How to plant an indoor succulent garden

I love having plants in every room of my house and succulents are my new favorites. I happened to buy a few really tiny succulents last month and decided to make a mini garden for them. I've been growing more succulents lately because they are basically the perfect house plant since they require so little care. All you have to do is water them once a week or even less and they'll be happy!

Tutorial for succulent bowl garden.

Succulents grow pretty slowly as far as houseplants go. This is great if you want to put them into little terrariums, succulent gardens, fairy gardens or even small wall planters. Since they grow slowly they don't outgrow their container too quickly, so they won't need repotted often.

I had a plastic bowl I wanted to use for this project. It's from the dollar tree, though many other retailers carry these. Planting succulents in a solid bowl is a little more difficult that a traditional pot with drainage holes. Since water can't escape the bowl you need to be very careful about not over watering your succulents.

To help with that we will add gravel to the bottom of the bowl. This is not the big fix everyone seems to think it is though! If water lays in the bottom of the gravel it still has nowhere to go but back up into the soil. Too much water is still too much! That moisture will keep the bottom of the soil and the succulent roots a bit damp.

This is why you need to stick your finger into the soil to see if it needs watered before you actually water a plant especially if you used the gravel in the bottom trick. These can be wet underneath but dry on top! 

Other than being careful about not overwatering, succulent gardens are perfect houseplants because they are very low maintenance. Plus, you can design them however you want!

Can't get to the store right now? You can order packs of succulents on Amazon!

Succulent bowl garden


Step 1
Put about 2" of gravel in the bottom of the container you're using. I used pea gravel in this project. This is especially important when using glass or other containers without drainage holes. I sometimes use decorative rocks on the sides where they might be seen, but feel free to use only 1 type of gravel.

Step 2
Put about an inch of cactus soil in the container. I use Miracle Grow cactus, palm & citrus potting mix anytime I'm working with succulents.

Using gravel for drainage in succulent gardens

Step 3
Take the succulents out of their pots. With your fingers gently tease the roots loose and brush away any excess soil. Pull off any dried leaves, especially at the base.  Add your succulents on top of the potting soil, moving them around till you get the look you want.

Step 4
Fill with more cactus potting soil till the soil is level, patting it down lightly around the succulent bases to hold them in place.

How to unpot and place succulents in bowl garden.

Step 5
Decorate! Add pebbles, dried moss, small pieces of driftwood, colored sand, decorative gravel, crystals or anything you may like to decorate your succulent garden. Or leave it plain, whatever fits your decor. 

I usually leave a little space for growth when planting a new succulent garden. They will grow, though not terribly fast. This gives me more time till I have to redo it because of overcrowding. I like to fill in the spaces with fairy garden miniatures as you can see in the picture! If you like a more crowded look you can put them closer together.

I have a little obsession with planting fairy gardens. I have several in and outside of my house. Since I was repotting these mini succulents I decided to add some fairy miniatures to kind of fill the bowl a bit. There are a ton of super cute fairy garden scenes available on Amazon if you can't get the store right now.

Don't worry about supposed 'rules' like only use 3 colors of succulents, or always use an odd number of plants. This is your succulent garden and only you have to like the look of it! Besides, I've never counted the plants in any garden...have you? 😉

tutorial to plant a small indoor succulent bowl

I've often heard to add a layer of activated charcoal on top of the gravel to help remove toxins in terrariums. Since this is an open bowl you won't need to do that, though it certainly wouldn't hurt.

The lines are often blurred on what is a terrarium and what is not. The short answer is if you can't close it up, it's not a terrarium. However, some fishbowl style gardens have very small openings therefore they hold onto moisture more easily. 

If you are using a bowl with a small opening versus the amount of planting space then go ahead and add the charcoal and make sure you stick your finger in the soil to test every single time you water to prevent overwatering. 

Caring for your succulent garden


Place your succulent garden near a south facing window to get the most sunlight possible. Be careful they don't get sunburned in summer when the sun is more direct! Always water directly into the soil, don't pour from above the plants. There's no need for the leaves to get wet. 

Use a watering bottle or watering can to prevent the leaves from getting wet.

Once planted your succulent garden won't need much care though obviously you'll want to keep an eye out for bugs or plants that are doing poorly. Succulents are pretty hardy though, so those will probably not be an issue. Happy planting!

Want more posts on indoor gardening? Click here for my other posts on houseplants and their care.

~L


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