A succulent garden is easy to grow and care for. There are just a few things to remember when planting these beautiful drought-tolerant plants.
Last week I shared how I used the 6 principles of design to create a succulent garden, but I also wanted to tell how we prepared the garden and planted the succulents. So today’s post is all about planting and caring for a succulent garden.
Preparing the Planter
The first step in any landscaping project is to prepare the hardscape, anything structural. We were lucky that this beautiful terra-cotta tile planter was already built when we moved into our home (even if it is a really odd shape). However, we did have to take care of one structural problem.
The bottom of a wood pillar that holds up the patio cover was in the planter and covered with dirt. The dirt won’t harm the wood, but every time we watered plants, the water could damage the wood. Wet wood attracts mold, fungus, insects, and other garden problems. You can read how we solved this structural problem in my post on protecting exposed wood.
With the planter structurally ready, it was time to get the soil ready for plants. Succulents are usually very hardy plants, but normal garden soil may be too dense for them. It holds too much water. Succulents don’t like much water. It helps to amend the soil so that water will more easily flow through it and away from the roots. Succulents roots aren’t designed to handle a lot of water. It will kill them.
Perlite or pumice are great in succulent soil. They aerate the soil and don’t hold onto water. They are also pretty expensive. Since I needed to amend a large planter, I decided to use something cheaper: gravel. Not the beautiful-looking gravel found in the garden section of the store. Look near the cement aisle to find cheap gravel. It doesn’t matter that the pieces aren’t even or nice-looking. It’s all going to be buried anyway.
We also bought a bag of sand (play sand happened to be on sale and the cheapest option). To amend the soil, we mixed two bags of gravel and a bag of sand into the soil already in the planter. We used a pitch fork to mix it. It gets pretty heavy, just to warn you.
Succulents in Pots
We planted several of our succulents in pots (read why in Garden Design Principles). Soil preparation is a little different for potting than for planting directly in the ground.
Pots need to be filled with potting soil, not dirt from the ground because whatever is in the pot, stays in the pot. That means that if you use dirt that has weed seeds or plant pathogens, they stay in the pot. In the ground, those problems seep through the ground and wash away when the plants are watered.
But potting soil also needs amendments for succulents. This time we used perlite. We only needed one bag of perlite for the few pots we had. So it was worth the small expense. Plus I know that perlite packaged for potting is clean.
Mulch helps any garden. It helps prevent the dirt from drying out or washing away. It blocks weeds from growing. And it looks nicer than dirt.
There are many, many options for mulch. We wanted something that would go with the arid, dry look of our succulents, so we used rocks, so we used river rocks that seem to be everywhere in the dirt in our yard (You can’t beat free). Also, we used gravel for mulch (this time we bought the nice-looking gravel from the garden section of the store). The small gravel looks really good in our pots.
Succulent Garden Location
Succulents are hardy plants and will often grow where other plants struggle. Our patio planter is partially in the sun and partially in the shade. And the amount of sun changes throughout the year as the sun moves through the sky. Other plants that we had tried to grow in this space never did very well. But our succulents are thriving here.
Our succulent garden is also right next to our sandbox. This actually works really well. Sand inevitably comes out of the sandbox, but a little extra sand won’t bother the succulents at all. The succulents don’t drop leaves or shed flowers much, so there won’t be any plant litter getting into the sandbox (at least from this part of the yard). Succulents are also pretty sturdy plants, so they can survive next to my toddler’s favorite play place.
Also, I love my succulent collection, so having it right outside our backdoor will help me remember to take care of these plants.
Succulent Care and Maintenance
Succulents are pretty easy to take care of. There is no drip system in this part of the yard because these plants won’t need that much water. I can hand-water them when they need it. They need more water in the hot summer than in the winter, but succulents are drought-tolerant enough to put up with my inconsistent care.
Just a tip about succulents that I’ve learned: the fleshier the succulents, the longer between watering they can and should go. The succulents with really thick leaves store water really well, so they live best with infrequent watering. Since I’m hand-watering all of these plants, I can make sure those fleshier succulents get watered less often.
This succulent garden will also need to be fertilized and pruned occasionally. Luckily succulents are easy to prune. You can trim it back to the size you want or pull up the whole plant, cut off the part you want to keep, and stick it back in the ground. New roots will grow.
I’m so glad that succulents are popular right now because there are so many wonderful varieties available to grow. I love the eclectic look of my succulent patio garden. And even with my novice gardening skills, succulents are easy plants to grow and care for.
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