3 Steps to Creating Quick, Easy and Colorful Succulent Containers

Succulents are the darlings of the horticultural world. Imaginative displays in nurseries and garden centers tempt us to create a succulent masterpiece of our own. Yet with all these shapes, sizes and colors to choose from, the notion of designing a container garden could be intimidating. Which crops look? How many do you need?

And then there’s the container. A simple wooden crate or a moss-filled frame? Perhaps a hypertufa basin or a old hiking boot? Surely the crops will increase in all of these, but some are easier to use than others.

Let’s keep things easy and enjoyable. Bold colour, strong shapes and only a couple of crops are all you need to quickly collect an eye-catching succulent container garden.

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1. Start With this Container

Select a brightly coloured pot; choose something fun. If you enjoy the pot if it’s empty, you’re love it if it’s planted.

Here in Seattle, the skies are gray for over half the year, so I’ll take colour wherever and however I can find it. Those who live in sunnier regions will still enjoy making a strong color statement which will not wash out under the glare of an August sun.

All but one of the containers featured in this ideabook are glazed ceramic. This is nonporous so the potting soil doesn’t dry out too fast. Ceramic pots are available in a wide assortment of colors, shapes and styles. I prefer to use containers without a routine or embellishment for succulent design, to maintain the focus on the textures of the plants.

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Think about the shape of this pot. A stunning pairing of plant and pot becomes a living sculpture in the garden. There’s no wrong or right shape of container, but do experiment with various choices.

Though this agave would look equally stunning in a wide, low bowl, the exceptional shape of this teal container adds an element of drama.

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By comparison, this donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) looks exactly right tumbling out of a shallow, rustic blue pot.

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2. Select Your Plants

Repeat the container color.
Select plants which replicate the colour of the container for a tidy, monochromatic and understated design. These turquoise pots make a dreamy combination with all the blue-toned succulents shown here.

At the left is an excellent creamy variegated agave (Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba,’ zones 8b to 11). What a fantastic architectural silhouette, but watch out for all those fierce thorns.

Slender blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae, zones 10 to 11) at the center are a favorite of mine for containers, including somewhat vertical interest without taking up too much space.

The thinly textured blue spruce sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Blue Spruce,’ sets 3 to 11) on the right is hardier than others and seems fantastic tumbling over the edge of a pot.

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Try using only 1 plant. Sometimes less is more. When you find a stunning specimen plant, such as this green and purple marbled bromeliad,it needs no companions.

It perfectly matches the colour of this pot and its wide, sculptural foliage fills the container out nicely.

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This stunning glossy green container looks as though it’s been dyed to match the yellow jade plant (Crassula ovata ‘Hummel’s Sunset’). The olive green tone is replicated, but the plant also contains some subtle yellow and orange highlights for attention.

When designing exceptional succulents like this, pick a size which will completely fill the pot. Adding different crops are a distraction.

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Black rose (Aeonium arboreum var. Atropurpureum ‘Zwartkop,’ zones 9b to 11) is a plant with mindset. Juicy black rosettes are held on spindly “chicken legs,” that I usually conceal with a tier of lower growing plants. In this whimsical design I decided to play up the fun component, but and leave the stems exposed.

These top-heavy plants can be very delicate, so instead of planting them directly into the green container I simply slipped the black nursery pot indoors and disguised the pot rim and soil with blue shore glass.

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3. Design With Restraint

One of the easiest approaches to plant a mixed container would be to put something tall at the center and surround it with only one or two different companion crops.

This sunny yellow bowl plays the colour of this variegated agave (Agave americana ‘Variegata,’ zones 8b to 11). Paler hued echeverias, sets 8 to 11, interspersed with deeper-toned pachyveria (X Pachyveria glauca ‘Small Jewel,’ zones 10a to 11) form an easy collar, including interest whilst keeping a pared-down simplicity.

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Blue waves echeveria (Echeveria ‘Blue Waves,’ zones 9 to 11) is unquestionably decorative enough to stand by itself. Yet adding a very simple froth of soft green burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum, zones 9 to 11) in its base highlights the similar hue from the oversize ruffled leaves.

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The crucial plant (sometimes called the thriller) here isn’t the tallest one, but rather the glowing orangecarbuncled echeveria (Echeveria gibbiflora hybrid, zones 9 to 11) which repeats the container color so perfectly.

Blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae)offer elevation in this asymmetrical design, while an range of succulents from russet tones fill at the floor plane.

Planting notes:
Make sure the container contains considerable drainage holes. Succulents will rot in soggy soil.Use that a soilless-based potting soil with excellent drainage. Add extra perlite if necessary.Incorporate a slow-release granular fertilizer when planting.Top-dress with ornamental gravel if desired.Water once per week in the soil level instead of over the crops themselves. Notice: Many of these photographs were taken at Flora Grubb Gardens, in San Francisco, a succulent lover’s mecca.

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