Updated on 1/12/16. Originally published on 09/1/15.
Succulent gardens add interest to any space. The unique shapes of the plants and their leaves can seem exotic, so it’s easy to assume they require a long list of succulent care tips. But think again. Succulents are actually some of the easiest plants to grow – even if you don’t have a green thumb – because of their small size and their water-saving design.
If you set up your garden correctly, you’ll have a beautiful, thriving succulent garden.
Materials to Create a Succulent Garden
The materials you choose can help you set up your garden for success, even if you’re not exactly sure how to. Succulent planter options are available indoors or outdoors.
The pot you choose must have a drainage hole at the bottom for your succulent to thrive. “This is where I think I went wrong in the past – planting cacti in tea cups unfortunately doesn’t allow for the right drainage,” says Geneva Vanderzeil of A Pair & A Spare. “If you can, plant your succulent in a terracotta pot, as apparently this improves drainage.”
Glass Bowl, Jar or Tank
If you’re looking to grow succulents indoors but are wondering how to, succulent planter terrariums are a great option. The way you plant them is the same, but you’ll plant the succulents in a glass tank, bowl or jar instead of in a traditional pot.
These are essential for the bottom of the terrarium as they allow the water to drain away from the roots of the succulents,” writes Belinda Evans of Alchemy. “If they are sitting in water they are more likely to get root rot.”
One of the most important succulent care tips is to use activated charcoal, sometimes referred to as activated filter carbon. This acts as an air purifier and is available in the aquarium section of your local pet store.
Succulents grow best in soil that is sandy or gritty, so make sure this is the type of soil you use. You can buy prepackaged succulent soil at most nursery and gardening retailers. If you can’t find premixed succulent soil,” advises Lisa Tutman-Oglesby at Celebrate Creativity, “you can make your own by combining 2-parts regular potting soil with 1-part sand (do not use beach sand).”
Choosing the Right Succulent
When you’re looking for the right succulents to use in your succulent garden, you might be surprised to find a great selection at your local nursery or gardening store, and the employees at these stores can offer a wealth of succulent care tips. Many big-box home improvement stores also have succulents for you to choose from. Popular succulents include the following:
- Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum): its leaves grow to three feet long, and it thrives in a hanging basket in the shade.
- Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi): produces beautiful pink blooms, but those buds can drop when the plant is even slightly dehydrated.
- Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii): when given enough light, this succulent blooms all year long.
- Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum or Echeveria elegans): these two succulent plants are similar in size but vary slightly in their appearance; the leaves come together to form rosettes.
- Panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa): the leaves of this plant are thick and green with rust-colored hairs on the tips.
If you live in a climate that isn’t conducive to outdoor succulents, you can grow them indoors. However, succulents won’t be as sturdy as some of the indoor plants you might be used to growing. “For those of you with cold winters, bringing your succulents inside before it snows will actually be a good thing for them,” recommends Cassidy Tuttle at Succulents and Sunshine. “Most succulents are dormant during the winter.”
If you’re considering how to make a succulent planter, you can choose a beautiful succulent (or collection of succulents) in whatever shape, color or texture you like. If you’re looking to plant indoors, Tuttle recommends Haworthia and Gasteraloe as “two genus of succulents that do especially well indoors.”
Plant Your Own Succulent Garden
When you’re considering succulent care tips, how you plant your succulent garden will help ensure its survival. It’s important to follow the steps in order so your succulent garden can thrive.
- Line the bottom of your large pot with a layer of pebbles to help with drainage.
- Cover the pebbles completely with an even level of the activated charcoal to assist with air filtration.
- Top off both layers with an even spread of the succulent soil.
- Plant your succulent.
Before you place your succulent in the soil, you might need to prepare the roots. “As with most plants that have started out in small pots, the roots of succulents may be a bit compacted when removed from its original container,” says Tutman-Oglesby. “Gently pull on the root ball to separate the roots before planting.”
Caring for Your New Succulent Garden
Because they actively retain water in their leaves and stems, succulents require minimal watering and care. Just about anyone with a few extra minutes a week can give a succulent the love it needs to thrive. Here’s the 411 on caring for your newly planted succulent.
Knowing exactly how to water succulent planter gardens can be a little tricky because the watering schedule fluctuates depending on the season. Succulents like to grow during the warmer months of the year, so summer is a good time to fuel them with a little extra water once a week. Instead of setting a calendar reminder, wait for your little plant to tell you what it needs. When the dirt is dry, it’s time for a quick soak.
As the temperature drops in the chillier months, ease off a bit on the watering. “When it cools down during the year they go into a dormant phase and need much less water,” says Vanderzeil. “This is the point where you can neglect your plants a little.”
It’s commonly mistaken that because succulents are desert plants, they require a ton of direct sunlight. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Succulents are surprisingly prone to sunburn. While it’s healthy to keep them in the light, they don’t need to receive direct sunlight for very long. If you’re growing your plant outside, find a spot where it will receive cool morning light and then fall into shade in the afternoon.
If you’re growing your plant indoors, direct sun is less of a threat. Plant it somewhere it will receive as much light as possible without being in direct sunlight for the majority of the day. Consider this one of your succulent care tips: if you keep your succulent garden in south-facing windows, they’ll probably receive too much sun. Instead, try to put your garden in an east window (if possible) so they receive a good deal of sunlight in the morning.
It’s easy to tell if your plant is receiving too little or too much sun. With too little sun, you’ll start to notice brown and black spots. With too much sun, your succulent will start “spreading,” which means increasing the space between its leaves in an attempt to find more light.
If your succulent spreads out too much, it might be time for a propagation how to. Succulent planter gardens need propagation when the plant’s lower leaves get too long because they’ll start to wither and eventually fall off. That means your succulent will have a long, bare stem with leaves high at the top. You want to propagate your plant before it gets to this point.
Remove the lower leaves by wiggling the leaf from side to side until it snaps off. Propagation only works with a whole leaf; if you have only part of a leaf, it won’t grow roots. Cut off the small rosette at the top of your succulent using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Set the leaves and the rosette aside and let the ends dry out until they form a callus on the end.
“Once you feel like the ends are dry enough, you can place them on top of some well-draining cactus or succulent soil. I’ve had the best results when keeping my leaves indoors in a window with lots of indirect sunlight,” according to Needles + Leaves. “After a few weeks you will see little pink roots sprouting from the ends of the leaves and then teeny tiny baby plants will begin to grow.”
Not every leaf will grow a new plant, but once you have a succulent garden you can add new plants, and replace withering plants, through propagation.
Re-Pot Every Year
After about a year, it is time to move your succulents to a larger pot. When your succulent starts to look too big for the pot, you’ll know it’s time to give it more space. Prepare the new, larger pot using the same directions above. Pull the succulent out of the smaller pot, break up the roots and place it into the larger pot. Breaking up the roots is an important step because it helps the plant grow into its larger space.
“As soon as your new plants are potted you are going to be tempted to fill up a watering can and finish the job,” Lindsey Campbell writes on Hello Hydrangea. “Instead, wait a week before their first watering in their new pots.” She says this will help the plant’s roots grow accustomed to its new soil, then you can resume the watering schedule you had previously.
Succulents are the perfect way to add greenery to your small space without adding bulk. These low-maintenance plants are easy to pot and even easier to care for. Dress up your space with a succulent, and enjoy the added pop of green in your home!