How to Make a Succulent Plant Container Garden

  • 01 of 08

    Getting Started on Your Succulent Planter

    Succulent garden
    Claire Cordier / Getty Images

    Growing succulent plants in a container garden is easy and immensely satisfying. Succulents come in an amazing array of colors and leaf textures and combining them is fun. Colors and textures that you wouldn’t think would go together can be put into a beautiful arrangement. Perhaps more than with any other container garden, the pot choice is key. Because the roots of succulents are relatively shallow, they can thrive and look fabulous in a bowl or dish. Just make sure that your pot has good...MORE drainage, or that you can put holes in it.

    There are hundreds, if not thousands of succulent plants to choose from. When choosing your plants be aware that and many have varying light and care requirements. It’s best to check the plant tag for specifics and make sure that plants in the same pot have the similar needs. That said, contrary to popular belief, most succulents do best if they are in the direct sun for only a few hours a day. Many need protection from getting scorched in the mid-day sun, but almost all need some bright, indirect light. Succulents can actually suffer from sunburn, so be careful when you first buy them to give them an adjustment period, where they can get acclimatized, also called “hardening off.”

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  • 02 of 08

    What You Need for Your Succulent Container Garden

    container gardening picture of what you need for your succulent container garden
    What You Need. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    What you need:

    • Succulent plants - enough to fill your pot
    • Plastic window screening, paper towel, a coffee filter or a piece of newspaper
    • Cactus or succulent potting soil (or you can make your own by mixing potting soil with vermiculite, perlite or pumice)
    • Container with good drainage
    • Stones, gravel, sea glass or marbles for top dressing
    • Bright Sunlight

    When choosing a container for succulent plants, make sure not to use one that is too big. Succulents have a shallow root system and prefer shallow...MORE pots.

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  • 03 of 08

    Drainage Is Key for Succulents

    container gardening picture of succulent plant container garden with drainage hole
    Covering the Drainage Hole. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Cut a piece of plastic window screening into a big enough piece to amply cover your pot's drainage hole or holes. This will keep your potting soil in and let the water out. If you don't have window screening, use newspaper, paper towel, or a coffee filter to cover the hole. If your pot is big enough, you can also use a product called, Better Than Rocks, which will cover the drainage hole and can help aerate your succulent plants’ roots.

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  • 04 of 08

    Soil for Succulent Pots

    container gardening picture of adding soil to succulent plant container garden
    Adding Soil to Your Succulent Plant Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels
    Add enough soil to the bottom of your pot so that the top of your succulent plants will sit below the rim of your pot. If there's enough room try to leave one half to an inch of space between the top of the soil and the rim of your pot. This makes it easier to water without soil and water overflowing the sides of your container.
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  • 05 of 08

    Remove Your Succulent Plants from their Pots

    container gardening picture of removing succulent plants from their pots
    Removing the Succulent Plants from their Pots. Photograph © Kerry Michaels
    Carefully remove your succulent plants from their pots. When doing this, don’t just grab the plant and pull. Gently thread your fingers through the plant and turn it on its side. If it’s stuck, just tap the container on the sides and bottom until your plant slides out. Or course, if you’re dealing with something spiny, wear thick gloves before you attempt handling.
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  • 06 of 08

    Designing Your Succulent Container

    container gardening picture of designing your container
    Designing Your Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    First, place your plants, still in their nursery pots, into the container to get a general idea of the container design and where they should go.  Move the plants around, still in their pots, until you are satisfied with the arrangement. It is easier to do this this while they are still in their pots to protect the fragile root systems. Once you are happy with the arrangement, take all of the plants out of their pots and place the plants in the container.

    Take additional succulent potting soil...MORE and pack it gently around and in between your plants. As you do this, be careful to keep the soil at the level the plant was in its nursery pot. You don’t want the new soil to touch the crown (the part of the plant that meets the soil).

    Make certain that you have filled in all the holes and spaces between the plants and also between the plants and the sides of the container. If you don’t, the roots will dry out, which can be lethal to your plant.

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  • 07 of 08

    Cleaning and Topdressing our Succulent Container Garden

    container gardening picture of brushing off succulent plants
    Brushing Off Succulent Plants. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    Unless you are incredibly neat and tidy when adding your soil, it will get all over your plants, which, given all the nooks and crannies of succulents, can be particularly be difficult to clean off. Using a soft brush to gently sweep excess soil off can make the process much easier. You can also blow gently on the plants to remove dirt that even the brush can’t get to.

    After you've finished planting your container garden and cleaning it off, you will often have soil showing in between your...MORE succulents. To give your pot a finished look, choose a topdressing to cover the soil. Topdressing is a step that people often overlook, and it's a step that can take your pot from looking blah to amazing.

    You can use almost anything for a topdressing that isn't porous and won't mix with your potting soil. Gravel, sea glass, marbles, or river rocks are common choices. Choose a colored or neutral material, depending on the look you want to achieve. Sometimes using a contrasting colored material for a topdressing can add zing to a pot. A more subtle topdressing can add elegance. The right topdressing can also tie all the elements in your pot together or it can make plants stand out.

    For this succulent container garden, the topdressing is black river stones. You can only see them in a few places, they were chosen because they are subtle, and set off all the colors and textures.

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  • 08 of 08

    Caring for Your Succulents

    container gardening picture of succulent plant container garden
    Succulent Plant Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    To care for your succulent container garden, during spring and summer - its growing season - keep the soil moist, not wet. It's better to let the soil get a little dry between watering than to over-water. During the winter, when plants are dormant, water much less frequently, keeping the soil on the dry side, but not letting it dry out entirely. Depending on the succulent plant, fertilize during the growing season with a diluted liquid fertilizer.

    For more information on succulents:

    Debra...MORE Baldwin’s book, Succulent Container Gardening

    Highland Succulents Website