Succulents in containers: stylish and easy potscaping

Succulents in containers are ideal for laid-back container gardeners. These plants – hens-and-chicks (sempervivums), echeverias, agaves and sedums – show off fascinating sculptural shapes, textures and symmetrical patterns and rosettes of colorful leaves.

Succulents in containers

An easy-care display of tropical succulents

Best of all, they’re perfect for hot, sunny spots, and seem to thrive on neglect.

Succulent plants don’t mind if you forget to water them, so if you have trouble maintaining containers, these are the perfect solution.

Succulents are water-wise because they have the ability to store moisture in their fleshy leaves. That keeps them alive through periods of drought.

Succulent plants from around the world

Succulents in containers

Tropical succulents with pea gravel top-dressing

Succulent plants can be hardy or tropical. The most attractive ones are the tropical types native to South Africa, Madagascar, and the Caribbean.

Tropical types don’t tolerate frost and won’t survive outdoors in regions colder than USDA Zones 9 and 10, so growing them in containers is the perfect solution.

They are easy to bring indoors to keep them alive through the winter. To overwinter, set the tender types on a sunny windowsill or under lights. If you don’t want to take the entire plant inside, you can take cuttings and root them. When keeping succulents over the winter (as in summer), be sure not to over-water.

Succulents in containers: pots and soil

Succulents in containers

The rounded shape of this tropical succulent echoes the pot shape

Succulents look particularly eye-catching in decorative terra cotta pots, glazed pots with jewel-toned colors, or shallow stone-like troughs.

To grow them, choose a quick draining potting soil. You can buy soil mixes that are suitable for succulents and cactus plants.

Or you can make your own by combining two-thirds commercial potting mix with one-third coarse sand or gravel, chicken grit, pumice or turface (a baked clay soil conditioner that looks like crushed terracotta).

For a finished attractive look, cover any potting soil still visible after planting with a layer of pea gravel.

Succulents in containers = low maintenance

Succulents in containers

Donkeytail sedum overwintering indoors

Hardy and tropical succulents don’t need a lot of water – but most of them do need sunshine all day. Just don’t over water them. This sort of killing with kindness can promote root rot.

The hardy types will survive in their containers over the winter (so choose a weather proof pot). To help them withstand freeze and thaw cycles in cold-weather regions, store them in a garage or an unheated covered porch, or an unheated greenhouse.

Tender types can sit out the wintery weather a sunny windowsill or under lights. If you don’t want to take the entire plant inside, take cuttings and root them. When keeping succulents over the winter (as in summer), be sure not to over-water.

For more information on growing succulents successfully, check out the Timber Press book, Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin.

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