Succulent lantern with Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'

Candle lanterns make lovely containers for succulents. You might plant the succulents in a small pot and tuck it into the lantern, or if the lantern can hold soil, plant directly into it. Most aren't watertight---a good thing, because when you water the plants, the lantern will drain (leak).

Any time you display succulents under glass, you're literally "showcasing" them. A terrarium or planted lantern is reminiscent of a French-inspired, Victorian-era cloche---a glass box that holds treasures such as rare plants.

Succulents in a glass pyramid lantern

This tabletop terrarium/lantern also can hang. Inside it, Aloe 'Snowstorm' repeats the shape of the pyramid and echoes its angular lines.

Select Your Lantern

You'll find dozens of potentially plantable candle lanterns on eBay and Amazon; and at thrift shops and home decor stores like Pier One and Home Goods. You needn't obtain the exact ones I used in my video Plant a Succulent Lantern, Five DIY Ideas (4:49) or for that matter, use the same kinds of succulents. But if you'd like to, I've provided sources below.

Lanterns and pots for succulents

For the video, I assembled lanterns along with assorted small pots the right size to fit into them.

Choose a lantern style with openings for air circulation. If you like the idea of letting succulents trail out of a lantern, choose one with a door that can stay open (it opens from the side rather than the top).

For vining, cascading and pendant succulents perfect for hanging applications, see my book, Succulent Container Gardens.

Method

There are two basic approaches: Plant a small pot and put it inside a lantern, or plant directly into the lantern.

If there's no area within the lantern to hold soil, you'll need to insert a container that does.

Aloe castilloniae lantern

Aloe castilloniae is a rare, collectible trailing succulent worth being showcased. It's in a lantern that can't be directly planted because there's no place to hold soil.

When planting directly into a lantern, for a cleaner, upscale look, don't let soil show through the glass. In my Plant a Succulent Lantern video, I slide succulents out of their nursery pots and arrange the plants in the center of a glass lantern, then I conceal their root balls with layers of crushed rock, pebbles and sand. These are visible through the glass, and they form pleasing striations that elevate the overall design.

Lighting

Create an eye-catching lantern that's also functional by adding tiny, battery-operated, fairy string lights. Tuck the light string into the top of the lantern and secure the battery pack where it won't show.

Succulent lantern at night

Fairy lights illuminate a lantern that holds a small echeveria in a thrift-store pot.

I used extra-hold duct tape to attach the battery pack under the base of the lantern, making sure I could access the on-off switch. Since the battery pack is flat like a deck of cards, the lantern can still serve as a table centerpiece without falling over.

Succulents in the video

When you plant a succulent lantern, chose succulents that won't get overly large and that also play off the shape of the lantern. For example, in the video I show a round blue echeveria in a round verdigris (turquoise) lantern. And in my pyramidal lantern, the main plant is a dwarf aloe with triangular leaves.

Round succulent lantern with echeveria

As I paired lanterns with succulents at the nursery, I discovered that this round thrift-store lantern perfectly frames an echeveria. And both are blue!

The succulents came from Oasis Water Efficient Gardens nursery north of San Diego. Oasis is owned by Altman Plants, which sells online. Links below go to Altman's site or to another excellent mail-order succulent nursery: Mountain Crest Gardens.

Aloe 'Snowstorm'

Small aloes

Sedum hernandezii

Sedum rubrotinctum 'Aurora'

Sedums

Portulacaria afra variegata

Aloe castilloniae

Echeverias

Materials

Pyramid (triangular) lantern, 6.37 x 6.37 x 10.5 inches, $20 at Pier One

Black Windowpane Lantern, 5.6 x 5.6 x 10.6 inches, $35 at Pier One

Small rounded pebbles, $9 at Amazon. 

Small black pebbles, $10 at Amazon. 

White sand, $7 at Amazon.

Fairy string lights, warm white. They're sold as 2-packs, and each needs three AA batteries. $9 at Amazon.

Extra-hold duct tape. Match the tape to the color of your lantern or use clear.

Succulent planted lantern

In the video, you'll see how I use the materials I've listed above.

The round verdigris lantern and the small glazed pots came from thrift stores or garden centers. I also used pumice and cactus-mix potting soil---any brand will do.

Care

Succulent lantern, watered

Water drips from the recently watered pyramid lantern.

Display your planted lantern atop a patio table or hang it in a sheltered area outdoors or in a sunny indoor spot. Because glass can magnify ultraviolet rays, it should be in bright or dappled shade and not in full, hot sun.

Succulent Gifts & Projects

Succulent Gift & Project Ideas DIY projects and fun gifts that feature succulents. Looking for my online gift-and-decor store? Go to Succulent Chic! Succulent Chic MAKE YOUR OWN Succulent Bouquets 12 Succulent Bouquets to Inspire You 12 Succulent Bouquets to Inspire You ~ When wired onto faux stems, succulent rosettes—despite having no roots, soil or water—make…

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5 Comments

  1. George Tabora on January 20, 2020 at 7:08 am

    Debra, Fantastic, great ideas! I especially like the pyramid lantern where you used different colors and textures of gravel/rocks/sand. As usual, excellent use of your creative mind. – George

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 20, 2020 at 8:01 am

      Thanks, George! High praise indeed, in light of the creativity you’ve poured into your own garden!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 15, 2020 at 8:46 am

      Thanks George. I love your creative mind—and garden—very much too!

  2. Levi Armstrong on May 14, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    Debra, I love your idea about planting succulents inside indoor candle lanterns because it’s a unique way to decorate your house. I also love your idea of putting fairy lights inside the lantern to illuminate it. I’m planning a small romantic dinner for my wife, and this would be a great addition to my plans. I’ sure my wife would love it since she loves succulents. Now I just have to find a shop in town that sells gorgeous indoor candle lanterns. Thanks a lot!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on May 15, 2020 at 8:56 am

      Hi Levi — Thank you! It does make a lovely, unusual, long-lasting gift. I got my lantern at Pier One, but similar ones can be found on Amazon and elsewhere (Google “pyramid lantern”). Thanks for commenting!

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