On a straightforward level, succulents are drought-resistant plants that store water in their leaves. But the increasingly popular décor accents are also stunning examples of the repeating patterns of nature: look at the almost mathematical precision of the echeveria’s spiralling rosettes, or the crocodile-like “teeth” along the short-leaved aloe’s zigzagging green spikes.
Plants this geometric require a certain kind of pot to be Pinterest-perfect. Enter Vancouverite Stephanie Keung’s Mind the Minimal, a line of sleek, handcrafted concrete containers that seem custom-made for succulents. “Succulents are very cute and collectible and pair well with our planters, because they’re just as cute and collectible,” the artisan, who hand-paints the little vessels, tells the Straight over her cellphone. “I’ve always had an admiration for geometric design. The simple shape [of succulents] expresses the beautiful clean line, and obviously that pairs well with my minimal aesthetic.”
Take her smooth, geodesic-sphere-like Dode design, in a raw concrete or muted metallic gold, rose gold, or silver hand finish. “It’s a super statement piece, and because of the facet sides on there, it has a different colour or shade at different angles of light,” Keung says.
More sci-fi is her Teardrop planter, a sort of upended diamond shape with facet sides and a pointy top, the spikes of a little succulent poking out from the circular hole in its front. (It too comes in raw, gold, rose gold, and silver hues; prices are about $28 across the board.)
For a splash of colour, check out her more artful new Abstract series, minimalistic raw-concrete cubes splashed with teal-blue, coral-pink, and white stripes, dots, and semicircles. “That uses more colour and brush techniques with no particular pattern, where every time I paint a new design I kind of just follow through with how I’m feeling that day, and the lines and shapes just kind of come out,” she says.
For Keung, the containers, which are carefully hand-poured into moulds and then sanded, painted, and sealed, are the perfect meld of her lifelong passion for art and her long-time fascination with concrete. Her dad was a contractor, and she remembers being taken by the material when she was young. “One job I had to do was help my dad pave concrete, and I remember sweeping the concrete back and forth, trying to smooth it out and trying to make it look perfect,” she recalls.
You could say she has a similar enthusiasm for succulents. Among the easy-to-care-for plants, her favourite is definitely the zebra plant, a type of haworthia with little striped spikes. “It’s super light- and drought-tolerant, and it’s definitely the best one to start with if it’s your first time caring for a succulent,” she advises.
Whichever species you choose, you’ll need to put a layer of small drainage rocks along the bottom of the pot, then soil to surround the roots of the plants. Keung recommends a top layer of rocks—little white ones are sleek—for a finished look and to modulate the watering.
The key, with succulents, is good drainage and how much you hydrate them. Many are used to desert climates, after all. “We always recommend that the less water the better, because in Vancouver we don’t actually have enough hot weather for them to absorb quick enough,” Keung says. “So I recommend, for spring and summer, every two weeks, and in the winter, every three weeks to a month.”
As for where to put your succulent containers, they look great bunched in threes on office desks or coffee tables. But Keung’s favourite setup is the trendy new “shelfie”—a shelf with perfectly lined-up little plants, different varieties in different containers, but all with the same clean-lined aesthetic. Check out @mindtheminimal’s Instagram for inspiration.
And you can find Keung, her planters, and other objects she’s made at Got Craft? this weekend (Saturday and Sunday [May 4 and 5] at the Maritime Labour Centre); otherwise, Mind the Minimal is on Etsy.