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Succulent Gardens for Small Spaces

Updated on March 30, 2016

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!

This succulent garden was planted in an old, paint stained container and placed on a fence for good effect.
This succulent garden was planted in an old, paint stained container and placed on a fence for good effect.
Teacups are a great way to make succulents look fantastic indoors! Don't forget to drill holes in the teacups so the water can drain away. They also come with their own plates for keeping messy muddy water off your benchtops.
Teacups are a great way to make succulents look fantastic indoors! Don't forget to drill holes in the teacups so the water can drain away. They also come with their own plates for keeping messy muddy water off your benchtops.
A tiered planter like this one is ideal for a central display on a balcony or deck, where guests can ooh and aah at your talent for gardening.
A tiered planter like this one is ideal for a central display on a balcony or deck, where guests can ooh and aah at your talent for gardening.
Brick planters with candles. An interesting idea for an indoor guest display, though these will need to be repotted fairly quickly.
Brick planters with candles. An interesting idea for an indoor guest display, though these will need to be repotted fairly quickly.
Using contrasting cacti and succulents in planters can immensely brighten your decor.
Using contrasting cacti and succulents in planters can immensely brighten your decor.
For guests only - mini cork planters (with fridge magnets attached). Repot these frequently.
For guests only - mini cork planters (with fridge magnets attached). Repot these frequently.
Mixed pots add colour to any room!
Mixed pots add colour to any room!

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.

Rather than throw out old boots, recycle them as succulent planters!
Rather than throw out old boots, recycle them as succulent planters!
An unusual succulent planter made out of a toy vintage car.
An unusual succulent planter made out of a toy vintage car.
This old Coca-Cola crate has a useful second life as a miniature succulent garden.
This old Coca-Cola crate has a useful second life as a miniature succulent garden.
Mug succulents using Mediterranean-style colors look great on a desk or in a study.
Mug succulents using Mediterranean-style colors look great on a desk or in a study.

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 1m 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

Placing pots within pots in order to created a layered garden is a great idea when short on space outside.
Placing pots within pots in order to created a layered garden is a great idea when short on space outside.
Experiment with different colored and shaped planters to see what works around the house.
Experiment with different colored and shaped planters to see what works around the house.

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.

Concrete bricks and tubes make great succulent planters.
Concrete bricks and tubes make great succulent planters.
More concrete brick planters, arranged in formation. Once the succulents get bigger, these will look quite nice.
More concrete brick planters, arranged in formation. Once the succulents get bigger, these will look quite nice.
The latest trend in succulent planters is wall planters like this one. Ideal for gardens with little space!
The latest trend in succulent planters is wall planters like this one. Ideal for gardens with little space!
Indoor terrarium succulent gardens. If there is no hole, some absorbent matter should be put into the bottom with the pebbles/rocks.
Indoor terrarium succulent gardens. If there is no hole, some absorbent matter should be put into the bottom with the pebbles/rocks.
A nice big pot filled with different varieties of succulents looks great on a deck.
A nice big pot filled with different varieties of succulents looks great on a deck.

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. The 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.

© 2013 Suzanne Day

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

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

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna 3 years ago from USA

      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!!

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 3 years ago from India

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

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      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 ;)

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

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

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

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

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 3 years ago

      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.

    • Doctor Kristy profile image

      Kristy Callan 3 years ago from Australia

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

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 3 years ago from Iowa

      Love these ideas!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      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!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      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.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

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

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      Voted up & sharing! This is great.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      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.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

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

      Jaye

    • jacksson47 profile image

      John Reeder 3 years ago from Reedley, CA

      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."

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      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.

    • jacksson47 profile image

      John Reeder 3 years ago from Reedley, CA

      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 profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      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.

    • jacksson47 profile image

      John Reeder 3 years ago from Reedley, CA

      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 profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      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!

    • jacksson47 profile image

      John Reeder 3 years ago from Reedley, CA

      Thanks, I will be following you.

    • Susan Recipes profile image

      Susan 3 years ago from India

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

    • CelebrateUSA profile image

      Ken Kline 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      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!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

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

    • Suzanne Day profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      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.

    • jtrader profile image

      jtrader 2 years ago

      I like the teacup mini gardens.

    • LisaKeating 2 years ago

      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.

    • marieloves profile image

      Marie 2 years ago from Canada

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

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

      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.

    • Judy Root profile image

      Judy 21 months ago from Canada

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

    • ladyolove profile image

      Lady Love 20 months ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      lOVE

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 19 months ago from Northern California, USA

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

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 17 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      These little plants are so cute but not easy to grow

    • Rota profile image

      Rota 10 months ago

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

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 8 months ago from The Midwest, USA

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

    • josette 5 months ago

      j'aimerais bien comprendre, mais je ne parle pas anglais ou us, je ne vais plus regarder si c'est incomprehensible. merci

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 months ago

      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.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 months ago from Germany

      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.

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 2 months ago from Singapore

      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. :(

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