I’ll shove a succulent in almost anything, whether it be a grill that nobody’s used for years, or an old wagon I picked up for five bucks at a garage sale. The possibilities are endless! First off, I want you to know that in many cases these are not permanent plantings (this is especially true for terrariums). Several months or even years down the road, depending on how quickly the succulents you plant grow, it’s extremely likely that your creations will benefit from a little fluff. I redo the wagon & the grill once or twice a year. Think of your succulents like sculptural elements & have fun. It’s not like you’re deciding where to plant a tree that you’ll have to live with for many a year.
The ultimate key to succulent happiness in the great outdoors (sorry folks in freezing locations) is drainage. Non-draining containers + rain = rotty mush. Pick up a ceramic bit & you can drill through almost anything so that the water can flow. These kangaroos came from Goodwill & after a quick meeting with the drill they drain perfectly. When it comes to drilling holes, higher quality ceramic items tend to be more challenging to drill through & glass is the trickiest, but it’s all possible if you’re willing to take the risk of a stray break here & there. Load up on inexpensive containers at your local thrift store. I’m a big proponent of succulent potting mix to achieve ultimate drainage. To create the roos above all I did was drill holes in their booties, fill with cacti/succulent mix & stick cuttings. Easy, peasy. These cuties would work inside in a bright location, too!
One of my all time favorite succulents for containers are the creamy pinkish blue rosettes of Graptopetalum paraguayense. Gardening in almost pure sand, two blocks from Ocean Beach in nearly frost free San Francisco means lots & lots of succulents are happy campers in my backyard. It’s succulent heaven, but before moving to California I actually grew a wide array of succulents in my living room closet with lights. Taking cuttings is easy. Just snip, snip & you’re done. If you’re a rule follower, snip your cuttings at least a day in advance so the cuts have time to dry out & heal over, preventing bacteria, etc … I normally don’t do this due to patience issues & things seem to turn out fine.
Another one of my favorite succulents for cutting is Oscularia deltoides. It seems to benefit from a little haircut now & then anyways. Here it is escaping the border with a San Francisco native that smells like heaven, Satureja douglasii (Clinopodium douglasii).
Aeoniums seem to put up with indoor action fairly well & Aeonium simsii is one of the highest rated of the bunch for indoor happiness. Love the eyelashes on the leaf margins.
Over the past few years of putting together succulent containers & terrariums, I’ve found that often times less is more. I used to shove ten different succulents in an itty bitty container & let them battle it out. The results were often scraggy & sad. I tend to go for lower growers that form a dense mat, or splashy bigger rosettes.
A couple holes in the bottoms, some dirt, plants & they’re ready to go! Since these were taken as cuttings they have no roots, which means they have nothing to take up water with. Don’t fret, the water stored in the leaves will hold them over until they pop out new roots from the stems jammed in dirt. No fancy rooting hormones needed! I don’t even water containers composed of cutting based succulents for the first two weeks or so, to let them root out a bit. A sunny to part sunny spot is all they need. Indoors, they like a bright window.
Terrariums are all the rage these days, but I’ll tell you upfront – they’re a little trickier to keep happy. The key to keeping a container with no drainage is water control. Over watering is a sure fire way to rot the roots out & keep a fungus gnat family happy, but if you’re using glass it’s pretty easy to keep an eye on how much moisture is making it to the bottom of the container. I like to use a spray bottle. I’ll spray a bunch then wait a couple minutes to see how deep the water seeps in and spray more if needed.
Many hardcore succulent folks think it’s cruel & unusual punishment to put plants that like free draining soil & low humidity in glass, but I’ve had numerous successes with succulents in non-draining situations. They’re very forgiving. Planting wise, it’s easy. I like to use pretty rocks or gravel on the bottom for a wee bit of drainage space, plus it looks cool. Some folks add a sprinkle of horticultural charcoal in for good measure before adding the succulent potting mix in. I don’t. The next step is getting the plants in there. I like using rocks as a topdressing not only because they’re pretty, but they help keep the plants where you want them. If your container is small, it’s handy to have a pair of chopsticks for nudging stuff around.
One last cute little Echeveria amoena in a vintage swan.