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

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


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, including sedums, sempervirens (hens and chicks), echeveria, Agave, euphorbia, aloe, aeoniums, and cactus (to name a few). Living in Southern California, you can grow these in your landscape. If you don’t, don’t fret. There are still plenty of succulents in our area. Many are hardy to our zone 7a and lower; all others make great terrariums, houseplants, and summer containers. And, for those 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 excellent 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. Ask our staff if you’re confused about which ones are cold-tolerant to your landscape and which ones need to go indoors for the winter. We don’t always separate the hardy from the non-hardy in the store, so please be sure to ask.

Succulent Containers: How to Create Your Own

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


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

 Echeveria in bloom. 


 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 extra help.
  • Mesh tape or mesh screen
  • Cactus and Succulent container potting mix
  • Succulents
  • Trowel
  • Topdressing (rocks, pebbles, marbles, sand)

2. Put mesh tape or mesh screen over the 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.


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

3. Pour the soil into the container and place the plant in the soil. Make sure the plant is above the rim of the container. If the soil is too far below the pot’s edge, and the plant sits low, water can pool in the pot and rot the leaves, 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 room for growth. The closer, the more dramatic the display. Planting tightly makes watering harder, but it is truly a personal preference. How far to space if you aren’t packing them tightly? About a 1/2″ to a 1″ apart.



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

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

6. Finish off with sand, pebbles, or marbles. Water only when the top 2″ of soil is dry. And put it 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.



Written by Cinthia Milner, Landscape Consultant, and blog writer.

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