on performing magnificently for month after month. Because it’s a succulent, Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ will tolerate very dry conditions. But as with just about every other succulent plant, it will look more beautiful if watered during dry periods. During winter keep it dry, but during summer water it regularly and the big rosettes of foliage will be truly amazing.
As a container plant, Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ is ideal, easy to grow as well as stunningly good looking. For ease of maintenance, mix it with other succulents, or simply surround it with handsome stones. A low growing, grey blue succulent planted with Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ in a pretty pot makes a bold statement. With bright flowers, the tall growing Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ adds to the impact in the garden. Compact perennials such as the new Inca Alstroemerias, which flower profusely all summer, make great companions. Try the fiery coloured Alstroemeria varieties if it’s impact you’re after. All sorts of annuals make interesting companions too - brightly coloured petunias for instance. Sophisticated, all foliage combinations can be achieved by using chocolate and plum leaf Heucheras. Or try native plants such as grasses - Carex testacea with its bronze-green, recurving foliage is a good one - or the spiky, upright, narrow leafed, copper-orange Libertia peregrinans.
Its great adaptability enables Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ to grow happily on sand banks near the sea. In a dramatic coastal garden near Wellington, it forms a bold group on a sandhill, in the company of low growing, grey-blue Echeveria succulents and the bronze foliage, ground covering native shrub Haloragis ‘Wellington Bronze’. In a Gisborne garden by the sea it forms part of a striking association of succulents and driftwood around a rustic wooden letterbox. Both these coastal plantings require the minimum of maintenance to keep them looking good.
In time, Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ forms a tall stem. This can make it even more dramatic, especially if it’s rising out of low, ground covering plants, but if you want to retain the compact look all you have to do is break off the head of foliage with a bit of stem attached and poke it into well drained ground or potting mix. It’s best to leave the stems out of the ground for up to a week before re-planting, keeping them in a dry place. This ensures the severed stem dries out enough to stop any rotting occurring when it contacts the soil again. New roots will soon form after this.
This ease of propagation is just one more thing that makes this plant so rewarding and fun to have in the garden. It’s enough to make us forgiving of such a tongue-twisting name!