If you have ever made a succulent planter, you will know that they are easy to plant but can be a bit fiddly when you are planting more than one. However there are a few tools that will make the job a lot easier. Some of these tools are not necessarily the most obvious. Here are 5 tools I am not without when planting succulents:
A deep sided tray with a lip
I apologise if this one is obvious, but I made a lot of succulent planters before I realised I needed one of these. Now I make all my planters in it, it has been invaluable – it catches excess succulent compost and gravel (neither of which come cheap, even in bulk) to be tipped back into the bag to be used for next time. It keeps everything tidy as you’re planting too, which saves you cleaning up time at the end.
A cocktail swizzle spoon
A cocktail spoon is a great addition to a succulent planting tool kit. Since succulents tend to be small, you are dealing with smaller amounts of compost and sometimes a trowel is a bit too large. A small trowel will do fine, but if you want a tool that does two jobs, this is one for you. The small spoon allows me to spoon smaller amounts of succulent compost around the roots of the plants when I am planting, and again when spooning gravel or sand. The flat bit on the end is great for gently patting down the compost before you add a layer of gravel. Apologies for insulting your intelligence, but I feel I should add that it is worth dedicating one cocktail stick to planter making and investing in another (possibly fancier) cocktail stick for the ritual weekend mojito making.
A big pet peeve of mine is when gravel particles get stuck in the crevices of plants when I am adding the top dressing. It looks unsightly and I am not convinced the succulent likes it either. A funnel allows me to distribute gravel around the crown of the plants, well away from their leaves. This is especially helpful when the plants are closely planted. I have a couple of different sizes and found them to be a neat solution to the problem, especially when you have a lot of gravel to ladle.
A range of paintbrushes
Succulent compost is very dry and as a result the dust gets everywhere – including every nook and cranny of your plant. Having a range of paintbrushes on hand will come in very useful to gently brush the dust away without damaging the plant. Most succulents do not take too kindly to being handled a lot, so using tools that are gentler on their sensitive skins, is better than sticking your fingers in to do the job.
Tweezers and/or chopsticks
You may not need both, but I like to keep both on hand, even though they essentially have the same task of grabbing stray bits of gravel that get stuck in the grooves of your plant. Tweezers are easier if you are not so proficient with chopsticks. These are super fine and get into the smallest and hardest to reach places. They can be a bit stabby though as they are so sharp and can damage your plant if you are bit heavy handed (as I have known to be). Chopsticks are worldly and cool and give me a smug feeling of superiority when I use them when making planters as I do using them to eat noodles. I bought this pretty wooden pair years ago to wear in my hair. Happily, since I possess little to no hairstyling skills, they have found a more suitable occupation -you might just have a spare set that don’t see a pad thai so much as the forgotten corner of your cutlery drawer. Again, health and safety gone mad but I recommend you dedicate a pair to this task and cease from using them in future culinary situations. I might add that a chopstick can also be a great way of testing the moisture levels in the soil before watering. Just stick one in and pull it out and see if the compost comes away dry or damp.