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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Living Sculpture: Potted Succulent Art

I was shopping for some electrical tape when I saw these succulent beauties perched on a rack outside the store. I could not help but notice the vibrant colors, and striking contours of these plants. I was surprised some of them were flowering even in this cold weather. Anyways, at $3 a piece, I couldn't resist. They are just what I need to liven up my apartment.

There were too many to choose from, and I only have a limited space in my apartment garden so instead of potting each plant individually, I decided to create a large container featuring a medley of plants. I toyed with the idea of adding tumbled glass and rocks as a decorative element, but I preferred the minimalist look.

Creating this live sculptural art is easy! I provided step-by-step instructions on how to create your own succulent art below. I also included some helpful preparation and planning tips.

  • Large, shallow container (At least 10" wide)
  • 3-4 succulent plants (depending on size of plant)
  • Coffee Filter or 4" x 4" Mesh Screen
  • Well-Draining Potting Soil
  • Decorative Elements like tumbled glass, large rocks, etc. (optional)

1. Plant Selection. This is probably the most difficult part of this project because you need to do more than choose plants that have interesting shapes and colors. You have to consider the watering and sunlight needs of each plant. Succulents will need more water during their growing period, but some succulents are summer growers and other succulents are winter growers. You also have to consider the plants' growth properties; will it grow vertically, horizontally, rapidly, etc.? If you have any doubts, you can read the plant description or ask a store employee.

2. The Container. Choose a container that is wide and shallow. You can use a deep container if you wish, but it will be a waste of space. Succulent plants tend to have shallow roots and do not need a deep container. My plants came in plastic containers, but I like using terracotta containers. Terracotta pots are porous and allow water to evaporate quicker than plastic containers. Because succulents tend to die more from over-watering than lack of watering, I feel safer using the terracotta pots. I did not seal my pots for this reason and also because I like the earthy-dry look for these plants.

3. Lining the Container. Line the bottom of the container with a coffee filter or a 4" x 4" mesh screen to prevent the soil and minerals from leaching out from that large hole. The coffee filter is biodegradeable and will eventually break down with time so if I decide to bring this one inside, I will set this container on a plain 5" terracotta saucer.

4. Arrange the Plants. Fill up about a 1/4 to a 1/2 of the container with soil. Then place the plants on top of the soil. Play with the arrangement of the plants until you are satisfied with a design. Remember to take in account the plants' growth characteristics.

5. Finish Planting Plants.
Fill dirt around the potted plants (and also below) so that the potted plants are snug and all have a level soil line. Remember to leave at least 1/2" of space from the soil line to the rim of the pot. You do not want water and debris overspilling every time you try to water your plants.
Remove one of the potted plants. Gently roll the bottom of the container in your hand until the plant slides free from the container. You can gently loosen the roots on the sides and bottom before placing the plant in the soil. Repeat for the other plants. When you are done gently pat the soil down around the plants and water pot thoroughly.

Note: Succulents are hardy plants. They do need to be watered, but they should not be over-watered. If you do the succulents will rot. You should only have to water the plant when the soil is thoroughly dry.


The card creator said...

What a great article. Succulents are beautiful to grow and love a hot summer with a dry winter. Most people kill them by loving them too much!
You can actually bring them indoors occassionaly to show them off, just remember after a few days to get them back into that sun.
Placing pebbles around the base of the plant can really set them off.
Happy Gardening Marty!

Lina said...

Hi Marty! Thanks for the tips. I've been putting them out in the sun every couple weeks or so, and they seem to be happy. A couple of the plants are flowering again.

Felcy said...

Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

Potted Plants