If you have ever admired a pretty succulent bowl but thought they looked too tricky to make one at home (or that you’d kill it anyway) I have good news! Succulent bowls are super-easy to put together; and even if you’re a total black thumb with plants, you can keep one alive and thriving, I promise.
Now I’m no gardening expert and I’m sure there will be lots of right ways and wrong ways to make succulent planters, but this is what I tend to do and it has always worked out, so today I’m going to give you my tips. One of the best things about succulents, aside from their huge amount of variety, it that they are really hardy and resilient, so if you’ve never tried to grow them and have always wanted to, I hope I can inspire you to give it a crack.
The other day I was talking about how I think hobbies for adults – especially parents – are so important and I rambled on about how much I love succulents and what a nice pastime planting succulent bowls has been for me while I watch the kids. I’ve made so many now! (Succulent bowls, not kids. Just two for me thanks).
I think I’m slightly addicted but I love mucking around with plants – it is a relaxing, slow, relatively mindless thing you can do with your hands while being able to keep one eye on the kids. Succulents are very forgiving, so if there are sudden murderous screams coming from your children over a Paw Patrol toy and you need to abandon ship in haste, your forgotten plant isn’t going to die because you’ve accidentally dropped it (probably not, anyway!)
I think a nice succulent bowl looks terrific on a table or on a windowsill – and they’re great things to keep around for presents, like host/hostess gifts. Ever been off to a friend’s house for dinner and you’re running late and you’d normally bring a bottle of wine but you realised you’ve already drunk all the wine you had while watching bad TV? (Totally understandable). Grab a plant instead. Wine and plants are great gifts, always. Like who is ever like, “It’s ok, I have enough wine and/or plants.” (Who says that? No one worth being friends with). Little Nerd, who’s four – loves to make succulent bowls with me too. He’s also a dab hand at quickly filling my trolley at the nursery with plants I wasn’t really intending on buying, but hey, it all works out.
So let’s get started!
HOW TO MAKE A SUCCULENT BOWL – MY TIPS
- Find your bowls or planters. These can get pricy, but I always find Kmart has a nice range of very affordable pots and planters, Bunnings has some nice little terracotta pots, people on Facebook Marketplace or at markets often sell them cheaply. Whatever you get, try to get one with a hole/holes on the bottom for drainage.
- You can even find free planters! I keep an eye out at markets for pots and bowls and for vergeside collections because lots of people throw out old pots or things that could make cute planters – look at this old mid-century letterbox I found on the side of the road, it made an ideal succulent planter.
- You don’t have to do this step, but I like to add a bottom layer of rocks at the bottom of your pot for drainage – I just use that cheap bluestone.
- Succulents usually tend to like well-draining, slightly more sandy soil, but they are not fussy. I’ve used both soil just dug up from our garden and specialist succulent soil/potting mix – both have worked fine.
- You know how you buy some plants or seedlings from the nursery and the little tag tells you to space them 25 – 30cm apart. Succulents are different – you CAN squish them together. They don’t mind it! So go for it. You don’t need to plant baby ones and wait until they grow big, as you create your DIY succulent bowl, you can plant them all quite tightly up against each other.
- Don’t overwater succulents, they hate having really soggy roots. Think about where most succulents are from – really dry environments. It makes sense that they don’t like being overwatered. I tend to give mine a light misting with the hose every few days, but they can go for longer without being watered.
- You can generally tell by looking at the leaves, or gently touching them, if your plant needs water. If the leaves look a little puckered, or you gently squeeze a leaf and it feels soft and squishy, it needs watering. If the leaf is firm, it should be fine.
- Keep your succulent bowl in a well-lit place – in sun or under a patio with indirect sun is great.
- You can add a layer of gravel or small riverstones on top, but this is just a matter of preference. It can look nicer and stop dirt splashing up onto the leaves.
- The Golden Rule! I think I’m too stubborn so I don’t like ‘rules’ in general when it comes to plants (create what you like to look at!) but one ‘rule’ I’ve heard about making succulent bowls is, “You need a thriller, a filler, and a spiller.” So if you think about it, a thriller would be something kind of speccy or strange or sculptural, a filler to me is like echeveria or graptopetalum, and a spiller is a tumbling variety that will spill over the edge of your bowl.
- My sister messaged me a photo the other day with all her newly-bought succulents and an empty bowl on her outdoor table and went “HELP. What do I do now.” Like I said, I don’t really like ‘rules’ for things that are meant to be just for pleasure, but I think if you feel a little hesitant, a good way to start off is by putting one larger, taller, more spectacular (or spiky! Like an aloe… or try something like a haworthia) plant just off-centre in the middle of your bowl. Then I’d put a big rosette-looking type of succulent – the ones that kind of look like flowers (like aeoniums – aeonium dinner plate, Black Rose, or Lily Pad, or echeveria or sempervivum) close by it, also off-centre. There’s something about the neat symmetry of a rosette that looks so nice next to something big and sculptural. And then I’d add in a few more rosette-types or sedeveria and frilly little succulents around the edges (where you can also plant your ‘spiller’, the trailing succulents that tumble over the edges, like donkey’s tail, string of pearls.
- Lots of succulents are toxic to children or pets if they eat the leaves – so just exercise caution if you have a pet or child that puts plants in their mouth. Our dog has never eaten plants, neither has our little boy (now four year old) but our one-year-old girl puts everything under the sun into her mouth and is also seriously destructive so I keep our succulent planters well out of her reach!
- Lastly, have fun! I think playing around with succulents kind of feels like you’re making a living artwork. And just like art, I don’t think you can go too wrong. If you put one in and you don’t like where you’ve put it, or you go a few weeks and it doesn’t seem too happy in its bowl, you can just take it out again and put something else in. Succulents can handle tough love.
Need to get your succulent stocks up? Here are some cool places in Perth you can get succulents on the cheaper end of the scale.
WHERE TO BUY SUCCULENTS IN PERTH
And if you don’t fancy making a succulent bowl but would love to buy one, here are some terrific small businesses that sell gorgeous ones – how spectacular is this picture of one at Andrew’s Succulents?
PERTH SUCCULENT BOWL SELLERS
I Wet My Plants @i_wet_my_plants_
Pretty Little Thingz Succulents @prettylittlethingz_succulents
Andrew’s Succulents @andrewssucculents
The old Italian lady at Melville Markets
Perth Succulent Bowls
No Vo’s Home Nursery
Have fun! Let me know if you make one! Maya x