Succulent Container Gardens

Well, after being in hiding for way too long, spring finally made its appearance a couple weeks ago, which means that (among other things) it’s time to PLANT ALL THE THINGS! This past weekend, I tried my hand at something that I have not had great success with in years past: Succulents. Last year, in my post about making your own terrarium, I ranted at length about all of the open containers that are mislabeled as terrariums. I have nothing against this delightful little container gardens; to the contrary, I quite enjoy them (I only take issue with calling them something they are decidedly not). They are easy to assemble, and are a great way to showcase succulents and other drought-hardy plants that eschew damp environments.

As always, I try to make your lives easier by sharing these little jewels of wisdom with you. But only when projects turn out well so that you think I’m wildly successful in all my endeavors. In this post, I’ll show you what supplies you need. Then I’ll give you skinnied-down instructions on how to assemble your succulent container garden. Finally, I’ll provide a couple of hints to help you care for your plants. Go ahead and open my Project Terrarium post in another tab; it’ll come in handy.

What You Need

Supplies needed to create a succulent container gardenLike terrariums, these container gardens are pretty straightforward. You’ll need:

  • An open-topped glass container with a wide mouth. Goblet-style containers work especially well, as do wide, shallow containers. My grandma gave me this one, which makes it even cooler. Tip: Check thrift stores and discount stores like Home Goods and TJMaxx for the best deals.
  • A variety of succulent plants. Some popular ones include: Aloe, Sedum, Sempervivum (hens ‘n’ chicks), and Echeveria (of which there are many types).
  • Cactus soil (it drains water quickly)
  • Pea gravel, activated charcoal, and dried sphagnum moss (optional but highly recommended)

Get Your Container Gardening On

Side view of a succulent container gardenNow that you have everything together, assembling your succulent garden is fairly straightforward:

  • Add layers of gravel, charcoal, and sphagnum moss as described in Project Terrarium. Strictly speaking, these aren’t necessary, but because you are dealing with plants that are easily over-watered, you want to facilitate as much drainage as possible. So, if you don’t do this and your plants rot, don’t say you weren’t warned.
  • Now, add a few inches of cactus soil, making sure the surface of the soil is level with the widest part of the container. This will allow you maximum surface area for planting.
  • Next, plant your succulents in the soil. Take your time to arrange them the way you like before tucking soil in around the roots. Some pieces might break off of the plants; just stick them in the soil and they might root.

Top view of a succulent container garden, showing all the plants

  • Use a spray bottle to water the plants until the soil is damp. Resist the urge to over-water!
  • Finally, use a damp paper towel (not Windex!) to wipe off the inside and outside of the glass, and set it in a place where it will get full sun during the day.

Finished succulent container garden sitting on a desk in the sun.

When I planted my container garden, I had part of a plant leftover. This adorable vintage duck planter was the perfect place to plant this little sprig:
This vintage duck planter made the perfect home for a leftover sprig of succulent

Caring for Your Succulent Garden

Congratulations, you’ve built your very own succulent container garden! Now how do you take care of it?

  • Water your garden about once a week, or when the soil is dry. Avoid completely saturating the soil, though.
  • Keep your plants in bright, but not direct, sunlight. If your plants start to look faded, burned, or stressed, move the container to a place with less direct sunlight. Similarly, if your plants begin to grow toward the light or look “leggy,” consider moving them into more direct light.
  • Repot your plants as they begin to multiply or outgrow the container.

So, tell me: Have you planted a succulent container garden? What plants worked best for you? Where do you keep your garden?

This entry was posted by Erin Fortney on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 at 9:16 am and is filed under Cooking & DIY, Fun Things, Green-ish Thumb. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Linda Armstrong says:

    I don’t have a comment but a question. Can you mail the completed garden? Is there a way to pack them so the design stays intact?

    • Erin says:

      Linda, I think likely you certainly *can* pack them carefully enough and with sufficient packing material around them (a minimum of 2″ on every side of the item is necessary to meet UPS’ standards for insurance to apply) to stay upright, and mark the box on all sides prominently with warnings like “FRAGILE” and “THIS SIDE UP.” However, whether or not the carrier will pay attention to the markings is another story entirely. If you try it, do let me know how it works out. Your local FedEx or UPS store might have further tips.

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