Updated date:

Succulent Gardens for Small Spaces

As a parent, Suzanne likes to write about kid-friendly video games.

The best thing about succulent gardens is that they require little maintenance and look wonderful with almost no effort. If you’re wondering how to brighten your place up and have a small garden all year round, then creating one of these is ideal.

If you live in a particularly small space, then a garden of cacti and succulents is perfect as you don’t need to buy much gardening equipment and weeding is minimal. A big plus is that you can recycle items from around the house for planters.

Add some plant life both indoors and out and show off your collection in a gorgeous display. Not only are succulents fairly hardy, but care is easy and they’ll live even if you forget to water them from time to time!

General Method For Potting

Use this method to plant your succulent garden. The initial setup takes a little bit of effort, but after that it’s just easy maintenance.

You will need:

  • A pot with a hole in it
  • Fresh damp garden soil
  • Fertiliser (of any kind)
  • River pebbles, rocks, glass pebbles or gravel
  • Sand (optional)

Method:

  1. Make sure the pot has a hole in the bottom and can drain water away easily. If your pot doesn’t have one, create one. Succulents like well drained soil to prevent stem rot and they don’t require a bowl or plate of water to sit in, unless it is shallow.
  2. Fill about 1/3 of the bottom of the pot with pebbles, rocks or gravel, spaced out a bit. I recommend that you use these larger rocks as they help water drain away more easily and protect plant roots from rotting. Next, make the soil mixture...
  3. Mix some fertiliser into the soil (instructions about how much and where to put it are usually on the packet). Whether in the form of slow-release capsules on the top of the soil, a bag of blood and bone mixed in with the soil or some other type of fertiliser is up to you. They all work to promote growth, just like plant vitamins!
  4. Add sand to the soil. Sand is not essential, but does help to make succulents have a more natural environment. I have successfully grown succulents with and without sand, but with sand is slightly better in terms of assisting drainage and providing a good consistency for the roots. The soil mixture should be light and fluffy, or crumbly, with lots of oxygen mixed in.
  5. Put the soil mixture into the pot, on top of the rock/pebble/gravel formation and make a hole deep enough for your succulent to be planted. The plant should sit about 1cm above where the roots begin.
  6. Take the succulent out of its existing container or garden and “tickle” its roots to stimulate them. A small bit of soil from the previous container can be left on.
  7. Plant the succulent in the hole and put the soil around the plant. Pat down somewhat firmly. Add any decorative sand/river pebbles/glass pebbles/rocks if you like, although these aren’t essential, on the top of the soil. Decorative rocks can be useful in helping control soil erosion through over watering, so if you are a bit keen, use them on top as well as the bottom of the pot. Pebbles and rocks can also add some great contrasting colours to the design.
  8. Water the succulent on the leaves/petals and check that after dampening the soil (with a pretend “rain”), there is enough soil left to cover 1cm of the stem. Do not water directly onto the stem or soil as this causes soil erosion around the root system and can be devastating. Always water from the top onto the leaves/petals or alternatively, spray the whole plant that is above ground using a spray bottle. You should water enough that the soil under the plant is wet, but not floating in puddles. Soil should absorb the water well (if not, soil needs to be crumbled and mixed with fertiliser and sand).
  9. Your succulent garden is now finished! Find a nice place that has a little to a lot of sunlight and position the potted plant suitably. For best results, water once a day for the next 3 days (this is called “watering in”) although its not important as long as you water when you first plant. For more information about maintaining succulent gardens, read the maintenance section below.

Succulents in Pots & Pans

Succulents will grow well in pots and pans, even kettles and glasses!

Choosing a nice pot is an essential part of planting a succulent garden and is almost a kind of feng shui in itself – for example, you can make lots of decisions about which area of the balcony, deck, verandah/porch, terrace or windowsill to put them in, or which pot/succulent combination looks best.

Protect succulents in pots from extreme heat and cold. There should be no frosts, hurricanes, extreme summer temperatures or other disasters for them to face alone, otherwise, they will not thrive.

Having said that, I came home to my succulent collection after a small cyclone had gone through it, and although the leaves were torn off, the succulent regrew successfully within about 2 months after I picked off the petals. It was a one meter high succulent though, and I think it was pleased with the rain, because I’m a bit of a “if it can make it in my garden, it can stay there” type of gardener.

You don’t have to worry about pests and diseases much—you might get a few discoloured/eaten/ripped leaves like I do (which you remove to promote new growth) but anything else can be taken care of with a spray from a hardware store, a water or repotting.

Some ideas for growing succulent gardens in pots and pans and other exciting containers include:

  • Using a kettle as a container
  • Planting in gumboots
  • Planting in teacups
  • Hollowing out bricks as planters
  • Finding old pottery at op shops and converting them to planters
  • Using wooden crates to grow them in
  • Using tier pots, or even cake tiers
  • Placing smaller pots within larger pots for layering
  • Using old tyres for garden beds
  • Planting in mugs
  • Planting in terrarium glasses
  • Planting on plates and square pots
  • Planting in recycled food tins
  • Driftwood planters
  • Mini eggshell planters
  • Hanging seashell planters
  • Hanging knitted bags/sacks
  • Nailing planters to a fence

Miniature Succulent Gardens

Miniature succulent gardens planted outdoors are particularly beautiful when planted in bricks, old containers and vintage ware. By miniature succulent gardens I’m referring to less then 1m x 1m gardens in pots or beds.

I’ve seen wheelbarrows of succulents looking splendid in the grass, as well as half-teacups embedded with cement into a wall on an inner city garden.

The idea behind making successful miniature gardens is to vary the colours and containers. I’ve often found that using blue and white Mediterranean pots is a good starting point if you’re not sure about colours. Almost ANY succulent looks great in white and blue pots and it gives the whole garden a Mediterranean sort of appearance.

Another hot tip is to use natural looking materials/colors for the planters, while contrasting these with bright succulents. For example, using driftwood for planters is a great idea if you can get your hands on some, or maybe try using stone-looking planters for outdoors if you want a minimalist design approach.

Remember that the smaller the pot is and the less soil the succulent has, the quicker you need to repot in order to replace the soil.

Adorable pewter glass planters for indoors. I'm not sure where the hole is in these ones, but if you put a hole somewhere inconspicuous, it will increase the time between repottings.

Adorable pewter glass planters for indoors. I'm not sure where the hole is in these ones, but if you put a hole somewhere inconspicuous, it will increase the time between repottings.

For Indoor Display

Indoor succulent gardens are a little more work than outdoor ones. You need to water more often, as there is no rainfall, and repot a bit more often, due to the soil being depleted of nutrients (and also because succulents are generally placed in smaller containers when indoors).

Have a think about indoor displays and what you want to use them for. If you want a permanent indoor garden put it near a window with lots of natural light. If you want something for guests only, then you can create any type of novelty garden and replant it later.

The best types of plants to use for an indoor succulent garden are “babies” from other succulents. Pick the baby sproutings off the stem of larger succulents and let them dry for a few days before planting. This seals the new stems so they can reinvigorate on their own.

Caring For & Maintaining Your Succulent Garden

Weather

Do not water your succulent garden in winter if you get any rainfall, as this will rot the plant.

Protect your succulents from frost. Larger succulents will be fine for a day or two of frost, with only a few discoloured leaves to show for it.

Seedling sized succulents need protection or they will die.

Bring them inside for a few days, or put them near other vegetation or a compost heap (which give off warming gases).

In summer, take care to move the succulents to a shady area if it is over 35 degrees celsius (95 degrees fahrenheit) on consecutive days. Especially if they are kept near bricks or concrete, which reflect heat onto the plant.

The best way to do this in a low maintenance way is to move your collection somewhere a bit shadier for the summer.

Mornings in the sun tend to be OK, but afternoons should be shaded as this is when the heat of the day will burn your plants. You’ll be able to tell because the succulent leaves will turn black and die.

Watering

If succulents are kept outdoors, watering is minimal, depending on the rainfall of your climate. Obviously, if plants look thirsty or sick, water them!

I live in Melbourne, Australia, and I don’t water my outdoor plants at all because there is sufficient rainfall year round.

Indoor plants do well if lightly watered once a week to once a month, depending on the size of the plant.

You’ll figure it out because they’ll look thirsty and sick without water.

Spraying the leaves with a spray bottle of water is a great way to keep the leaves colourful.

Weeding & Clearing

If weeds grow, pull them out. If you don’t like weeding at all, invest in some rocks, pebbles, gravel or sand to put on the topsoil to prevent weeds from growing.

Every few months, check your succulent and remove the dead petals/leaves on the underside of the plant.

Doing this helps to keep the plant’s vital energies directed into producing new leaves instead of wasting nutrients in the dying ones.

Repotting

The main part of maintenance besides weather protection and watering is repotting the succulents.

Timing varies depending on the size of the pot relative to the size of the plant, how much soil the plant is living in and how quickly the soil compacts and loses its nutrients.

You’ll know it’s time to repot if any of the following occur:

  1. The succulent looks droopy and doesn’t seem to grow at all.
  2. he succulent gets dry and crisp and watering doesn’t help.
  3. The succulent grows too big for its pot, has “babies” and overhangs the sides while the middle starts going “bald”.

To repot, mix up another batch of fresh soil/sand/fertiliser. Empty the pot of old soil (put the old soil onto a garden or throw out) and recycle the old pebbles/rocks in the bottom of the container, shifting them around a bit.

Follow the original procedure for planting (eg., pebbles/rocks on bottom, soil on top, “tickling” the roots, watering in, etc).

Make sure you have combined the new soil mixture with plenty of oxygen, by mixing it or simply stirring it up with your fingers (succulents love getting more oxygen in the soil).

Over the next few days, watch your succulents perk up and show that they are enjoying the fresh soil!

Eggshells in egg cartons make interesting mini succulent planters.

Eggshells in egg cartons make interesting mini succulent planters.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Suzanne Day

Comments

nik on June 20, 2018:

speech less

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on January 26, 2018:

Hi Nellie, I've been noticing that cacti really do need proper shade and water in summer and in winter, water may still seem an issue, as well as too much UV exposure. The spots may be a bug or too much UV. You could try having the small cacti indoors for awhile, take them on a tray indoors most of the time and water reasonably, then take them outside for 1-2 days a week exposure. Another tip would be to have them under other plants (eg bushes) so that they get water and sun, but not quite so much of it. I don't think it matters too much about having the leaves in separate containers, as long as the soil can keep up. Are you adding potting mix to your soil? It can be really helpful for stimulating growth. I add one third of a pot of potting mix to soil each year to help with cacti.

Nellie May on January 23, 2018:

I loved reading this. I am having a hard time with my succulent garden this winter. This is my first year with these particular plants but I am pretty familiar with plants and gardening. They did great in the summer, ever since I brought them in for the winter they have been dwindling down slowly and look spotty and weak looking, leaves are dropping, saggy and limp looking and some are just crisping up. I’ve fertilized them, only try to water them every week to every month depending on the soil. I worked my butt off on it and I’d hate for it to just up and die on me. Any suggestions? Also I started a bunch of new ones from leaves, I’ve been doing this for about 4 months now, they are all in a big container instead of separate containers, should I separate them now? Thank you for your help!

Bonnie Riggs on October 04, 2017:

Great job Absolutely love succulent's really love all plants

Mike and Dorothy McKenney from United States on May 20, 2017:

I LOVE succulents and you did a marvelous job with your article. Great pictures showing a great variety. You get five stars *****.

glovie cawaling on February 25, 2017:

beautiful plants..How I wish that I can have one of them

Scribbling Geek from Singapore on November 01, 2016:

I'm really tempted to try my hand at this after reading your hub and seeing your pics. But I have brown fingers and most things I grow just die mysteriously. :(

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on September 10, 2016:

Wow! I love these ideas of succulent planters. I have succulents in my garden but not in the pots like what I have seen here. Thanks for sharing the ideas.Well done.

Dianna Mendez on August 28, 2016:

This is such a delightful post. I would love to start a small succulent garden area in my back yard. You have given me so many wonderful ideas to choose from. Thanks for the beautiful suggestions.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on May 04, 2016:

I love succulents, and I love all of these ideas. Thank you for sharing. I am hoping to plant my own succulent garden soon!

Rota on March 21, 2016:

Wow, those photos are spectacular - they gave me lots of great ideas for my own succulent planting

peachy from Home Sweet Home on August 06, 2015:

These little plants are so cute but not easy to grow

Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 09, 2015:

This is very helpful information about how to create succulent gardens. Lots of great ideas and the photos are absolutely lovely.

Lady Love from Midwest, U.S.A. on May 05, 2015:

lOVE

Judy from Canada on April 23, 2015:

def going to add some succulents to my pots and baskets this year!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 14, 2014:

I came back to get another look at this Hub. After reading it, I went out and bought a cute little succulent. It doesn't need much light but since it's in a small pot, it needs watering more than once a week. A friend put together a beautiful succulents arrangement for her in-laws' anniversary and now I feel inspired to do a more elaborate arrangement. I plan to get more creative with the container this time. Thank you for all these great ideas.

Marie from Canada on June 13, 2014:

Great hub! I really like the appearance of terrarium succulent gardens. It is definitely something that would like to try.

LisaKeating on June 12, 2014:

I really enjoyed this hub. The images are beautiful. I love succulents but haven't tried growing them yet. I feel more comfortable about trying now. My one orchid just dropped all its blooms. Not much of a green thumb.

jtrader on April 20, 2014:

I like the teacup mini gardens.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on April 12, 2014:

Thanks everyone, for your kind comments.

@CelebrateUSA, if the cacti are exposed in the driveway, they might need something extra in order to keep them alive during the extremes of the year. Sometimes very large plants planted right near them can provide shade for the cacti, or they could be brought closer to the house for warmth etc. I do think that if you notice a blackening or darkening of the leaves in summer or winter, then it is a sign the cacti aren't happy and this can be followed by death a few weeks later. Maybe putting them in small to medium sized pots might be the answer for you? You could even install the pots in a little vintage pull along cart, which you can then wheel into the part of the garden which is the best temperature and conditions.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 03, 2014:

An interesting hub Garden tricks the small spaces look so incredible your ideas are most helpful and creative.

Ken Kline from Chicago, Illinois on February 01, 2014:

Suzanne Day,

Last year I invested $50 in a variety of succulents. I have tried this before and have lost a number of plants. This winter has been particularly daunting and I am worried about my tiny darlings.

I have an area by my driveway which is particularly sunny and my goal is to fill it with succulents. I will keep you posted of my process.

Outstanding hub! From the photos to the technical information. I am going to have to invest in a spray bottle - great tip. Thank you!

Susan from India on January 06, 2014:

Good hub with great pics. Thanks for sharing Suzanne. Voted up and beautiful.

John Reeder from Reedley, CA on December 11, 2013:

Thanks, I will be following you.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 11, 2013:

You're welcome Jacksson, the more colourful the pots and the more different the succulents are to each other, the more your succulent garden will look fantastic and offer a low-maintenance garden that would suit a mobile home perfectly!

John Reeder from Reedley, CA on December 11, 2013:

I remember when I was a kid, my grandmother had succulents all over her back porch. In the hundreds I would guess in hindsight. And in every imaginable container. She was very fussy about them too when young hands were messing with them. lol

BTW, I live in a mobile home park (for the elderly) in Central California and most of my gardening consists of lots of containers and pots. I have been here about five years and just this last season had a really good harvest, mostly of hot and sweet peppers. Yummy. The succulents are kind of another issue because my wife likes them. So . . . She bought lots of various pots for them, so, when the weather allows, I will really get started - I will keep your hub as a reference. Again, thanks.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 11, 2013:

Yes, depending on the reflective light, succulents don't do well near concrete, bricks, rocks etc on very hot days. They seem ok when in the shade or not near these reflective surfaces, they don't get as burnt.

John Reeder from Reedley, CA on December 11, 2013:

Great, you are right, my tomatoes pretty well shut down at about 95 F. I should have picked up on the C, though. Here in this big valley we will often have 30 days of more of +100 F in the summer. '

This past summer I had a spot in the landscape with some rocks and a little bit of soil between them. I put a cutting of a few different types of succulents in the location and they spread all over the place. Looked nice. But, right now we are in our second week of temperature in the 20s and low 30s with a few days down in the teens. My succulents do not like these temperatures and I have had to put covers over them to keep them alive. Had to do the same with my citrus, poor things.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on December 11, 2013:

Hi Jacksson, thanks for the pickup. I meant 35 degrees centigrade, which would equal 95 degrees fahrenheit or 308 kelvin. Forgot about the temperature ratings for other countries! Have updated the hub accordingly.

John Reeder from Reedley, CA on December 11, 2013:

Very interesting and useful. I did notice that in the following paragraph, you mentioned weather of 35 degrees in the summer. That temperature is fall and winter weather here in Central California. Is the 35 a correct number?

"In summer, take care to move the succulents to a shady area if it is over 35 degrees on consecutive days."

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on December 09, 2013:

Great info and beautiful pictures! You certainly are creative with containers. I really enjoyed this hub and voted Up++++

Jaye

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on December 09, 2013:

This is such a beautiful and interesting article. I love your ideas and your photos are gorgeous. These are great ideas for wherever one lives.

Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Rebecca from USA on December 09, 2013:

Voted up & sharing! This is great.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 09, 2013:

Wonderful ideas for pretty succulents! I will be scouring around now for an old Coca Cola crate. Thanks!

moonlake from America on December 09, 2013:

How cute I love the truck. I always put a large bowl on my patio table full of succulents. Voted up and shared. Have a happy day.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on November 24, 2013:

I have been looking for a plant for my office and I think your ideas for succulents fits the bill, as I don't want anything large or high maintenance. I can't decide between the glass jar and the teacup...maybe I'll do both! This is a beautiful Hub. Thanks!

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on November 24, 2013:

Love these ideas!

Kristy Callan from Australia on November 13, 2013:

These are such cool ideas! I particularly love the toy car idea and the tea cup idea.

anglnwu on November 10, 2013:

Wow, you've just given me many ideas. I love succulents and will be putting some of these ideas to work. Lovely hub and rated up.

RTalloni on November 10, 2013:

Thanks for this good info on succulent gardens. Your guide is really useful and your examples are all delightful!

JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on November 09, 2013:

Very well written and informative indeed. I will surely try this later on.

Suzanne Day (author) from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on November 09, 2013:

Hi everyone, the photos are brilliant and inspired me to write this hub. I have lots of succulents at home and wanted to share my knowledge on how to grow them easily, as there's no need for a lot of equipment to create the gardens.

These are not my photos (sadly my succulent collection needs weeding at the moment!). However, I do have some photos of my own cacti in another hub.

The photos are from an amazing online collection from Denise (there's a link at the bottom of the hub, directing you to her page). In referring to the collection, which is made up of hundreds of fantastic succulent photos, I hope to encourage those of us without a succulent garden to have a go at making one ;)

Dil Vil from India on November 09, 2013:

Photos are simply great and a well written hub. Voted UP and beautiful :)

Donna Herron from USA on November 09, 2013:

I love all these ideas! Are these all your plants and photos? I can't tell from the photo credit. I don't really know anything about succulent plants, but I love all the different colors and textures that you've shown. Great information and ideas!!

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 08, 2013:

This is so beautiful. You've done a marvelous job describing different, inviting ways to grow and display these plants.