I love planting succulents – the plants are so diverse and look so interesting mixed together or mono planted. While succulents are relatively simple to plant, there are a few techniques and tricks that I have learnt over the years that makes the whole process much easier:
Use containers with drainage holes: OK so you don’t absolutely have to have a drainage hole – a succulent will do ok in a non-draining container for a while as long as you water carefully in small amounts. However if you want an easier life, always go for a draining container! It makes watering so much easier. Just be sure to protect the surfaces underneath your planter from escaping water!
Use specialised succulent compost: I use pre-made succulent and cactus compost. It’s much easier and it’s worth the extra price in what it saves you in time, hassle and sweat (horticultural grit can be heavy!)
Get a large range of plants to choose from and make sure they complement each other: This is the fun part – picking your plants. If possible, start out with more plants than you need so you have some choice. Contrasting colour, form and texture and planting in odd numbers is a good way to go.
Play and experiment with the plants before planting: Once I have picked the plants I’d like to use, I will play around with the composition. It is a lot easier to experiement while they are still snug in their plastic pots. Some succulents are delicate and prefer not to be handled too much so it is a good idea to know exactly where you want them to go before your plant.
Loosen the root balls: Which leads me onto this point, try and loosen the compost around the roots of your plant and encourage the roots to spread before your plant up. It is important to do this as it encourages your succulent to take to its new surroundings.
Use cuttings: Succulents root pretty easily, and are quite easy to propagate. Take cuttings from a larger plant with a clean sharp pair of scissors or secetaurs. Just make sure the cuttings have calloused over before you plant them, this usually takes about 24 hours. Trust me, if your cuttings are kept in the right conditions, they will start to root. Use these cuttings to fill in the small gaps in your planter where a larger plant wouldn’t fit.
Use special tools to make the job easier: I have collected various tools over the years which has saved me time while planting. Click here to see my blog post about the tools I use to make succulent planting a doddle.
Use gravel as a top dressing and other accessorise to add interest: While a planter crammed with succulents looks amazing, sometimes the most pleasing designs use simplicity, and space. For this reason, I carefully consider the role of the gravel and accessories in the design. I want them to enhance the beauty of the plant and create more interest. There are all kinds of natural materials you can use, below are some of my favourites:
Let the planter settle for a week or two before watering: Normally the experts recommend us to water a container as soon as we have planted it to encourage the plants settle in. Succulents are an exception. Plant them up and leave them for a good week, if not longer before you give them a water. I would also recommend making sure succulents are nice and plump before you plant them – give them a drink a few days before you intend to plant to rehydate them and then give the compost a chance to dry out again.
Find a good spot to display your masterpiece: Consider how you would like your planter to be viewed – from all angles, or from the front. This planter in the pictures below has a low profile and is designed to be viewed from all sides so I have placed it in the centre of a coffee table. You should also make sure it has enough sunlight. Most succulents really struggle in our dim overcast days, so putting them on a windowsill or very near a natural light source is strong shout. That being said, on hot sunny days (so about 3 weeks of the year in the UK in all probability!), consider moving your planter to an area where they wont get the full glare of the midday sun as some succulents can get sunburnt. You should definitely move your container on sunny days if it is made from glass. Sun on glass is extra intense on your poor plants, and can present a fire hazard.