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Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

How to select, grow and design with cold climate succulents—sedums, sempervivums and more. 

Becky Sell of Sedum Chicks plants cold-hardy succulents in repurposed wood-and-metal containers, hypertufa pots, wreaths and more. She grows the plants, too, where she lives in Turner, Oregon, near the Washington border.

Becky’s compositions can overwinter outdoors in northerly climates (Zones 4 to 8), providing the potting medium drains well. Cold-hardy succulents such as stonecrops and hens-and-chicks will also grow in Zones 8 and 9 if protected from heat in excess of 85 degrees and scorching sun. Some varieties, notably shrub sedums, die to the ground in any locale and come back the following spring.

In her designs, Becky often combines sedums (stonecrops), sempervivums (hens-and-chicks), and Delosperma ice plants. Of a little-known Rosularia species with soft, light green leaves, she says, “When people ask which plant is my favorite, this is definitely on the list.”

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

There are about 35 species in the genus Rosularia. The sempervivum-like succulents come from Europe, the Himalayas, and northern Africa.

Find more photos of succulents for Northern climates—including many of Becky’s favorites—on my website’s new Cold-Hardy Succulents page. I photographed the designs shown here during the Northwest Flower & Garden Show at the Sedum Chicks booth, which won an award for outstanding visual appeal.

Below: This bright red vertical container was a hit. At right, I darkened the photo to make plant IDs, in white letters, stand out.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

Below: Sempervivum ‘Jade Rose’ repeats the teal blue of a Sedum spathulifolium cultivar.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

Below: In a cold-hardy wreath, Becky surrounded a large sempervivum rosette with smaller sedums, Delosperma cooperi (at lower left), and Sedum confusum (lower right).

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

Below: I’ve ID’d the three sedums in this wreath at right. Becky gives her plants “hair cuts” to keep them compact.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

“I like its dark edges,” Becky says of Sempervivum ‘Black’, shown below in dramatic contrast with chartreuse Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’. At lower right is a succulent native to Oregon: Sedum oreganum.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

Becky and husband Paul create planters from repurposed wood and metal. The bronzy succulents below are Sedum confusum, which blushes red-orange in a sunny location. When less confused, it’s bright apple green.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

For wreaths and vertical gardens, Becky uses sphagnum moss to help hold plants in place. She emphasizes the importance of good drainage, which is true for all succulents, but especially those in rainy climates. Succulents from cold climates tend to have thin or small leaves and want a richer potting soil than thicker-leaved varieties from desert regions. Becky recommends Black Gold’s organic mix.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

In my YouTube video, “Sedum Chicks at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show,” Becky explains how to select, cultivate and beautifully combine cold-hardy succulents.

Designing with Cold-Climate Succulents

 

Learn more about succulents for northerly climates:

How to Grow Tender Succulents in Northerly Climates: Resources and info for growing tender succulents in cold, northern climates.

In print:

Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.) See the section on Cold-Climate Succulent Gardens.

All my books show design ideas and give care and cultivation for Sedum and Sempervivum.

The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums, by Brent Horvath (Timber Press)
Cacti & Succulents for Cold Climates, by Leo Chance (Timber Press)
Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for Every Climate, by Gwen Kelaidis, Photos by Saxon Holt (Storey Publishing)

On my YouTube channel:

Growing Succulents in Northerly Climates, Sempervivums  Gorgeous new cultivars and design ideas from my presentation at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Growing Succulents in Northerly Climates: Sedums and More More cool succulents for cold climates plus how to select, grow and design using them. From my second presentation at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Sedum Chicks at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Designer/grower Becky Sell of Turner, Oregon explains how to beautifully combine sedums, sempervivums and other cold-hardy succulents.

Make a Frost-Hardy Succulent Wreath with Hens-and-Chicks. Simple steps to a stunning wreath!

 


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Make a Succulent Wreath, Step-By-Step

Make a Succulent Wreath, Step-by-Step

Succulent wreaths have been popular for decades. Follow these simple instructions to make a succulent wreath, and you’ll see why.

No soil needed! I recommend making a soil-less succulent wreath because soil is messy, heavy, dries out quickly, and—surprisingly—isn’t needed. Cuttings readily root into a moss-filled form. I also don’t recommend fertilizing the wreath after cuttings have rooted, because fertilizer boosts growth, and I want my wreaths to stay compact. 
Make a Succulent Wreath, Step-By-Step

Make a Succulent Wreath, Step-By-Step

Which succulents should you use? You can’t go wrong with jade. It’s inexpensive, readily available and has pencil-thick stems that don’t bend or break when inserted into the moss.  But, really, any cuttings will work. The ideal cutting has a cluster of leaves atop about an inch of stem to anchor it.

Make a Succulent Wreath, Step-By-Step

Cuttings can be expensive online, so if you’re on a budget, head to a large nursery or garden center. Most sell jade. Ideally bring home several varieties to add texture, color and interest to your wreath. See my Jade Plant (Crassula) page.

Materials:

About 100 succulent cuttings
9″ Sphagnum moss wreath (ready to plant)
24-gauge florist’s wire
Pencil, chopstick or screwdriver for poking holes in the moss
U-shaped floral pins (optional)

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Method:

Important: Before you begin, add wire loops to both top and bottom of the back of the wreath so you can rotate it, when finished, 180 degrees once a month or so for balanced growth.

Poke holes in the moss and insert cuttings close enough so the moss doesn’t show. Take care not to bruise leaves or cause them to snap off the stem. Fill the top and sides of the wreath with cuttings but not the back. Keep the wreath flat until cuttings root into the moss—about two weeks. To hang it sooner, secure the cuttings with florist’s pins. It’s OK to poke the pins through the stems of the cuttings. (Just remember they’re there if you decided to disassemble the wreath later on!)

Make a Succulent Wreath, Step-By-Step

 

Care:

It’s best to not let the moss dry out completely. Water the wreath from the top so water percolates downward, or soak the entire wreath in a clean trash can lid filled with water. Display the wreath where it’ll get bright light, ideally half a day’s sun (except in desert climates) so that cuttings don’t stretch and colorful ones don’t revert to green. Make sure the surface that the back of the wreath rests against can withstand being moist—an exterior wall, fence or gate is best.

 

For more wreath designs, suggestions and expert guidance

See 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

Related info on this site:

Katie’s Succulent Wreath Class

Katie Christensen, a talented young designer from the Seattle area conducted the class. I had fun helping her, seeing… [Continue reading]

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]

Make a Succulent Topiary Tree

A succulent topiary tree holiday centerpiece needs less care than a floral arrangement and lasts much longer—several months or more. Its requirements are…[Continue reading]

Buy and Shop for 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]

 

Debra’s Jade Plant (Crassula) page

Jade cuttings are ideal for succulent wreaths, and economical too. Instead of buying cuttings online (which can be terribly expensive), go to any nursery or garden center and get…[Continue reading]

Holiday Decorating with Succulents 

 

Sign up for my Craftsy class (get 50% off!); and watch my YouTube video, Design and Plant a Succulent Wreath. You may also enjoy and be inspired by the 50+ pins on my Pinterest page, Succulent Wreaths and Topiaries.