You don't need the threat of global warming as an excuse to plant drought-tolerant succulents. These formerly underutilized plants are finally being appreciated for the beautiful, almost maintenance-free marvels of nature that they are. The compact habit and low water needs of most succulents make them ideal for topiary and hanging baskets. With their rosette forms and lovely pastel coloring, the entire plant looks like a bouquet of roses -- only these blossoms never fade or go out of bloom.
Prepare your plant materials a week ahead by removing the "babies" or offfshoots from around the "mother" plant -- retaining 1/4 to 1/2 inch of stem on each one -- and placing them in a dark, cool room for a week to harden or callous the stems. This prevents rot when planting the new growth in the basket.
Put a large piece of newspaper on your work surface and turn a large bowl, about 12 inches in diameter, upside down on top of it.
Trace around the rim of the bowl with a permanent marker and remove the paper.
Bend a piece of wire to the size and shape of the circle pattern you drew on the paper, overlapping the ends about two inches, then cut the wire with wire cutters.
Overlap the ends of the loop and use fine wire wrapped several times around them to fasten them securely together. Twist the fine wire ends to hold those together.
Place the square of chicken wire over the upturned bowl and press it down, folding and shaping it close to the bowl with your hands. Don't worry about the excess wire at the bottom yet.
Slide the wire loop down over the chicken wire on the bowl until it touches the rim. You may have to work at it to wriggle it down. If it is too tight, make a new loop slightly larger than the pattern and try again.
Fold the excess chicken wire back toward the bowl over the wire loop.
Remove the wire bowl by lifting it straight up. Push and pull it as necessary to make the bowl shape more uniform.
Weave around the rim of the wire basket with the fine stainless-steel wire to “sew” the loop to the chicken wire and make a sturdy rim for attaching basket hangers. Trim the outside by cutting off the excess chicken wire.
Line the basket with a coconut fiber liner or sphagnum moss before adding damp potting soil to the basket.
Prepare a hanger for the basket by hooking three equal-length chains from one large S-hook and adding a smaller S-hook to the end of each chain. Set this close at hand for the last step.
Set a scrap piece of plywood -- large enough to completely cover it -- over the soil-filled basket. With one hand on the board and the other on the basket, flip the two quickly over so that the basket is upside down on the board. This lets you plant your succulents in the soil more conveniently than while it is hanging.
Make small holes in the lining with a sharp stick and plant young succulents through the chicken wire into the soil. For large succulent varieties, you may need to enlarge the chicken wire openings by snipping off a few surrounding wires.
Flip the basket back over and, while holding it in one hand, attach the hanging chains equidistant from one another around the rim of the basket and hang it up. If necessary, enlist the aid of a helper to hold it while you attach the hanger. Do not set it down or the weight may crush your newly planted succulents.