I don’t think there is a non-DIY way to do this except to hire someone else to do it for you. Well, I guess you could buy a planter with succulents already in them. Ok fine.
So the whole reason I wanted to make this garden was because we gave away succulents as our wedding favors and we had about 30 left over. They were all sitting there in their 30 separate pails and I decided it would be much better if they were all in one planter. Genius, I know.
Here is what you will need:
- A planter box – got an old crate or wooden box? Perfect! I did not a.k.a I didn’t look for one, although I realize now I probably could have found one. Dang. I took the easy route per usual and got this wood planter from good ol’ Amazon. It comes unassembled, but you just slide the pieces into place, very easy. A plastic planter with holes in the bottom for drainage would also be a great alternative -see more about that below re: plastic lining.
- Soil – I got a large cubic foot bag of cactus soil for $6 from Lowe’s. There was way more than enough.
- Succulents – you can get them from your local nursery, Amazon, Etsy, or a variety of other online suppliers. I got mine from Mountain Crest Gardens. Since I wanted small ones for wedding favors, I chose the Sempervivum. They were not cheap, but they offer a coupon code for signing up for their email list. And let me tell you, when they arrived they were perfect, beautiful little baby cacti angels! Then they got burned out in the sun, which I will lament about later in this post.
- Plastic lining for the planter & tape – I used a trash bag for this, but I did consider skipping it altogether. Succulents need to be in well draining soil and a liner-less container would allow the water to drain out of the planter. However, if you go this route, it would probably result in water damage to the wood. A plastic planter with holes in the bottom for drainage would solve this problem. Decisions, decisions. Pluses and minuses. Pros and cons.
I cut the trash bag open along the seams and used it to line the inside (bottom and sides) of the planter. I used tape to keep it in place along the sides. I made sure that the liner didn’t go all the way to the top so that the plastic wouldn’t show (too much).
Fill ‘er up. Since the plants are small, I wanted them to be near the top, so they can get light and aren’t shadowed by the sides of the planter. I filled the planter almost the whole way up, leaving about a 1/2 inch of space.
Start planting. The sempervivum come in plug trays, with each plant in it’s own slot. You are supposed to gently loosen and remove all of the plug soil from around the roots of the plant and then re-plant it in its new home. However, I did not do this, so I’m not sure if it makes a big difference. I just planted them as is and they still continued to grow.
To plant, I dug a small hole in the planter soil, placed the root portion of the plant in the hole, then filled in with soil around it and gently packed it down to make sure the plant is secure. I spaced each succulent out as best as I could within the box. Once everyone was planted, I watered the soil very lightly and that really was it! Easy peasy.
Some tips on sempervivum care:
Watering – Although sempervivum don’t like or need much water, if you live in place with hot summer weather, they may need a little extra water than usual during the summer months. It gets really hot here in the summer (100 degrees on the reg) and I received my plants in August when it was hottest. For fear of watering them too much, I actually ended up watering them too little. They were too dry in the heat and they were really struggling until we started watering them more. As a rule of thumb, water to moisten the soil (you don’t want the plants sitting in water) and then wait for the soil to dry out before watering again.
Sunlight – If you order sempervivum from Mountain Crest Gardens during the summer when it’s 100+ degrees out, DO NOT PUT THEM OUTSIDE IN FULL SUN FOR AN ENTIRE DAY 2 DAYS AFTER RECEIVING THEM. They will shrivel up and die. Yes, we learned the hard way. You’ll need to keep them indoors in indirect sunlight (through a window) and acclimate them slowly to direct full sun (couple hours at a time maybe?). Miraculously, not all of our plants completely died and a good amount of them recovered, but it was realllll touch and go there for a while.
Once more mature, sempervivum like a lot of sun! They are desert plants after all. Now that it’s winter, I’ve been keeping the box indoors – don’t want them to freeze! But it looks like they are not getting enough sunlight so I’m going to start keeping the box outside instead. I read up again on it today, and since it’s not going to get below freezing here, they should be fine.
Offsets – Finally, sempervivum are also known as “hens and chicks” because the plants grow “chicks” (offsets) that you can then re-plant. Once a plant has chicks, it dies, but the chicks mature and eventually become hens with their own offsets. It’s like never-ending plants.
OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER ALERT: I am not, repeat NOT, a plant expert by any means. My succulents have had their fair share of stress, so don’t take my advice here as gospel. It’s a learning experience for me. This is just a tutorial on how I created the little garden. That being said, I did do research beforehand, so I’m not totally blind on the subject. They say that succulents are hardy plants that don’t need too much maintenance. So I’ve got that going for me. I mean, hey, I’ve had my plants for a little while now and they’re still alive, right? Right? Plants? You there?
UPDATE: It’s been about six months and the plants have grown A LOT and they look very happy and healthy. They have been thriving outside and since summer is coming up again, I’m keeping my eye on them to make sure they aren’t getting too dried out or burnt. We love them and the box looks great!