Succulent Centerpieces

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

The ideal Thanksgiving centerpiece…
– Is low so guests can see over it.
– Is festive, in keeping with the holiday.
– Has colors that convey autumn.
– Looks good with your decor and china.
– Doesn’t take up too much table space.
– Is simple to assemble and can be done days ahead.
– Is in a pretty container.
– Is a conversation piece.

That’s a tall order, but it can be done. Rosette succulents make ideal floral material because they have a low profile and don’t wilt. Cuttings tucked into a container or vase suggest a bouquet. They don’t need to be planted, in fact, will last a week or more without water.

The above arrangements are by Chicweed, a Solana Beach, CA, garden shop owned by florists who use succulents extensively. (I show many of their designs in Succulent Container Gardens.) For a bouquet-like look, they plant succulents (from 2- or 3-inch nursery pots) tightly so no dirt shows.

Using a nondraining container isn’t a problem if you water infrequently and sparingly. I mounded pebbles on one side of a glass container (from a crafts store) then inserted haworthia and aloe rosettes into the pebbles. I spritz it every now and then to encourage roots to form.

Here’s another Chicweed arrangement, in a container provided by one of their clients.

Bonnie Manion of Mon Petit Chou used a watch chain crassula to suggest tail feathers…

…as did Margee Rader of The Original Living Wreath.

This also is by Margee Rader, for Proven Winners. An assortment of crassulas (jade), aeoniums and sedums surround a zebra plant (Haworthia attenuata).

Unlike flowers, succulent rosettes conveniently come in shades of blue…

…and blue-green.

Flowers of supermarket kalanchoes are bright hues of yellow, orange, red, pink, cream and coral. Here, a pot of supermarket kalanchoes adds height and color to a composition in a glass bowl lined with a banana leaf. An assortment of cuttings surround and conceal the pot.

In this three-container combo, Bay Area garden designer and blogger Rebecca Sweet used succulents with red and green leaves: sedum, cascading crassulas and, on the left, an echeveria.


Kathy McCarthy of the Del Mar, CA, Rose Society, enjoys hunting for second-hand treasures in which to plant succulents. Here, she arranged several small Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ rosettes in a sugar bowl.

Larger ‘Sunburst’ rosettes serve as cut “flowers” in my trio of Fiestaware vases. If you have multiples of the same container, fill them with cuttings and line them along the middle of your dining table.

One last idea, from Chicweed: Use orange-yellow Sedum adolphi or Sedum nussbaumerianum in a composition. Echo the color with mini-pumpkins and decorative squash, either tucked amid the succulents or near them on the table.

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications. www.debraleebaldwin.com.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Liz November 20, 2010, 4:03 pm

I love all of these. Wish I has some succulents…I must grow some now!

Yes, indeed you must. ;+) Debra

Drought Smart Plants November 20, 2010, 7:27 pm

Beautiful – I especially like the cornucopia basket, but how would you choose between them…

Kinda depends on how much room you have on your table and what it’s going with. The basket is more rustic than, say, an arrangement in an heirloom silver bowl. — Debra

Loree / danger garden November 21, 2010, 2:59 am

Beautiful every one, but my favorite is the ‘Sunburst’ rosettes in the trio of Fiestaware vases!

Thanks, Loree. It looks simple, but it took me forever to position those so that the light was right, for the photo. I also have a great shot of an orange aloe flower in a similar blue Fiestaware vase. Not sure where or when I’m going to use it. We’ll see. –Debra

Pam/Digging November 21, 2010, 3:26 am

Scrumptious! I can’t even pick a favorite, they’re all so lovely.

Wow, Pam, what a great comment. Thank you! I love your own potted compositions, btw. You have such a good eye. — Debra

Rebecca Sweet November 21, 2010, 12:30 pm

Thank you so much for including my grandmother’s old cherub soap dish in this collection of gorgeous tabletop displays. She would be so proud, Debra! (But not as proud as ME!!). I’m also thrilled to find Margee’s link for living wreaths – I like to send them out for the holidays and love to support local artists. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Hi, Rebecca — I didn’t realize the cherub soap dish was a family heirloom. That makes your lovely tabletop display even more delightful. I love your design aesthetic, which includes that most important of garden ornaments, a sweet and photogenic King Charles Spaniel. I’m planning to do a post on dogs in the garden, so stay tuned, I may include a photo of dear Daisy. — Debra

lloyd traven November 21, 2010, 12:59 pm

And I just happen to have fiestaware vases!!!!
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post Debra

Hi, Lloyd — Your comments always make me smile. Yay, Fiestaware! You can’t go wrong, all those bright colors with a wonderful retro look ;+) Thanks for visiting. –Debra

Michelle D November 21, 2010, 3:11 pm

wonderful inspiration, especially right now for this N.Cal gardeners who is busy taking cuttings, dividing and repotting up a myriad of succulent pots this weekend.
Thanks !

Hi, Michelle — Really appreciate your comment. I very much admire your designs. And I’m glad the post was timely. Do let us see what you come up with, OK? — Debra

Town Mouse November 21, 2010, 10:53 pm

What a great idea! I’m heading to the goodwill tomorrow to find the perfect container…

Goodwills, at least in my area (San Diego) are SO much nicer than they used to be. The merchandise is sometimes in mint condition, and it’s cheerfully organized according to color, so the whole store is a rainbow. The employees are truly nice and welcoming, and the prices are fantastic. I can’t praise the organization highly enough. –Debra

Bonnie November 23, 2010, 12:29 pm

Love these ideas!

Thanks, Bonnie! Debra

janine robinson December 1, 2010, 9:43 pm

love that centerpiece. the warm orange ceramic works so well with the cool succulents. good thinking, too, to keep it low-profile. my too-tall centerpieces often get usurped once the food arrives.

Hi, Janine — I don’t keep them on the table during the meal, and rather have a landing spot for them nearby, where they can still be seen and admired. They are, after all, a potted plant, and even though they’re perfectly clean and tidy, dirt and food don’t mix (unless of course you’re eating outdoors!). — Debra

meemsnyc December 2, 2010, 3:17 am

I love succulents. That is beautiful.

Thanks! There are plenty more ideas in my books, and any of those shown here could be adapted to Christmas. — Debra