It's super easy to plant a pot with colorful rosette succulents that makes guests gasp when they see it. I call such bouquet-like combinations "floral style arrangements." One sure-fire way to make them appealing is to combine succulents that are similar yet different: echeverias, sedums, graptopetalums and pachyphytums, along with their intergeneric crosses: sedeverias, graptoverias, graptosedums and pachyverias.
This pot planted with colorful rosette succulents shown in Designing with Succulents (2nd ed) is one of the book's most popular photos. I think of it as "Jeanne Meadow's Pool Pot" because that's where it's located at her home in Fallbrook, CA (Zone 10a). It gets full sun much of the day all summer long, which surprisingly is fine---even preferable. Plants are from Oasis Water Efficient Gardens in Escondido, CA (owned by Altman Plants, who supply the garden centers of Lowe's, Home Depot and others).
"They're on drip one day a week, three times, five minutes apart," Jeanne says. "That lets the soil really soak it in." If you're hose-watering, "walk away and come back," she advises. Water may not penetrate the first time around, so repeated drenching is best. Watering once a week lets soil dry, which also stresses the plants...in a good way. It helps enhance their color and keep them compact. (Frequently watered plants tend to grow faster.)
Sun also is essential to keeping the arrangement tight, because succulents in low light tend to stretch. She recommends selecting succulents that are displayed out in the open, in full sun, at the nursery. "That way you know they'll be OK."
If you're ordering them online, they may need to be hardened-off, meaning you'll need to introduce them to greater sun gradually. Just like getting a tan, they'll need to produce more pigment for sunburn protection. I tent plants with old window screens or patio chairs. Acclimation can take up to two weeks, depending on the duration and intensity of the sun.
She adds that a mounded composition is better than a flat one, because it slightly shades itself. "As the sun moves, plants on one side of the mound shade those on the other side." Packing them tightly also helps shade stems vulnerable to sunburn, and by shading the soil as well, keeps it moist longer.
Watch how I made this floral-style arrangement, inspired by Jeanne's, in my new YouTube video: Plant a Pot with Colorful Rosette Succulents (4:23).
- Materials: Fill a large, shallow pot 3/4 full of potting soil. The one in the video is 18" in diameter and 7-1/2" deep, with a 1-inch-wide rim.
- Select rosette succulents in shades of blue-green, yellow and red. You'll need at least ten one-gallon nursery pots of those, plus three smaller pots of sun-tolerant sedums (or 30 cuttings, each about 4" long).
- Method: As you slide each plant out of its nursery pot, set root balls atop the soil, touching each other. Work your way from center to rim. In the middle they'll be upright; along the pot's inner edge they'll rotate outward and rest their chins on the rim. This creates a mounded arrangement with plants and soil highest in the middle.
- Pack tightly. Ultimately no soil should show. If leaves pop off, drop them between plants; they may form roots.
- Fill gaps with sedum (stonecrop). If using sedum from nursery pots, tease apart the soil to get clusters of stems with roots attached. Once the arrangement has only small openings left, there's limited space for your fingers to fit, so use a chopstick to tuck in little plants or cuttings.
- Place the pot wherever you want it (it'll be heavier once watered), then hose the arrangement to wash soil off rosettes and settle the roots.
- Care: In early spring, refresh the arrangement by pruning it---leave a few leaves on each stem. Add soil as needed and tuck the resulting cuttings into gaps. Cuttings will root and stems will branch where cut, so the composition will look lush and full by summer.
Such arrangements become leggy after a year or so. These succulents grow new leaves from stem tips, and oldest leaves wither and fall off, so it's inevitable that combos lose their fullness over time. The good news is that much of the plant material can be reused as cuttings, and plants produce offsets. See my earlier video, How to Refresh an Overgrown Succulent Container Garden (4:32).
Want to become an expert at designing with succulent in containers, and define your own style? Join the 3,000+ students who have taken my seven-session online class: Stunning Succulent Arrangements. It's available through BluPrint (formerly Craftsy), a Denver-based company with a high-quality approach to online learning.
Modesty aside, another must-have resource is my book, Succulent Container Gardens. "With gorgeous photos on nearly every page, Debra Lee Baldwin's Succulent Container Gardens celebrates these low-water, easy-care plants and shows endless ways to display them in your garden." -- Sunset magazine
Where to buy rosette succulents online
See 150+ photos of potted arrangements featuring rosette succulents---an idea-rich compilation of living bouquets certain to inspire you!
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