How to Fluff Your Succulents

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

In 5 minutes, you can transform an overgrown succulent bowl like this…

into a tidy composition like this, using the same plants!

Here’s how:

(1) Cut off the tips (about 4″) of the leggy Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ stems. Set cuttings aside.

(2) Pull the Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ (the big rosette) out of the bowl, root ball and all, taking care not to mar its inner leaves. Trim away the lower, dry, unsightly leaves. Set the echeveria aside.

(3) Salvage any nice clumps of the small-leaved Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’, roots and all. Set aside.

(4) Empty the pot, discarding old dirt and plants.

(5) Fill the pot with cactus mix, or potting soil amended 1/2-and-half with pumice or perlite.

Reassemble the composition

(6) Tuck the echeveria’s root ball and stem into the soil. My composition is asymmetrical, but you might want to put the rosette in the center of the bowl. I also added some ornamental rocks, but they’re not necessary.

(7) Cluster the graptosedum cuttings around the echeveria. Pull off lower leaves on the cuttings’ stems before inserting them into the soil. Roots will form where leaves were attached to the stems.

(8) Fill gaps with Sedum ‘Cape Blanco’, pushing the root balls into the soil.

(9) For a nice finishing touch, cover any bare soil with pebbles or rocks.

(10) Water lightly to clean the leaves and settle the soil. Give cuttings a week or so to root, then keep soil about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

Want more tips on creating an appealing succulent container garden? My 6-minute video shows how the original composition came together, step-by-step.

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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cameron (Defining Your Home) June 11, 2011, 6:17 am

Great tip! I started changing out my containers to succulents and shrubs after enduring so many years of drought and growing tired of watering plants and worrying about them when on vacation. The right selection of succulents overwinter well for me in a protected location.

It’s so important to know your microclimates, especially when growing frost-tender plants. And you could say that your succulents “oversummer” as well, since they don’t seem to miss you while you’re away! — Debra

Laura W June 12, 2011, 9:22 am

I love this post! One of my favorite parts of gardening is when you find/make time to fluff – pay attention to the tiniest of details that no one would prob notice but you, yet make the overall picture 100% better once completed. And containers are no exception. I will def find time to give my largest – not prettiest – succulent bowl a makeover this week. Thanks!

Thank YOU, Laura! I’d love to see the results ;+) — Debra

Town Mouse June 12, 2011, 11:02 pm

Wow, you make it look so easy… Thanks.

It IS easy! The thing is, although succulents are the closest thing to plastic in the plant kingdom, they DO grow. And like any plants, need some trimming from time to time. Thanks for stopping by! — Debra

william martin June 14, 2011, 5:16 am

I may be somewhat contrary but i prefer the original dish before the makeover!
You’re entitled to, William! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. — Debra

william martin June 15, 2011, 11:09 pm

You’re entitled to, William! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. — Debra
Indeed and i have a preference for growing succulents as ‘hard’ as they like it..for me these plants show such a range of beauty when under stress..no plump/overfed/over watered succulents for me thanks! Handy post for beginners though.

Dixie June 19, 2011, 4:30 am

Actually, I think both pots look great. I like my succulents tidy, but I also like them to look like natural – and like they’ve been doing some serious growing.

Hi, Dixie — Because of my background as a writer and scout for various garden publications, I tend to evaluate garden vignettes and container combos according to what I call “the Sunset aesthetic”: Would this be worthy of Sunset magazine? So, that’s what I was aiming for. — Debra