Succulents. Photo by Chango & Co., original photo on Houzz

By Lauren Dunec Hoang I Houzz

Succulents are wildly popular with beginning gardeners and seasoned horticulturalists for good reason. They come in a dazzling diversity of forms, colors and varieties and don’t need to be fussed over with frequent watering. Potted up as patio accents or living centerpieces, succulents in containers can enhance your living spaces inside and out. Here are 10 ideas to help get you started.

1. Green centerpiece. Lasting much longer than cut flowers, succulents planted as a green centerpiece can add interest to a room for years. Choose a shallow container and plant with a variety of small-scale succulents like echeveria, sedum and hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.). Cluster your containers for greater impact.

While it’s never recommended to plant in a container without a drainage hole for outdoor use, you can get away with it for low-water indoor container displays of succulents. Just remember, you’ll need to be diligent about watering frequently but lightly, never allowing the soil to get soggy. To set your plants up to thrive, position your finished centerpiece in an area of the room that receives bright, indirect light. What Are the Best Indoor Plants?.

2. Mini landscape. Create a miniature living garden scene in a shallow container by planting a variety of succulents with different forms. Play around with mimicking a landscape scene as literally or loosely as you like by including a tall, upright succulent — like kalanchoe or fan aloe (Aloe plicatilis) — to represent a tree form, and adding clumps of sedum and rosette-forming echeveria to mimic blooms or shrubs in the design. Cover the soil with dark gravel or blue-green crushed glass to unify the scene.

3. Container top-dressing. Containers planted with small trees or shrubs the standard way can leave a bare patch of exposed soil at the tree’s base. Planting this area with succulents both covers the soil with an attractive, unexpected top-dressing and helps cut down on water loss through evaporation. Low-growing succulents like echeveria, hens-and-chicks, senecio and sedum all work well.

4. Jewel box. Like a bowl of jewels or brightly colored candy, a container with a variety of colorful succulents crowded together is irresistible, tempting visitors to get a closer look. Start with a neutral-colored container and then plant a mixture of succulents together, keeping the spacing tight. Anchor larger ones like echeveria and chalk dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta) toward the center, allowing sedum to trail over the edges. As succulents grow in and become more crowded, gently break off the succulent “pups” to use in other containers or areas of the garden.

5. Beach club vignette. Just one standout ruffled echeveria (Echeveria ‘Blue Waves’) holds its own in a low cast-concrete bowl topped with light-colored gravel in this beachy vignette. Get the look by selecting a particularly eye-catching succulent and planting it alone in a container. Add accessories of your choosing, like a candlelit lantern or glass ocean floats, to create an inviting arrangement.

6. High-impact entry. For entryway plantings that can be seen from the sidewalk, look for large-scale succulents like foxtail agave (Agave attenuata) or aloe varieties. Use the age-old container composition rule — “thriller, filler and spiller” — to design your container. Here, the foxtail agave acts as the focal point (the “thriller”), blue chalk sticks (Senecio mandraliscae) fills in the midsection (the “filler”) and orange-flowering parrot’s beak (Lotus maculatus) cascades over the side (the “spiller”). A tall container gives the planting trio more visual impact and shows off the trailing habit of the parrot’s beak vine. Plant Stands That Put Succulents in the Spotlight.

7. Living screen. This vertical planting functions as an outdoor room divider for the backyard of a home in Orange County. The tiered planting troughs were constructed using wood boards lined with pond liner (punctured with drainage holes) to prevent rotting. Easy-care succulents are a great choice for living walls and difficult-to-reach vertical applications, given that they’re drought-tolerant and need little care. Here, the designer used a mix of sunburst aeonium (Aeonium arboreum ‘Sunburst’), purple aeonium and trailing string-of-pearls succulents (Senecio rowleyanus), as well as low-water coast rosemary (Westringia fruticosa) and ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’).

8. Long-lasting rosettes. Set in a tabletop container in an outdoor living room, blue rose echeveria (Echeveria imbricata) looks as decorative as a bouquet of flowers. Native to Mexico, blue rose echeveria has a chalky coating over silvery-blue to pale pink and purple rosettes. It is much tougher than its appearance might suggest and needs only occasional water once established.

9. Shade-loving trio. On the whole, most succulents prefer bright sunlight, but many aeoniums thrive in dappled shade. If your entryway is shaded, consider this sprightly green container composition. Start with a large-scale green aeonium (Aeonium ‘Mint Saucer’), which looks like a sumptuous flower, and tuck in golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) and feathery green foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’). Plant a Shade-Loving Garden Underneath a Canopy.

10. Minimalist. Keep it simple by planting a single variety of sedum, like chartreuse Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, in a low bowl or a trio of shallow containers. Arrange the trio down the center of an outdoor table or along a sunny windowsill inside the house. Bright green sedum looks just as fresh and spring-like as moss but is far less fussy to grow, needing only occasional water to thrive.

3 Considerations for Successfully Growing Succulents in Containers

  1. Materials. Use a quick-draining potting mix, and make sure outdoor containers have at least one drainage hole. You can get away with no drainage holes in indoor containers if you’re diligent about not over watering. Succulents rot in soggy soil.
  2. Sunlight. Most succulents grow best when exposed to four to six hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day. They can take full sun in coastal conditions but will need light shade in hot inland regions. Some succulents can burn if exposed to intense radiant heat.
  3. Water. Water about once per week at the base of the plants, rather than spraying the tops of the plants. Allow the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
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