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Succulents in Containers

Succulents in Containers

By Pamela Crawford, author of Easy Container Gardens
Photographs by Pamela Crawford

Succulents are the stars of easy container gardening. Since succulents store water in their stems, roots, and leaves, they can go much longer between watering than most other plants. They can also stay in the same pot for years, saving you a lot of repotting work.

Cacti are succulents but somewhat difficult to work with because they don’t like regular potting mix, and they have painful spines.

Most other succulents adapt to regular potting mix. Avoid the mixes that include moisture-retaining substances.

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Succulents at the home of Thomas Hobbs, a succulent expert. His fabulous book, “The Jewel Box Garden,” gives lots of valuable information about growing these plants.

Most succulents only need water about once every ten days to three weeks. Since it rains that often in most of the country, you might never have to do anything to them after planting.

Most succulents are cold sensitive, with a few exceptions (like sempervivens). Move them indoors if the temperatures fall to 32 degrees.

Don’t use saucers underneath succulents, or they can get too wet.

Handle them gently because most are somewhat fragile.

Some succulents like full sun, while others tolerate shade well.

Easiest Plants Ever!

This container combo is the easiest I have ever planted. It lasted for a full 18 months (protected from frost) with no watering other than rainfall. That’s right - I planted it and never touched it again for its entire lifespan. If you kill this one, please let me know because that would be one for the record books!

The gorgeous blue strawberry pot, photo below, is planted with succulents, which are now commonly available in most garden centers. Their durability, coupled with their unique appearance, have made them the rage with container designers.

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The Plants:

Agave univitata, 1 plant in a 6” pot.

Echeveria spp., 4 plants in 4” pots.

Senecio radicans ‘String of Bananas’, 3 plants in 3” pots.

Aloe ‘Black Doran’, 1 plant in a 4” pot.

Aloe spinossissima, 1 plant in a 4” pot.

Cultural Information:

Light: Full sun to light shade.

Season: Most succulents take temperatures from 35 to well over 100 degrees F.

Lifespan: This arrangement lasted 18 months in this container. It was protected from frost.

Care: Fertilize on planting day with a slow-release fertilizer. Repeat if the leaves look yellowish or washed-out. That’s it! This is a really easy design.

Water: I never watered this container, but it rained at least once a week during its lifespan. Succulents need water every ten days to three weeks. Be sure the potting mix is bone dry before watering. Signs of overwatering include leaf loss and spots of rot. A sign that they need water is shriveled leaves. They need less water in cooler weather than in hotter weather.

Troubleshooting: Watch out for thorns! Otherwise, succulents grow slowly and have few problems with disease or insects. Many of these plants can be maintained in the same pot for a very long time.

Planting Plan: Handle the plants gently; they are fragile. Wear gloves to protect your hands from spines. Plant one large succulent in the top and one or two small ones in each side pocket. Avoid potting mixes that include water-retaining substances.

Container: Anamese blue strawberry jar (24” H x 20” W). The size of the side pockets are a nice feature of this container. They are large enough to fit plants in 4” pots. Most garden centers carry a large variety of succulents in 4” pots, which makes them an ideal choice for the side pockets in this strawberry pot. Go to for sources.

This is an excerpt from Pamela Crawford’s book, Easy Container Gardens, available through Amazon and other online booksellers.

Pamela Crawford, author of twelve gardening books, is considered one of the most accomplished container gardening experts in the country. In addition to designing gardens for over 1500 residences, her work has been featured on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens publications as well as in Southern Living, HGTV Magazine, Fine Gardening, Country Gardens, Country Almanac, Small Gardens, and in over three hundred newspapers. As an expert in her field, she has appeared on the Fine Living Network, GardenSMART, and numerous local tv shows.

Pamela has an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Florida International University, where she received the prestigious "Torch Award' as an outstanding alumnus from the school of architecture.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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