The world is crazy about succulents. Don’t believe me? Check out #succulove on Instagram. Over 1,000,000 hashtags dedicated to just succulents. We love em.’❤️️  

In this container, paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora), kitten paws (Cotyledon tomentosa), and agave. 

Succulove: What’s a Succulent?

Taken at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California. Used as a groundcover.

Succulents are a large group of plants inculding sedums, sempervirens (hens and chicks), echeveria, agave, euphorbia, aloe, aeoniums and catcus (to name a few). If you live in Southern California, you can grow these in your landscape. If you don’t, don’t fret. There are still plenty of succulents for our area. Many are hardy to our zone 7a and lower, all others make great terrariums, houseplants, and summer containers. And, for those of you who tell us you’ve got a “black thumb,” here’s your hope. 

  • Succulent: having thick fleshy leaves adapted to storing water. Merriam Webster’s definition translates to the good news that these plants are drought tolerant. So, if traveling is your thing, but you still want nice containers, water well before that two-week trip and don’t worry about the neighbors filling in while you’re gone. Succulents will be fine until you get back. If you’re confused about which ones are cold tolerant to your landscape and which ones need to go indoors for the winter, just ask our staff. We don’t always separate the hardy from the non-hardy in the store, so please be sure to ask.

Succulent Containers: How to

Agave, echeveria, coppertone stonecrop and sedum ‘Dragon’s Blood’ and firesticks euphorbia in this container.

 Echeveria in bloom. 

1. Gather materials. You will need.

  • Container with drainage (for beginners). You seasoned folk can use one without drainage, but beginners may need a little extra help. Read the terrarium blog for info on that.
  • Mesh tape or mesh screen 
  • Catcus and Succulent container potting mix
  • Succulents  
  • Trowel
  • Topdressing (rocks, pebbles, marbles, sand)

2. Put mesh tape or mesh screen over drainage hole. Mesh tape will last for years (it is used for drywall). This keeps soil from falling through the drainage hole.

Donkey tail makes a beautiful succulent container without combining it with other succulents.

3. Pour soil into the container and place plant in soil. Make sure the plant is above the rim of the container. If the soil is too far below the rim of the pot, and the plant sits low, water can pool in the pot and rot the leaves of the plant, causing problems for the whole plant. The crown of the succulent (where roots and leaves meet) should be high.

4. Succulents grow slowly, so how much space you give them is up to you. They can be planted tightly, or leave space for growth. The closer, the more dramatic the display. Planting tight makes watering harder, but it is truly personal preference. How far to space if you aren’t packing them tightly? About a 1/2″ to an 1″ apart.

Pre-made succulent containers are available for those who don’t want to make their own.

5. Design like any other container. Succulents, because they come in so many colors, textures, sizes and shapes make this an easy design for beginners. You’ve heard it before, but the cliche remains when designing any container: Use a thriller (dramatic, taller plant as a focal point like pencil plant), a filler (small, more voluminous plant like echeveria), and a spiller (string of pearls).

6. Finish off with sand, pebbles or marbles. Water only when top 2″ of soil is dry. And put in a sunny spot. Succulents love sunshine.


Following the planting guides is good, but one of the best things about succulents is they fit into anything: teacups, small terra cotta pots. hanging baskets, old fireplace grates. When you begin to design with them, the possibilities are crazy. So, follow the guidelines, but use your imagination and have some fun with them, too. 

Even a mantle works. (Picture by Barney Bryant, Chanticleer Gardens.) 

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, and blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.