Succulents + Kids = Great Summer Memories

Here’s how to make wonderful memories: This summer, introduce a child to collecting and growing succulents. The people I’ve interviewed as a garden photojournalist often credit a parent, grandparent, neighbor or friend for igniting their interest in plants and gardening.

So, who was it for you, that savvy grown-up you won’t forget? For me, it was my father, who reveled in the natural world. I assumed all dads could identify constellations, understood bugs and seeds, knew what kind of a snake we’d found, and could de-tick a dog. His knowledge of Southern California’s flora, fauna, ecology and geology significantly enriched my life. (So when my 9-year-old grandson comes this summer, Grandma’s going off the grid!)

Succulents—the closest things to plastic in the plant kingdom—are perfect for kids, and no organization understands this better than the Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society. The LACSS hosts “Kids Day” every year as part of their Drought Tolerant Plant Festival (the second weekend in June at the Sepulveda Garden Center, a park in Encino). To see how fun, educational and entertaining Kids Day is, enjoy this video I made one year…or better yet, experience it yourself. Succulent-related activities include a potting bar at which children select plants, and with the help of LACSS volunteers, pot them up. “They’re so proud of what they make,” organizer Kathleen Misko told me. “They take care of their succulents all year and bring them back to show us.”

Ten ideas, projects and destinations for your kids’ succulent summer ~

— Plant a toy truck with succulents. This one, by Tom Jesch of Waterwise Botanicals nursery, suggests a four-wheeler found in the desert.

— Attend a C&SS show. Kids love goofy-looking plants, and cactus-and-succulent shows typically have hundreds on display. Here’s a cheerful example.

Also at shows, vendors sell collectible succulents and art pots to pair them with. (You may recall that, in my opinion, shopping for pots is half the fun.)

— Create a windowsill succulent garden. These small pots by Keith Kitoi Taylor of the Sacramento C&SS contain gasteraloes and Peperomia graveolens.

— Find containers with personality at second-hand shops, then head to a succulent specialty nursery to pair them with plants. For design ideas, see my book Succulent Container Gardens and watch my video, “Tips for Perfect Succulent Art-Pot Pairings.”

— Visit the Children’s Garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens near Pasadena. There are so many clever ideas here designed to interest kids in plants and gardening, it deserves its own post. Hm. Should we make a day trip?

— Create an album of wacky (but staged) interactions with succulents. Better yet, make a YouTube video starring your child. (It can be for private viewing if you like.) Send the link to family and friends, and re-watch the video over the years. You might even start a tradition of making a succulent video every summer! Below: Matthew Wong, star of my video series, “Succulent Matters with Matthew,” pretends to sit on a colony-forming deuterocohnia with prickly leaves.

Ages 10 and older:

— Design a dish garden of rocks and succulents that suggests a hiking trail. See my video:

— Craft a bouquet of wired succulent rosettes, and secure the faux stems in layers of colored sand in a glass jar. (No worries, it’s easier than it sounds!) This makes a great gift for Mom, Grandma or a special aunt, friend or neighbor. Watch my video, “How to Wire (Prep) Succulents for Bouquets.” Also see my earlier posts: “Use Colored Sand for Succulent Bouquets”,  “12 Succulent Bouquets to Inspire You,” and “DIY Succulent Bouquet.”

— Do a Succulent Treasure Hunt. Seal dollar bills in zip-lock bags (or use coins) and tuck beneath or near your potted succulents. Hand the child a copy of my book, Succulents Simplified, with Post-its indicating the same plants (find them in the section, “100 Easy-Care Succulents”). For plant suggestions, see the list of “Best succulents for encouraging a child’s interest in gardening” on page 186. Offer an extra dollar for each one the child remembers and can name after the treasure hunt.

Fashion succulents from Sculpey oven-bake clay. Glue dime-sized rosettes to hair clips or use them to make earrings. Watch my video: “DIY Sculpey Succulent: Striped Agave.”

Related info on this site:

LA’s Kids Day Features Succulents
One of the most popular areas of the annual Los Angeles Drought Tolerant Plant Festival is the “Kids Day” section, with fun…[Continue reading]

Make a Low-Light, “Scooped from the Garden” Succulent Arrangement
This succulent dish garden is perfect for a bright-shade location, such as indoors near a window…[Continue reading]

Perfect Succulent Art-Pot Pairings
A few simple design principles can take your potted succulents from ho-hum to WOW. Repeat and contrast colors, textures and forms—it’s as simple… [Continue reading]


Let me know what you think. I enjoy hearing from you! — Debra 


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  1. Debra on June 1, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Altman Plants (the largest grower of cacti and succulents in the US) saw this and emailed me links to their Kids Collections of succulents now available on Amazon. Be sure to check them out—their quality is superb. — Debra

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