Use a modified picture frame to capture a piece of living art made of dozens of assorted succulent cuttings. If that seems like a daunting project, consider creating a succulent wreath for the door or wall. A vertical garden should be no larger than 18 inches by 24 inches because gravity can cause too great a volume of soil to slump in its planting box. Though it may take a few weeks until they are ready for hanging, these projects allow you to merge interests in crafting and gardening.
1. Design Tips
Suggested succulents for a vertical garden include those with rosette shapes, as well as more vertical types. If you have any suitable succulents already growing in your garden, break off small "pups" to use in your composition. You can also order them online. Approximately 60 tiny plantlets will fill a 6-inch by 12-inch frame, and 24 can cover a 9-inch wreath. When laying out your design, position the larger and more dramatic specimens first, then place the others around them. Your composition can be free-form, in a geometric pattern or a depiction of a butterfly, star or someone's initial. Play colors and textures off one another until the arrangement pleases you. For example, red-tipped "Sir William Lawrence" hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum calcareum "Sir William Lawrence") contrasts well with cobweb leek (Sempervivum arachnoideum), and lavender-pink hybrid Echeveria "Perle von Nurnberg" (Echeveria "Perle von Nurnberg") complements blue hen-and-chicks (Echeveria secunda). Hen-and-chicks grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5b through 10, while the echeverias grow in USDA zones 8 through 10.
Once you have an idea of what you want to include in your vertical garden, gather your materials. The planting frame should be a shallow, waterproof box to hold soil, with the front covered in 1/2-inch wire mesh. Screening should provide sufficient space for each little plant to have its own niche. You can buy frames or build them yourself. Convert a picture frame by adding a back and a mesh covering, if you wish. To prepare for planting, work moist soil through the mesh with your fingers. A commercial cactus mix is best. Take your succulent cuttings, leaving at least 1/4 inch of stem attached, enough to allow the soil to give it some support. Vary the size of the cuttings, ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Set them aside for a couple of days so the stem tissue can callus over.
After pushing the growing medium through the mesh, tap the frame lightly on the table so it will settle. Raise the screen in spots with a fork so more soil can be shoved underneath. The closer the soil comes to the mesh, the easier it is for the succulents to root. Poke a hole in each square of the screen, using a pen or chopstick. If planting a sphagnum moss wreath form, soak the wreath first, then make a hole at each place where you want to start a cutting. Push a cutting's stem end into each hole, following your desired pattern. In a cool and bright location, leave the frame lying flat to allow the plantlets to take root.
4. After Care
Succulents may shrivel slightly before their roots form, but they will plump when they are able to take up water. About a week after planting, lift one of the rosettes to check for roots. If it has none, wait another week and try again. At the first sight of roots, water the box just enough to moisten the soil. Display your creation in an area with good air circulation, where it receives morning sun or dappled shade. Lay the box flat to water it, but only when the soil feels dry.
- Sunset: How to Make Vertical Succulent Gardens
- Grow Organic: Make Your Own Succulent Wreath or Succulent Ball
- Succulents Simplified; Debra Lee Baldwin
- The New Western Sunset Garden Book; Kathleen Norris Brenzel, Editor
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images