Cactus decorated with lights
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Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights, Step-by-Step

These DIY step-by-step instructions correspond to my YouTube video: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights

Inspired by my friend Sabine’s holiday succulent garden, I decided to light up a succulent of my own. The resulting potted ferocactus is the holiday centerpiece for a patio table visible from my kitchen and dining room. The plant’s translucent spines glow when light shines through them, creating a fascinating display. I painted the pot to match the gold of the spines so the tabletop display would look good during the day as well as at night.

Cactus decorated with lights

Ferocactus glaucescens in a gold-painted, terra-cotta pot glows with mini lights.

Here’s how I did it, step-by-step.

If you’re decorating an in-ground cactus or one that’s already in a pot, skip to #7.

Cactus with holiday lights

My ferocactus is shaped like a pumpkin and is 7 inches in diameter (including spines).

Step #1: Select a spherical, long-spined cactus from the nursery. I chose Ferocactus glaucescens because its spines are quite long, and I like the plant’s blue-green color. In retrospect, I would have counted the number of ribs and gotten a barrel cactus with 10. This one has 12—two more than the number of lights in the package. But most arrangements are viewed mainly from one side, so the “dark” side is in the back, along with the battery pack.

Step #2: Choose a pot or container that’s in scale with the plant. I went with a new terra-cotta pot because I wanted something clean and simple that would elevate the plant, and that I could paint the same gold as the spines.

Decorate a cactus for Christmas

Tools and materials include long handled tweezers, a soft brush, a wood chopstick, mini lights, kitchen scissors, gold stones, floral pins, a disposable paintbrush, gold paint and water sealant.

Step #3: Head for the craft store. At my local Michael’s, I bought gold “patio paint,” a disposable brush, floral (“greening”) pins, and battery-operated lights. I already had a wood chopstick, a can of Thompson’s Water Seal, long-handled tweezers and the kitchen scissors I use for gardening.

Step #4: Paint the outside and inner rim of the pot with outdoor craft paint and spray the inside with the waterproofing sealer.

Step #5: Gauge the size of the plant’s rootball in relation to the shape and depth of the pot. Add soil (I simply used pumice—up to you) if you’ll need filler for the bottom. Otherwise you risk plopping the plant into the container and finding it sits too high or too low. Which means picking up the !@#$% porcupine again.

Step #6: Extract the plant from its nursery pot and plop it into the new pot. This is tricky. You can’t touch the plant, and I didn’t want to dump it out because that might get soil on it that would be difficult to remove or worse, break spines. I also didn’t want to pull on a heavy plant and risk detaching it from its roots. So I cut the plastic pot away from the rootball, using the kitchen scissors, resulting in a plant-plus-rootball I still needed to get into the pot. I knew garden gloves were useless with spines like those, so I improvised with a long-handled bathroom brush and tightly crumpled newspaper. Using them to push against it, lifted the plant. (Memo to self: Get a second bathroom brush.)

Step #7: Settle the plant in the pot. I adjusted it a bit using the bathroom brush and newspaper, then pushed down on the soil along the rim with the tips of my long-handled tweezers.

Step #8: Turn on the mini-lights to make sure they work. Start with the light on the end of the string and, using the long-handled tweezers, tuck it between two ribs, under the lowest spines. Use floral pins to secure the wires and conceal them. Remember they’re there when it comes time to remove the lights or repot the plant. The pins will rust in the soil and… Step #8.5: Get a tetanus shot.

Decorate a cactus for Christmas

Gold rocks are $14 for 1.65-lb jar. Small pebbles would work as well.

Step #9: Add topdressing. I used gold rocks that I found online. Wait a week to water it. Cactus roots really shouldn’t be watered immediately after planting because broken roots are more vulnerable to rot.

Step #10: Place it where you can see it at night. Take photos and post them on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @DebraLBaldwin. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Decorate a cactus with holiday lights

This is how the cactus looks after dark.

 

And at anytime, it looks like a snowflake.

Watch me make it on YouTube: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights DIY

Decorate a cactus with holiday lights

Related Info on This Site:

Succulent Topiary Tree

Succulent wreath how-to

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

Gallery of large pots of succulents
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Showcase Succulents in Large Pots

For a dramatic, memorable enhancement to a garden or patio, showcase succulents in large pots. Big containers are both sculptural and eye-catching. Add succulents and you have a dynamic, ever-changing display as plants grow and seasons shift. Examples here are from my own garden and others I admire. Find more great ideas for succulents in large pots in my books, in particular Succulent Container Gardens and Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.).

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A nonfunctioning fountain planted with string-of-pearls and Dasylirion whipplei is at the end of an entry walkway adjacent to the front door.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

Big red pots planted with dasylirions add height and color contrast. The trio create a centerpiece for a rectangular bed of assorted ice plants. The pots also serve to relieve the eye in the midst of a lot of fine-textured plants.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A series of knee-high pots planted with Agave ferox borders a walkway and contrasts with a coral wall. Beneath the pots, a topdressing of rocks and gravel provide texture and continuity.

 

Large pots in the garden

Large pots are an investment, but well worth it. This one, planted with Sedum burrito cuttings several years ago, is a surefire conversation piece. The homeowner sees it from inside her home and whenever she uses her patio.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A sloped poolside planting includes succulents in large pots that stand out and add interest to a colorful assortment of succulents.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

Big pots needn’t be upright. This one, spilling Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’, lends whimsy to a garden and a suggestion of motion. This is also a great way to utilize a cracked or damaged pot.

 

Large pots in the garden

Red glaze on a pot in my garden repeats the upthrusting lines of a red aloe nearby.

 

Gallery of large pots of succulents

A rectangular pot fills wall space and adds a welcoming presence at the entry to Jeanne Meadow’s garden. She planted it with aeoniums, aloes and trailing Portulacaria afra ‘Minima’.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

A red pot containing a variegated sansevieria makes a clean-lined statement in the side garden of a contemporary home. Rounded river rock covers bare dirt and provides contrasting texture.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

A pot in my garden adds height and interest to a terrace overflowing with succulents. I planted the pot with lampranthus, sedum, Othonna capensis and a variegated yucca.

 

Gallery of large succulent pots

In a patio in downtown Carmel, CA, a large pot with overgrown Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ creates a photo op and focal point.

 

Large pots in the garden

This large unplanted pot serves as a sculptural element in Patrick Anderson’s garden. Its rounded lines contrast with spiky agaves nearby, and their orange leaf margins repeat its terra-cotta color.

Related Info on This Site:

Use plastic bottles for lighter pots

On My YouTube Channel:

Video how to make large pots lighter

 

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

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Succulent Centerpieces

Succulent centerpieces last months and look good long after the occasion you made them for. Shown here are ideas for tabletops, floral-style arrangements, groupings and more. Follow the links for additional info and how-to help.

Succulent centerpiece

Above: Jeanne Meadow of Fallbrook, CA, keeps this succulent centerpiece on her patio table. Jeanne’s is one of the featured gardens in Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.). This photo also appears as a black-and-white line drawing in my Sensational Succulents coloring book. It’s an example of the floral-style succulent arrangements shown in my books, notably Succulent Container Gardens.

Succulent centerpiece

Above: This pedestal-pot succulent centerpiece is by CW Designs (formerly Chicweed). See how to make it in my online article: DIY Floral-Style Succulent Centerpiece.

Succulent centerpiece

You can watch me make this centerpiece in a repurposed berry bowl in my online Craftsy Class, “Stunning Succulent Arrangements.” Use this link to take my Craftsy class (all seven lessons) at 50% of the regular enrollment price—$20 instead of $40. I also feature the same berry bowl, filled with colorful succulent cuttings, in my YouTube video, Succulents in Silver.

Succulent centerpiece

To make this unusual centerpiece for my patio, I combined a curved glass tube and a wrought-iron stand (both thrift store finds) with colorful clusters of succulents, then added bird seed. Watch birds enjoying it (and thereby turning it into a piece of kinetic art) in my video: Succulent Bird Feeder Centerpiece. If you’d like to see how I repurpose objects for bird feeders, go to Creative Bird Feeder Materials & How-To.

Succulent centerpiece

Groupings of similar objects make simple, appealing tabletop decorations. Here, sempervivums look like they’re in white baskets, but—as explained on page 36 of Succulent Container Gardensthey’re actually in cast-concrete pots. Glossy silver balls repeat the muted hues of the pots and contrast with their texture.

Succulent centerpiece bouquet

I made these bouquets for the launch party of my book, Succulents Simplifiedwhich has the same plants on the cover. Marbles serve as ballast and I made faux stems from bamboo skewers. The vases hold water to keep the aloe flowers fresh. Learn more in my article, Create a Bouquet of Succulent Cuttings and in my online Craftsy Class, Stunning Succulent Arrangements. 

Succulent centerpiece

This dramatic succulent centerpiece features a crested euphorbia. See how it came together in my online article Succulent White-Pot Pairings, and in my YouTube video, How to Pair Succulents with White Pots.

 

Related info on this site:

 

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Succulent Windowsill Pots DIY

In this Succulent Windowsill Pots DIY, you’ll find out how to make a quick, colorful, succulent windowsill garden. Sunbathing helps succulents maintain their symmetry and color, and whenever you look out your window or work at a countertop or sink nearby, you’ll see and enjoy them.

My six little windowsill succulents

These six pots, each 3-inches in diameter, come as a set on Amazon (about $16). Their rainbow colors makes them fun and easy to combine with succulents. I added crushed glass topdressings because glass and sunlight are made for each other…just like sun and succulents.

Other multipot sets work equally well…for example:

Materials:

Four to six 3-inch decorative pots.
Four to six succulents in 2-inch nursery pots. Numerous varieties and even cuttings will work. I chose Adromischus cristatus, Sedeveria ‘Lilac Mist’, Sedeveria ‘Letizia’, Senecio haworthii, Sedum nussbaumerianum, and Sedum adolphi. All are from Altman Plants’ retail nursery north of San Diego, Oasis Water Efficient Gardens.

Pumice or potting soil (“cactus mix”) to finish filling the pots.
White or neutral-colored sand (but not beach sand—too salty), available at craft stores and online.
Window screen or paper towels cut in six 2-inch squares.
Crushed glass topdressing (optional), available from craft stores, floral suppliers and online.

Method:

Cover drain hole with a square of window screen or paper towel so soil doesn’t fall out.
Gently slide the plant out of its nursery pot and place in its new pot.
Remove 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil from top or bottom so root ball stays below the rim.
Spoon pumice or potting soil between rootball and pot.
Tap the pot and gently press on the soil to anchor the roots.
Add a layer of sand to conceal pumice and soil. The sand also will fill gaps and keep the glass topdressing’s color true.
Add topdressing. I chose colors that echo the glaze on the pots, but fewer or just one color also would look good.

Succulent windowsill pots

Care:

Water lightly and infrequently—1/4 to 1/2 cup per pot weekly in summer, less in winter. Aim to keep soil barely moist, never soggy.
If your windowsill might be damaged by moisture, move the pots to the sink when watering. Let drain thoroughly before replacing.
If stem succulents stretch or rosette succulents flatten, they probably need more light. However, the sun’s ultraviolet rays, when magnified by untreated window glass, can burn plant leaves. If this is a concern, add a sheer curtain or move the plants farther from the glass.
Keep in mind that south-facing windows typically get the most sun and north-facing the least.
It’s normal for succulents to get leggy over time. After four to six months or whenever you tire of looking at stems that have growth only on the tips, take cuttings and replant.

Also see my DIY video ~

Related info on this site:


Succulent Basics, Must-Do’s and FAQs

Let me guide you through the essentials of growing succulents successfully: water, light, soil, fertilizer and more. If all this is new to you… [Continue reading]

Also on my YouTube channel: 

Create a Colorful Succulent Terrarium


 

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Succulent Desk Buddies, DIY

“Desk buddies” are succulents that look good on your desk and require almost no care. They’re cute and classy, and visitors invariably ask about them. All you have to do is dribble water on them twice a month (which also keeps them dusted).

Here for your enjoyment is a step-by-step DIY project for creating a sparkling trio of succulent desk buddies. Watch my corresponding YouTube video.

I chose haworthias for my desk buddies because they do great in terrariums. These small succulents from South Africa are rosette-shaped and shades of green sometimes variegated with cream or white. Certain species have translucent tissue and veining. Most haworthias prefer bright shade, grow no more than 4 or 5 inches in height and diameter, and offset to form mounding colonies. Outdoors, they need protection from sun scorch and frost.

Recently I brought home several haworthias in 2.5-inch nursery pots to create a trio of desk buddies, inspired by Altman Plants’ collection with the same name. Another great online source is Mountain Crest Gardens.

Plants*

Haworthia fasciata hybrid. Similar to H. attenuata (zebra plant), the rosettes have stiff, upright, pointed leaves that appear sharp but aren’t.

Haworthia emelyae. Each leaf forms a fat triangle that curves up and outward. Leaf tops are translucent and veined. Similar to H. retusa.

Haworthia cymbiformis. Similar to H. retusa and H. emelyae, but offsets are more clumping.

Design

I wanted a simple, sophisticated trio that would showcase the plants, so I went with glass spheres. These have a clean, fresh look and won’t leave water spots on tabletops. (Lack of draingage is not a problem. If that seems counterintuitive, see How to Water Succulents.) I didn’t want any dirt to show, so I concealed roots beneath layers of sand. You might add pebbles, beads or even buttons, but keep in mind that as sand sifts through and past them, bigger items work their way to the surface.

Materials

— 3 glass globe candle holders, each 4 inches in diameter. I found these at Michael’s (by Ashland). Similar ones are available from Amazon: Libbey Bubble Ball Glass Bowl Set of 12 (4.3-inch), $29.99, eligible for Prime 

Pumice (crushed white volcanic rock), one to two ounces per container

— Several colors of sand. I chose light earth tones because subtle variations are best when seen up close. You might also consider colors that harmonize with furnishings or accessories. Cautions: Bright sand can call excessive attention to itself and overshadow the succulents. Don’t use beach sand, which contains salts, or sand that’s green because it’ll suggest algae.

Craft stores sell small bags of colored sand, but the selection is hit-or-miss. If you collect your own sand from the wild, sift out impurities and microwave it 60 seconds or so to kill microbes and weed seeds. If you want extra colored sand for other projects, I found these on Amazon (July, 2018): 

— Bowl or bucket of water for swishing soil off roots (optional).

— Soft artist’s brush for cleaning sand off leaves.

Method

— Slide plants out of their nursery pots, gently remove as much soil as possible, and swish the roots in water (optional). If some soil clings to them, that’s fine, just so it won’t be visible through the glass.

— Dip roots into pumice so it clings to them (optional). Add a couple of spoonfuls of pumice to the bottom of the globe and set the roots atop it. The plant might rest below the rim, suggesting a terrarium. If leaves are at mid-rim or slightly higher, the container will suggest a flower pot.

— Pour in different colors of sand to create layers. Experiment with tipping the globe to achieve curved or sloping lines. Avoid getting sand on leaves because you’ll have to clean it off.

— Tap the container gently to settle sand around roots.

— Think it could look better? Simply start over (remove contents, clean the glass). When you’re satisfied, gently brush grains of sand from the leaves.

— Use a squirt bottle to further cleanse the leaves and settle the roots. Avoid soaking the sand.

Care

— Dribble a little water (no more than an ounce, less if humidity is high) on each plant every couple of weeks or so. Hold the globe so you can see where the water goes (wet sand will appear darker). Aim to moisten the center, not the sides.

— Give haworthias as much bright light as possible but no direct sunlight. Sun may burn the leaves and cause algae to grow in damp sand.

— Over time, lower leaves may wither and dry, which is normal; snip and remove them with scissors and tweezers.

— If you don’t like the haworthias’ spindly blooms, you have my permission to pinch them off.

— Watch for pests such as aphids and mealybugs. Should they put in an appearance, spray with 70% Isopropyl alcohol.

— No fertilizer needed.

*Trying to accurately ID Haworthia species and cultivars is frustrating, to say the least. There are innumerable hybrids, and it takes an expert to tell them apart, especially when growing conditions may shorten or elongate leaves, or cause rosettes to have a flatter shape or greater or lesser variegation.  Fortunately all have similar cultivation requirements, so if you see one you like, chances are it’ll do well for you, whatever the heck its name may be. 

Related Info

On this site ~

Here are the essentials for growing succulents successfully: water, light, soil, fertilizer and more. If all this is new to you… [Continue reading]

On my YouTube channel ~

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Ten Predictions for the Succulent Decor Marketplace

April 13, 2018 ~ In May of 2016, I predicted that textiles and decorative items themed with succulents would soon be commonplace. Back then there were a few T-shirts, socks, pillows and posters, but not much from major retailers except fake succulents. (Gotta love the irony: Succulents already are the closest thing to plastic in the plant world.)  Now they’re everywhere: Pier One, TJ Maxx, Cost Plus World Market, Wayfair, Home Goods, JOANN and more.

Above: I’m holding a succulent shower curtain ($30) at Cost Plus World Market. In the foreground is a $200 faux opuntia (prickly pear).  

“Cactus Serving Bowl” from Pier One, $30

You Heard It Here First ~ Ten New Predictions for Succulent and Cactus Decor

In fabrics, dishes and other decorative items, rosette succulents such as echeverias have claimed a place forever in the palette of “florals” available to designers.

Early on, many retailers, hotels and restaurants went with mediocre, mass-produced prints of succulents. Those will be replaced with quality images that do the plants justice, along the lines of paintings by Dyana Hesson or Aaron Apsley (do follow them on Instagram).

Cactus as a design element is trending, popping up on pajamas, place mats, wallpaper and more. As awareness of the plants grows, cliche images of “cactus” as saguaros and prickly-pear will give way to numerous other varieties.

Pink flowers on a saguaro? In nature they’re creamy white. Let’s hope depictions of cacti and succulents become more accurate.

Stylized cacti, unlike their living counterparts, are always in bloom. But as designers and consumers recognize that the true beauty of cacti is in their spines and symmetry, the perceived need for flashy flowers will diminish.

Spherical and columnar euphorbias, easily confused with cacti, are riding the popularity wave along with them—for example, those euphorbias in the cactus curtain I’m holding above. (And what those avocado-like leaves are, I have no idea.)

“Cactus Pete” flannel fabric at JOANN, $3.49/yard. 

Expect to hear the word “cute” in the same breath as “cactus” as graphic designers give the plants personality. Rotund, “chubby” varieties will be stylized for greeting cards, gift bags, night lights, plush toys, bed linens and more.

Check-out lines, already long at seasonal Cactus & Succulent Society of America shows, will get even longer. Vendors will offer impulse-buy gifts and collectibles for newcomers—items of little interest to long-time members who are mainly plant collectors.

Shops specializing in all things cacti-and-succulent will spring up online, in flea markets and mall kiosks. If these sell live plants, they’ll be secondary to themed merchandise.

Potters, ceramicists, mosaic artists and metal sculptors will produce works designed to contain and showcase specific succulents, such as those that form Fibonacci spirals.

Kids will clamor for cactus collections, leading to garden tools for small hands, rubber-tipped tongs and tweezers, and bright-colored pot sleeves.

Retro, cactus-themed trinkets from Mexico and the desert Southwest will be highly sought-after, leading to an outpouring of new items inspired by old.

Above: “Fiesta Chihuahua Doormat” from Pier One, $17. 

Related Info…

Apr. 24, 2018 ~ If it seems that succulents are moving at warp speed in the world of gardens, nurseries and designers, they are…[Continue reading]

Earlier predictions:
“Succulent Art, Decor and Gift Items”
“Is Cactus the New Black?” and
“Seven Ways to Make Money with Succulents.”

Enjoy my post: “Did I Find the Perfect Succulent Pillow?”
Follow my quest and view photos of my redone entryway along with dog-model Lucky, who happens to resemble the pup above. (Yes, he’s really thatcute.)

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin
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Did I Find the Perfect Succulent Pillow?

Recently I embarked on an intensive, two-day hunt for the perfect succulent pillow. I wanted it for the love seat in my home’s 5×5 entry, where I keep 40 small, low-light succulents in a dozen containers. These are shades of green, bronze, brown, terra-cotta, and rose.

Small euphorbias, gasterias and haworthias thrive in the entry, out of direct sun.

Little did I realize how many succulent pillows are out there. Stores such as Pier One, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Joanne’s and Cost Plus World Market have more than fulfilled my 2016 prediction that items themed with succulents would soon be commonplace.

From Pier One’s website.

I bought seven pillows and two area rugs, and charged about $500 on my credit card. No biggie, I was going to return all but one pillow and one rug, right? Well, yes, but an embroidered and beaded cactus pillow from Pier One was a keeper regardless. Only $40!  (I have a thing for throw pillows.)

I figured just about any multicolored succulent pillow would work. The walls are tan, the trim cream, the floor concrete gray, the door and wrought iron brown, and the seat cushion dark blue-green. Hoping that a rug would add punch and help pull everything together, I bought a 3×5 one striped in brown, green, blue and beige. But—I should have known this, being a Pier One fan—the colors were so crisp, they made everything else look shabby. Also, when I saw it in situ, I realized it really needed some orange-red.

The first go-round: The pillow is a bit too small for the love seat. The rug, though the right size and a nice texture, lacks colors necessary to unify the design.

So back the rug went. Next stop: Cost Plus World Market, where colorful cacti greeted me from Melamine plates, shower curtains, and even nifty metal buckets. Watch the 50-second video I made while there.

I model a fabric shower curtain at World Market.

I found a pillow with a watercolor of a cactus garden that seemed the right shape and size: rectangular (“lumbar”) and bigger than Pier One’s for less money. Score! Or so I thought.

Cactus pillow and rug at World Market.

Back home. Aargh. No pillow with a white background looked right. There’s no white in the entry, and they all screamed “bedroom.” Yet while at World Market I’d also bought an orangey-red rag rug trimmed in blue-green. It looked great! All along it wasn’t the pillow that mattered most, it was the rug.

My Dorothy-in-Oz moment: I had the perfect pillow all along.

I quickly went shopping in my own home, grabbing a pillow with the right colors from the living room sofa and two stretched canvas prints of agaves from the hallway. (Both prints are from my online Zazzle store.) None of the succulent pillows ended up in the entry. But I did keep two. One is now on my bed, the other on an armchair. The entry pillow has a bird on it, but hey, I’m into birds.

Cost: Two pillows that I kept despite not needing either one: $60. Rag rug from World Market: $40. Total: $100. Plus a day and a half of my time, but it was fun, so I can’t complain.

Do you, like me, need to hunt, gather and try things on before everything clicks? If so, you probably agree that the hard part—and hopefully you’re better at this than I am—is taking things back.

Now (drum roll) my pup Lucky would like to show you “his” new entryway.

Lucky demonstrates “downward dog” on his new yoga mat.

He’s probably meditating on his breakfast.

The love seat is ideal for cat-watching.

Lucky resembles the entry’s whimsical metal watchdog. At left are a pair of Talavera “shoes” and a frog pot atop a larger container. In the square pot are ‘Pink Blush’ aloes.

Items opposite the love seat include Gasteraloe ‘Green Ice’ in bloom.

Gasteria sp.

Related Info and links:

My stretched canvas agave prints:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more of my succulent art pieces at my online Zazzle store.

Articles on this site:

April 13, 2018 — Cactus as a design element is trending, popping up on pajamas, place mats, wallpaper and more. As awareness of the plants grows, cliche images of “cactus” as saguaros and prickly-pear will give way to… [Continue reading]

Succulent Art, Decor and Gift Items
May 29, 2016 ~ We’ll see stylized succulents used more and more in art, home decor, clothing and gift items. The way succulents are trending, they’ll soon become the “new florals” for…[Continue reading]

If you enjoy gardening, you’ve no doubt experienced how it can be a form of meditation and a treat for all the senses. But have you considered how simply looking at certain plants induces a feeling of serenity? You can discover this simply by enhancing a sitting area with succulents that incorporate geometric patterns and spirals…[Continue reading]
Dec. 27, 2017 ~ Long a pariah plant, cactus is becoming cool. The first edition of my book, Designing with Succulents (Timber Press, 2007) showed few cacti—mainly golden barrels. A decade later, the completely revised second edition devotes 15 pages to numerous varieties of spiny succulents in gardens large and small. [Continue reading]
 

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Use Colored Sand for Succulent Bouquets

I like to display bouquets of succulent rosettes in clear glass containers filled with layers of sand. Practical as well as pretty, the sand lends color and interest, and serves as to anchor the stems so top-heavy rosettes don’t tumble out.

A jay appears interested in the spring succulent bouquet I made for the 2018 Super Succulent Celebration.

Succulent sand bouquets make quick and original hostess gifts. Moreover, recipients can remove rosettes from their faux stems and plant them, if they like.

The inspiration for my spring 2018 succulent sand bouquet (above) was an unusual blown glass vase I found at a thrift store. But any glass cylinder, bottle or jar will work.

I keep a palette of colored sand in glass jars on an open shelf so I can enjoy looking at them, even when not using them. Colored sand is available at craft stores and online
IMG_2858annotated_cropped_resized

This arrangement, which took about 15 minutes to make, is in a repurposed vinegar bottle.

IMG_4236_cropped_resized_annotated

And this one was a holiday gift.

To make your own colored sand, obtain a bag of playground sand from any home improvement store, plus Rit dye in whatever colors you want (sold in supermarkets and online). The sand looks white but is actually pale gray, but that’s OK, because the resulting muted colors look fine with the plants. To color sand, pour the liquid dye into a pan no longer used for food, add sand to the level of the liquid, and bake until the liquid evaporates—300 degrees for an hour or so. Stir occasionally with a metal spatula or clean garden trowel. Let it cool outside, stirring every so often to expose moist sand and to break lumps. When cool, funnel the dry sand into glass jars and store the excess in ziplock bags labeled with whatever color or mix you used.

IMG_7339_annotated_resized

When making a bouquet, select sand based on the colors of the rosettes (or vice versa).

I usually fill the container halfway with three colors, then turn it on its side and rotate it to make swirls, then add more sand so stems will be concealed. Try pushing a stiff wire or chopstick into the layers, along the inside of the glass, to create drizzly Vs.IMG_7288resized

 


Related Info ~

My book, Succulents Simplified, pp. 162-169, shows how to make a special occasion succulent bouquet.
Articles ~
12 Succulent Bouquets to Inspire You  When wired onto faux stems, succulent rosettes—despite having no roots, soil or water—make long-lasting floral bouquets… [Continue reading] 
DIY Succulent Bouquet  When I need a hostess gift, thank-you present, or an arrangement for a special friend, I create a bouquet of succulents. I start by selecting [Continue reading]
Videos ~
Stunning Succulent Arrangements, my online Craftsy class, includes How to Make a Succulent Bouquet. Use this link to take the entire class (all seven lessons) at 50% of the regular enrollment price—$20 instead of $40.

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DIY Succulent Topiary Tree Holiday Centerpiece

My DIY succulent topiary tree holiday centerpiece needs less care than a floral arrangement and lasts much longer—several months or more. Its requirements are similar to those of a succulent wreath: bright but not intense light (rotate occasionally for even exposure), weekly watering (from the top, to evenly moisten the moss), and pinching back if cuttings get leggy.DIY succulent topiary tree holiday centerpiece

The method is simple: poke holes in the moss, insert cuttings, and secure them with floral pins. It takes about two hours, start to finish, and you’ll need approx. 200 one-inch-diameter cuttings. Harvest them from your garden, potted plants, nursery-grown succulents or from online sources. You needn’t use the same varieties that I did, but do aim for contrasting colors and textures. Use jade plant (Crassula ovata) as a filler—it’s inexpensive and easy to come by. Stay away from blue, blue-gray and lavender succulents because those aren’t holiday colors—unless of course that’s what you prefer. And do resist the temptation to decorate the little tree with vivid ornaments, thereby making it all about them and not about the succulents (but then, I’m a bit prejudiced).

MATERIALS

Topiary cone made of sphagnum moss, 12″ tall (including wooden base)
200 floral pins (or paper clips cut in half with wire cutters)
Clippers or scissors for taking cuttings and shortening stems
Chopstick or a Phillips screwdriver for poking holes in moss

Succulents (suggested, but nearly any kind will work):
Crassula ovata ‘Minima” (mini jade), 60
Sedum nussbaumerianum (Coppertone stonecrop), 30
Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’, 50
Senecio haworthii, 60

Optional:
Lazy susan
Crystal corsage pins (around 50)
Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls plant), 9′ of strands for garland

DIY succulent topiary tree holiday centerpiece

 

DIY succulent topiary tree holiday centerpiece

 

Watch my video: DIY Succulent Topiary Tree

Follow my Pinterest Board, Succulent Topiaries.

Related info on this site:

Make a Succulent Cornucopia

A succulent cornucopia makes a refreshing update on the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece, and then after the holiday, you can remove… [Continue reading]

Succulent Wreath, Step-by-Step

Discover why succulent wreaths have been popular for decades. I recommend making a soil-less succulent wreath because… [Continue reading]

In my Stunning Succulent Arrangements class, I show how to make a simple succulent grapevine wreath. Enroll now and get 50% off the regular price of $40! [Learn more]

Where and How to Order Succulents Online

The succulents in my YouTube videos and design projects mostly come from the largest grower of cacti and succulents in the US: Altman Plants—specifically [Continue reading]

In my books:

Succulents Simplified — Succulent Topiary Sphere, pp. 156-161
Designing with Succulents, 1st ed. — Create a Succulent Wreath or Topiary, pp. 113-117
Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed. –Grapevine wreath, page 116
Succulent Container Gardens — Wreaths, pp. 176-178; Topiaries pp. 178-181

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Make a Succulent Cornucopia

My DIY Succulent Cornucopia

A succulent cornucopia makes a refreshing update on the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece, and then after the holiday, you can remove the plants and pot them.  As early as midsummer, craft stores begin stocking holiday containers like this wicker cornucopia (also available online). I took mine to the nursery and went up and down the aisles muttering, “Succulents that look like fruit.” Surprisingly, I found quite a few. Then at the supermarket, I sorted through gourds for “the best bottoms”—because that’s what would show—and bought a bag of in-shell nuts.
Plants and materials for succulent cornucopia

I loaded up on sedums in fall colors and an aloe shaped like the basket. But when I spotted a Euphorbia obesa with multiple offsets, I nearly swooned. It was pricey at $12.99, but I had to have it. Just look how it goes with the gourds! 

My succulent cornucopia includes a cluster of Euphorbia obesa, colorful sedums, a small aloe, gourds, and nuts

Watch it come together in my YouTube video, DIY Succulent Cornucopia (3:36). 

After Thanksgiving, you might use the plants to make a container garden like the one on page 229 of Designing with Succulents.

To be notified when I release a new video, subscribe to my YouTube channel. 

Related info on this site:

DIY Succulent Centerpiece, Step-by-Step
A raised pedestal container garden with a lush collection of succulents looks complicated, but it’s simple once you… [Continue reading]

Where and How to Order Succulents Online

The succulents in my YouTube videos and design projects mostly come from the largest grower of cacti and succulents in the US: Altman Plants—specifically [Continue reading]

Holiday Decorating with Succulents