If you’ve walked through any trendy boutiques or cafés recently, their perfect succulent gardens may have caught your eye and left you wishing for one of your own. Succulents are the ideal houseplant for many, especially those of us without a green thumb. These water-storing plants are easy to care for and offer various textures and colors that can instantly spruce up a home.
Effortless landscaping and adding life to your home décor doesn’t require expert gardening skills. Succulents are pretty simple to care for, making them a favorite for indoor containers and houseplant greenery. Read on for seven easy steps to creating your perfect succulents garden, with a few tips along the way.
Decide if Your Succulent Garden Will be Indoor or Outdoor
How you design your succulent garden and the plants you chose to put in it are all going to depend on whether your garden will be kept inside or grown outdoors. While this may be a debatable topic among succulent enthusiasts, really, the best place to grow your succulents is the place that works best for your unique situation.
Growing Succulents Indoors
There is no doubt that succulents grow well indoors. We’ve all seen the beautiful succulent walls in cafés and terrariums set up on windowsills and as centerpieces.
Building your garden inside is a simple and low-maintenance way to add a bit of greenery to your home. This will also protect your succulents from pests, extreme weather, and temperature fluctuations.
However, keep in mind that succulents need to be in a well-lit area. While most people keep their succulents in a window, this isn’t necessarily a requirement if the lighting in your house is good. Soil also takes longer to dry out inside, making you keep an eye on the soil to prevent root rot.
Growing Succulents Outside
Succulents are hardy little guys that have evolved to endure many of the harsh conditions that come with living outside. They do well in a range of climates, so if you’re hoping to plant your succulents outside, this is certainly an option.
One of the primary dangers of keeping your plants outside is harm from extreme weather. Though they love sunlight, they aren’t necessarily a fan of extreme heat or cold. They are at risk of burning from prologued exposure in 90 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, and since they have shallow roots, they are sensitive to freezes as well.
The upside to growing outdoors is that you have a lot more space to work with. Finding light shouldn’t be as much of an issue as it is indoors since you aren’t confined to windowsill space. Really, the only thing limiting you here is the climate, so make sure to do your research before deciding where to put them.
Check Your Plant Hardiness Zone
If you plan growing succulents outside, make sure to check your hardiness zone so you know which plants will be able to survive in the climate that you live in. Hardiness is determined by the plant’s ability to withstand certain conditions. Succulents typically survive in hardiness zones 3 through 9 and require very little maintenance.
Succulents are extremely diverse plants that can be found in different climates throughout the globe. Many of the most popular succulents tend to thrive in sunny climates and even do well in areas known to go through periods of drought.
If you live in a chillier area, don’t fret. While your selection may be limited, there are plenty of succulents that thrive in colder climates where freezes are a possibility. Succulents that do well in zones 3, 4, and 5 include:
- Stonecrops (Sedum spp.)
- Hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
- Dragon Blood (Sedum spurium)
- Donkey’s Tail (Sedum morganianum)
- Golden Moss (Sedum de oro)
Pick Out a Good Spot for Your Succulent Garden
It’s a good idea to put thought into where exactly your succulents are going to be living. A cold basement with no windows probably isn’t the best place for your succulent garden. Outside on a sunny patio in Arizona isn’t going to work either if you’re planning to use plants that are more susceptible to being scorched.
Do some research on the plants you would like to include in your garden and figure out which conditions will work best. If you have limited space to choose from, take into consideration the lighting, temperature, and humidity in that space, then search for plants that will do well in those conditions.
Look for a Well-Lit Location for your Succulents
Like all plants, succulents need light—and they want as much as they can possibly get. When picking out a spot for your succulent garden, look for an area with good lighting so that your plants can soak in the sun.
If your succulents don’t get adequate lighting, they will start to stretch to find the sun. While stretching won’t necessarily kill the plants, long periods without the proper lighting definitely will. Plus, this leggy look can ruin the aesthetic you are working so hard to create.
If you have an area that gets good light from one direction, keep in mind that you may have to turn your pots every few days to keep your succulents from stretching out on one side.
Gather Materials for Your Succulent Garden
Succulent gardens require little effort to maintain, and they are simple to start as well. To make sure everything moves smoothly while setting up your garden, it’s best to gather your materials beforehand.
The materials you will need include:
- Containers or a spot in your garden already prepared for planting
- A soil mix with good drainage (more on this below)
- A trowel for transplanting
- Gardening gloves
- Non-organic top dressing (crushed rocks or pebbles)
Ensure Proper Soil Drainage
Succulent roots are sensitive to moisture and rot easily. Letting your succulents sit in moist or waterlogged soil is a surefire way to kill the plants, pouring all of your hard work down the drain.
If you are planting your succulents in a container, make sure to find one that allows for good drainage. Pots without any drainage holes are possible to use, but they need to be closely monitored to make sure that the soil is drying out.
Since succulents have shallow roots, and shallow pot or container is all you need. Terracotta pots work well with succulents and cacti because they absorb moisture from the soil, whereas plastic and ceramic tend to let the moisture sit.
If you are planting outdoors, check the soil conditions and drainage before planting. Dig down in the soil at least of foot deep and fill the hole with water. If there is still water in the hole after half an hour, your soil isn’t sufficiently porous. To fix this, just mix in about three inches worth of sand to add more texture to the soil and create better drainage.
It’s also a good idea to make sure your planting location isn’t at the bottom of a slope, so your succulents are sitting in a puddle of water when it rains.
Find the Right Soil for your Succulents
Succulents need well-draining soil to prevent root rot so that regular potting soil won’t do. They grow best in porous, sandy soil that is airy enough to let the water drain but is also able to support the plants physically.
Succulent and cactus soil can be found at most home and garden stores. Or, you can try mixing your own. To make your own, mix three parts of regular potting soil with two parts sand and one part perlite.
It’s best to use coarse sand instead of fine sand to ensure fast drainage and avoid collecting sand from your garden or the beach—you never know what bacteria could be living in that sand, and you don’t want it to impact the health of your plants.
Plan Out Your Succulent Arrangements
This is probably the most exciting step for creating your perfect succulent garden. Start by arranging the plants in your garden or pot while they are still in their pots so that you can visualize the result. Play with a few different arrangements until you come up with one that you’re happy with.
Once you’ve got your plants in place, you can begin transplanting them.
If you’re having trouble deciding on a design, think about the aesthetic you are hoping to achieve and how it will fit in with the spot you’ve picked out. Think about the different design aspects such as color, texture, and movement so you can create a garden that is beautiful and unique.
Choose your Colors Wisely
Succulents come in all sorts of colors, as do the many different pots we use. If you have a vibrant container, you may want to choose a contrasting complementary color so that both the plant and the pot stand out.
Alternatively, you could choose colors within the same range. For example, if you have a blue planter, you may want to choose plants with hints of blue or cooler shades of green to tie it all together.
Decide How Many Plants You Will Use
As a general rule, it’s best to work with an odd number of plants unless you are planning to fill every inch of your planting area.
While even numbers create symmetry, odd numbers create interest. Most succulents already call attention to their symmetry and geometrics shapes all on their own. Using an odd number of plants in your design is more effective at capturing your gaze and forcing the eyes to move around the garden.
Arrange Your Succulents to Create Movement
Speaking of movement, group plants with varying heights and sizes to create movement within your garden. Design that forces movement creates excitement and curiosity. This will keep your eyes moving from plant to plan.
Sculpting the terrain is another way you can create interest within your garden. Flat land is boring. Creating well-placed mounds of dirt will give your eyes something to follow and create an aesthetically pleasing design.
Incorporate Different Textures
Varying textures catching the eye and add depth to an area. They also affect how the plants interact with lights and shadows in space.
Succulents come in a variety of textures, from chunky and smooth to long and fuzzy. Choosing a combination of plants with contrasting textures can create a unique look that will surely make people stop and take notice.
Don’t Forget the Top Dressing
Don’t leave your succulents sitting in bare soil. This may seem minor, but it can make a huge difference in your design and be beneficial to your plants. Adding a layer of gravel can give your garden a finished look, promote root growth, protect from erosion, discourage weed growth, and help hold in moisture.
Avoid using an organic top dressing like mulch. These can be too water-retentive and eventually start to decompose, attracting mold and insects and giving your garden and an uneven appearance.
Transplant Your Succulents
Transplanting succulents can be a bit tricky, depending on the plants you choose. The good news is, succulents are generally hardy. If a few roots tears or some leaves fall off during the process, succulents will typically recover well.
To transplant, firmly grab the succulent by the base of the stem and jiggle it slightly until it starts to loosen from the soil. Gently remove your succulent from the container it is currently in and light squeeze or tap the roots to remove the soil. You don’t have to remove every last bit but try to get off as much as possible without harming the roots.
Next, fill a pot one-third of the way with your succulent soil mixture, or make a small hole in the dirt if you are planting outside. Plant your succulents at the same depth they were originally grown, then cover the goal with gravel.
Give your plant a day or two to settle into their new home before watering them. This will allow any broken roots to heal.
Using Succulent Cuttings in your Garden
Many succulents grow in rosettes and are easy to divide into new plants by simply cutting the small rosettes off the tops of mature stems. The bare stem of the original plant will quickly sprout new stems and leaves, and the part you snipped off will sprout roots and become its very own plant.
If you plan on using cuttings in your succulent garden, make sure the ends have dried out before planting them in the new soil. If you plant cuttings before the end can callus, your plant may rot instead of propagating.
Learn How to Properly Care for Your Succulents
While succulents are generally low-maintenance plants, they still require a bit of care to keep them thriving. It’s important to learn each plant’s needs so you can keep your succulents happy and healthy.
Some succulents have more specific needs than others. To make sure they are getting the proper amount of water and light, it’s a good idea to do a bit of research on each species and pick succulents that have similar care needs.
Care guides are a great place to start researching. You can also visit your local plant nursery and talk to someone to find out which plants to choose for your region.
Tips to Properly Care for Your Succulents and Keep them Alive:
- Make sure they get enough light. Most succulents prefer to get around six hours of sunlight per day. Newly planted succulents can scorch easily in direct sunlight, so introduce them gradually.
- Water according to the season. During the fall and water, succulents don’t require as much water since they aren’t in a period of growth. Test that the soil is dry with your finger to avoid overwatering.
- Water the soil directly. Avoid using a spray bottle to water your succulents, as this can cause the leave to mold. Instead, use a watering can or spout to water the soil directly.
- Keep your succulents clean. If your succulent garden is indoors, inevitably, your plants will start to collect dust on their surface. This can inhibit growth, so take time to wipe off the leaves and spines with a damp cloth.
- Get rid of any bugs. Bugs like gnats and mealybugs and the most common pest problem for succulent owners. Since gnats are attracted to moisture, make sure to let your soil dry out between waterings. If your plant does become infested, move it any from other plants and spray it with a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol to get rid of the bugs.
- Fertilize your succulents in the summer. Succulents don’t need much fertilizer, but giving them light feedings in the spring and summer will promote growth and keep them happy. Be careful not to overfertilize, as this can cause your succulents to grow too fast and become weak.
Finishing Touches for your Perfect Succulent Garden
Now that you know the basics for creating your perfect succulent garden, don’t stop there. Get creative. Experiment with different color combinations and textures, and maybe even try propagating your plants.
As most succulent enthusiasts will tell you, once you create a succulent garden, you usually don’t stop at one. The more you work with these little plants, the more confident you will become. You will soon be creating and maintaining gorgeous and unique succulent gardens that will add a nice touch to any home.