Succulents have been a popular plant group for beginners and pros alike for quite a while, because they are colorful, interesting and hardy. You can find them in regular planters, glass bowls, thrift store china and more. And now the hottest fall trend puts them on this season’s most sought-after squash: pumpkins.
Succulent pumpkins are catching on like wildfire for a good reason: They are a fun, easy and forgiving project. Searches for succulent pumpkins are up five-fold on Pinterest. One look at Instagram and you will see people around the world are trying their hand at creating these succulent sensations.
They can do double duty as decor for Halloween and Thanksgiving—and beyond. But how do you get started? Experts offered us insight into their processes and best practices. Then you can grab your favorite gourd and a variety of succulents and let your imagination run wild.
Go for Faux
Connie Gliadon (@justbeingcon), who lives in Minneapolis, has been making succulent pumpkins for a few years now, and she estimates that her creations number in the many hundreds. “It’s an activity anyone can do. Super simple,” she says. “There is no right or wrong way. It's a project that people feel more comfortable doing.”
She generally uses faux pumpkins because they don’t rot. “If you do use a real pumpkin, make sure they don’t have soft spots or anything like that or they will rot faster,” Gliadon says. Regardless of which type you use, look for a flattened surface at the top. That makes the finished product look more appealing.
You are decorating the top, not planting the succulents inside the pumpkin. You can leave the stem in or take it off, your choice. “I tend to leave it on if it’s a long stem, because I like the look of it and it can be a support for the succulents you are using,” she says.
Gliadon uses a spray adhesive on the area she is decorating and lets it dry for a minute before she starts adding succulent clippings with hot glue. Be careful when handling the succulents. She recommends using a “claw” hold on the plants when placing on the pumpkins so you don’t rub off any of the farina, the powdery substance on succulents that gives them their color. She says the process is very forgiving, and if you don’t like the way your arrangement is looking, take off the succulents carefully and move them around.
Succulents draw their water from the moss, so be sure to use the right kind. Gliadon uses sphagnum moss, because it holds water well. Once your creation is complete, give it about a week before watering the succulents. After the first watering, add a little drink weekly. The succulent pumpkin will last through Halloween and Thanksgiving and beyond with good care. Gliadon said she has heard of one lasting from Halloween to Easter!
Vary Texture, Color, and Height
Florist Sarah Dunn (@wildgoddessdesigns) has also been making the decorative pumpkins for a couple of years and figures she has done about 150 of them, all told. She loves to create her show-stoppers with succulents such as moonstones, Echeveria, Kalanchoe for height, and string of pearls to dangle down.
Her process starts with a Cinderella-style pumpkin, which looks a little like a flattened ball. After adding the moss on top, she lets her creative side take over. “I add pine cones for depth and height and then start glueing in the succulents. “I pick my plants based on texture, color and height,” she says, “and I like to create asymmetry on my bigger pumpkins.”
Dunn’s biggest takeaway for would-be creators who are considering giving this project a try is to just jump in. “I have learned to just have fun with it and to trust the plants to lead the way,” she said. “It’s like I instinctively know which plant to grab next and add to the arrangement. It’s pure joy!"
Preparation Is Key
Plant designer and gardener Mary Carpenter-Kupsch (@succulentstruck) is definitely no stranger to creating succulent pumpkins. She has been using all sizes of real pumpkins to create succulent arrangements for the past 10 years. She prefers small or mini pumpkins, and says the white and striped minis are quite popular with crafters. Her favorite succulent cuttings for this project are Echeveria, Aeonium, Crassula and Sedum.
Preparation is key, she says. It extends the “display” life of the arrangement. She recommends cleaning the pumpkin with mild dish soap and water and letting it dry completely. Once dry, spray the pumpkin and stem with a clear coat of acrylic sealer to help with moisture control (do this outside). Then let the pumpkin dry for two hours before you add any succulents or moss.
Carpenter-Kupsch says you should place the creation in indirect light and check the stem and bottom of the pumpkin regularly for signs of rotting. When the pumpkin starts to rot, gently take off the succulents. You can reuse them and even replant to use next fall.
Keep It Uncarved
Fairytale and Cinderella pumpkins are perfect for arrangements that live happily ever after, according to Jaclyn Bridges (@queenofsucculents).
Bridges uses a thick layer of hot glue, adds moss and then glues the succulents to the moss. “I enjoy using Crassula for the center because they are taller,” she says. “I use Sedum and Echeveria for all the beautiful colors they come in as fillers, and strings of pearls cascading down the sides for spillers.”
Whatever you do, make sure you do not cut the pumpkin open and be sure not to pierce the skin if you cut off the stem. Bridges says this will cause the pumpkin to rot quickly and ruin your creation.
Amanda Ryan (@terracottacorner), who lives in Florida, started getting into succulents after her mom passed in 2016. Her obsession with succulents led to her own business, Terracotta Corner. The company first sold wreaths but quickly branched out to things like dream catchers, terrarium kits and wedding floras. Ryan also added seasonal items such as succulent pumpkins and holiday ornaments.
“I’m a huge fan of fall and I adore succulents, so they were naturally a perfect march for the season,” Ryan says. Her advice to new creators is to have patience with the process. “Just give it a try. No matter how it looks at the end, it will be a lot of fun! Enjoy the process!”