How To Turn Succulents Into Living Artwork With A Creative Dish Garden Design
Lorenzo Meza

Think of a shallow container as a canvas you can decorate with plants, then let your imagination take over.


One of the best things about succulents is the huge variety of sizes, shapes, and colors (there are even clear types). Plus they're pretty easy to grow, so they can be arranged in some amazingly creative ways. For example, a few years ago, the #succiepotinapot hashtag had a moment on Instagram and showcased succulents arranged to look like they were growing out of mini pots. Those designs are just as cute as ever (and there are almost 6,000 posts with the hashtag), but it's not your only option for creating a cute succulent dish garden. Use these tips to get creative and try making a one-of-a-kind piece of living succulent art.


How to Plant a Succulent Arrangement

The key to a successful mini succulent garden is good drainage. Most succulents can go at least a few weeks without water, but they won't tolerate overwatering or wet soil for long. If it's possible, find a shallow dish with a drainage hole for your plants, or drill one; that way, any extra water can run out of the container. Add a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the dish to help excess moisture drain away from the plants' roots, then fill the dish with a fast-draining potting mix (look for a potting soil made especially for succulents and cacti).

Next, make a rough sketch of the design you'd like to make, and figure out which succulents can bring it to life. If you want to create a tiny succulent bouquet, start by half-burying a small pot, cup, or bowl on its side in the soil, then arrange succulents at the top to look like they're growing or spilling out of it. To make a succulent tree, place a small piece of wood or a twig on top of the soil to act as a trunk, then plant succulents around it to look like leaves. Or arrange the succulents in a shape, such as a heart or a sun.

Try using different shapes and colors of succulents too. A red or pink succulent could look almost like a flower paired with mostly green varieties. Just double-check that all of the plants you use have similar water and light needs.

Once you've chosen your succulents, plant them in the soil in the arrangement you want. If you're using an extra element, like a half-buried mini pot, place it in your dish first before you start planting. After adding the plants, be sure to water your succulents well.

Then, it's time to add a few finishing touches. One option is to cover the exposed soil with small rocks. Using one color like white or black will make your plants stand out, or try arranging different colors in stripes or rows to create a patterned background. Fine sand could also work for a beach theme.

How to Care for a Succulent Arrangement

Taking care of your succulent arrangement is even easier than designing it. Place it in a spot, indoors or out, that gets plenty of bright light. Then keep an eye on how moist the soil is in your mini garden. Succulents are more sensitive to overwatering than underwatering, so let the soil dry out completely before giving them another drink. If your dish garden is in direct sun, it'll dry out quicker than it will in a spot that only gets light for part of the day.

The best way to know if it's time to water is to stick your finger down at least an inch into the soil. If you feel any dampness, wait to water. If it's completely dry, it's time to give your plants a drink.

Succulents grow slowly, so your arrangement will probably look the same for quite a while. When they do outgrow your design, you can always swap out plants with smaller ones. Or you can completely rearrange your dish garden and repot larger succulents elsewhere.