George Tabora in his succulent garden

Ten Tips for Establishing a Succulent Garden

These ten tips for establishing a succulent garden are from "Celebrating the Joy of Succulents" newsletter subscriber George Tabora of Riverside, CA (between Los Angeles and Palm Springs). His tips are hard-won, based on trial and error. Happily, after three years, George's garden is humming along.

Riverside's climate is similar to my own in the foothills NE of San Diego: dry, hot summers in the high-90s, and light frosts in winter. Rainfall averages 10-15 inches annually. Soil is shallow---3 to 4 inches deep---with granite underneath.

George, a former CPA who responded to my invitation to newsletter subscribers to share their succulent gardens, says his is "about 70 percent done," and covers a third of an acre. "The nice thing about being retired," George adds, "is there are no deadlines. You work until you get tired."

George Tabora's succulent garden, west slope

George Tabora's succulent garden, west slope

Want to see more of George's succulent garden? He created this video of his "Birch Hill Gardens" as a 2019 holiday greeting for family and friends. He (and I) would be glad to respond to comments you'd like to leave at the end of this post, and answer any questions you may have. Enjoy!

George's Ten Tips for Establishing a Succulent Garden

Having contended with less-than-ideal conditions while establishing his garden, George offers these tips:

  1. He installed an irrigation system but doesn't use it, preferring to hose-water. "I water infrequently, and drench the plants, then go back and drench them again," George says. He waits "seven to ten days, even in summer" before watering them again.
  2. Rain isn't a problem if soil drains well. "People worry their succulents will be overwatered after days of rain, but the plants love it."
  3. Gravel is a good topdressing, but---as George learned the hard way---"dark rocks get too hot in summer and can burn the plants."
  4. Start with small succulents. "They grow fast and they're easier to plant."
  5. Plan to buy plants at first, then use cuttings to fill in. You should have plenty after a year or two.
  6. It's better to root cuttings before planting them. Start them in 4-inch nursery pots you keep in bright shade.
  7. Design your garden with mounded planting areas supported by rocks you gather on-site.
  8. In summer, he gardens in the early morning and late afternoon to avoid the midday heat.
  9. Plant in 60% bagged soil and 40% pumice. "I used to buy Miracle Gro brand soil, but Ace Hardware's is cheaper and just as good," George says. And if you're in the area, "Orange County Farm Supply in Orange has 50-lb. bags of pumice for $10/bag."
  10. If you've put something in the wrong spot, "dig it out and replant it rather than waiting until it's too big and too late."

George Tabora's Succulent Garden, north side

George Tabora's succulent garden, north

Colorful Succulent Garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Succulent Garden Design Essentials

Succulent Garden Design Essentials How to design and plant your succulent garden. To ensure your success and help you avoid mistakes, here are a dozen succulent garden design essentials to keep in mind. Many thanks to homeowner Nancy Dalton, whose award-winning succulent garden in San Diego is an example of smart landscaping for Southern California. …

Succulent Basics, Must-Do’s, FAQs, and Essentials for Success

Below are succulent basics, must-do’s and answers to FAQs—the essentials for growing succulents successfully. If all this is new to you, you’ll want to refer to this page often. And even if you’re experienced, you’ll find it a great resource!

Enjoyed this article? Please share it!


  1. Matthew Midgett on December 19, 2019 at 8:11 am

    What a wonderful garden!!!! VERY well proportioned and designed. Excellent range of plants — and those “flowing stone” steps are really cool. CONGRATULATIONS, GEORGE!
    Matt Midgett
    Nogal, New Mexico

    • Sheri on December 19, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      LOVE your garden succulent lay out, use of rocks and gravel, and your tips on how to make a garden successful. Keep up the amazing work and continue to enjoy your retirement with the hobby! Thank you for sharing the fruits of your labor George!

      • George Tabora on December 19, 2019 at 8:12 pm

        Sheri, thank you for your kind words. – George

      • Debra Lee Baldwin on December 20, 2019 at 5:59 pm

        Hi Matt — Thanks for the lovely comment! I hope all is well with you, old friend!

    • George Tabora on December 19, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Thank you, Matt.

    • George Tabora on December 19, 2019 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you, Matt. You have good attention for details 🙂 – George

  2. Connie Beck on December 19, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Wonderful slideshow but I had to mute it. Not all of us love country music. Classical is always a good choice…

    • George Tabora on December 19, 2019 at 8:02 pm

      Connie, I will surely consider your suggestion for future videos. Can you recommend a title? Thank you.

  3. Kate on December 19, 2019 at 9:04 am

    What a beautiful garden!

  4. George Tabora on December 19, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Kate, thank you for liking the video. – George

  5. Constance Edwards on December 20, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    It’s a very inspiring garden full of color, texture and creativity. More Happy Gardening , George, in 2020!

  6. George Tabora on December 20, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    I greatly appreciate the compliment, Constance. I am very happy about how the garden is maturing. The hard work is paying off.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.