While starting a succulent collection, you may wonder if to plant each of the plants individually or grow them together.
Well, from the point of view of the plants’ happiness, succulents are fine with anything, whether they are grown singly or together. One major benefit of growing plants together is the increase in humidity which plants like ferns and palms love, but succulents don’t care much about. Since succulents are adapted to arid conditions, they don’t need a lot of humidity around them. Thus there is no particular benefit of growing succulents together.
However, there are certain other points to consider which you may find interesting. Firstly, planting different species of succulents in one single container can look amazing if you care for them well. Secondly, you can group succulents together which need the same type and amount of care so that your maintenance tasks can become a bit easier.
Thus, while grouping succulents together, considering their individual care requirements can help you create a happy arrangement of succulents and when they are happy, they look beautiful. Therefore while creating succulent combinations, you should consider their growing season (or dormancy period), and lighting, watering, temperature and soil needs.
It makes sense to choose cacti and succulents with the same needs for planting together. That way they will live harmoniously and the amazing appearance of the whole set will be maintained for a long time.
Thus you can plant summer dormant succulents together and also winter dormant succulents together.
Some summer dormant succulents are:
Some winter-dormant varieties are:
So, planting a summer grower like Graptosedum California Sunset and a winter grower like Jade (Crassula) together won’t be a good idea.
Hardy succulents can tolerate freezing cold and frost while tender ones cannot withstand harsh conditions; so, planting them together is also a bad idea.
It’s also quite sensible to consider the height of your succulents while planting them together. Your group of succulents should have the thriller, filler and spiller.
Choose tall succulents for the thriller because they make the entire group look outstanding. Shorter succulents can be used as the filler around the thrillers. Lastly, place some “spillers” i.e. trailing (cascading) succulents to conclude the arrangement.
- Some tall upward-growing succulents are: Aeonium, Sansevieria
- Some short rosette-forming filler varieties are: Echeveria, Sempervivum
- Examples of trailing varieties are: Senecio, Sedum
These are only a few examples. But there are actually numerous options.
Of course, you can always apply your own ideas as long as it looks good to your eye.
While most succulents prefer bright sun in the morning and bright shade in the afternoon, not all of them prefer full shade or indoor conditions. Some succulents prefer full sun all day and some others prefer partial shade.
Thus if you plant succulents needing full sun and those needing partial shade together, you may come across problems over time. Some of them will be stressed while others will be sunburned.
The next important consideration is their water requirements. Most succulents are drought tolerant, whereas some others will require watering more often. The thickness of their leaves is a great indicator of their water needs. Sedum adolphii, Pachyveria Empress or Moonstones have thick leaves and can be fine for long before they need water, whereas varieties like Flapjack, Lavender Scallop and Portulacaria afra have thin leaves and need to be watered more frequently.
However, you can group together succulents with different water needs. But you should carefully “spot water” or provide the thinner leaved plants a direct dose of water that should not reach the thicker leaved plants. You can use a syringe or a water bottle in a succulent tool kit which you can get at your local garden store or online.
Another point to consider while grouping succulents together is their colors because these colors are one of their best features. Succulents come in almost any color. Plus, some of them have an ability to change their color according to the changes in the environment, such as sunlight exposure, hot temperatures etc. This particular ability makes those varieties look even more outstanding.
Although the colors have no effect on their care requirements or how they grow, arranging them according to their colors is a fun part of the process. It’s quite rare to go wrong with the color themes of succulents; however, choosing traditional color palettes in your succulent groups can make them look super amazing.
Thus, you can choose:
Analogous colors (colors beside each other on a color wheel) such as purples, greens and blues
Complementary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel) like greens and reds, or orange and blue
Monochromatic themes i.e. different shades of only one color
Red and green and their shades commonly occur in cacti and succulents. Hence creating arrangements in red and green color schemes is pretty easy.
You can even create combinations according to the warmth of their color. So, you can pair together yellow, yellow-green, red and orange succulents to get a warm-toned arrangement or group together blue-green succulents and purple ones to achieve a cold-toned arrangement.
Another interesting addition can be variegated succulents i.e. succulents with some type of markings. You can add these too to your arrangement.
When it comes to color change, succulents that undergo extreme color change in the summer can typically handle more sunlight exposure. The process of color changing is known as stressing. On the other hand, succulents that remain green all through the year usually prefer a soft, indirect light.
Planters and Accessories
An important thing to remember is that not only the succulents themselves but also the pots in which you’ll plant them and accessories you use creatively play a great part in your succulent arrangements.
While choosing the planter for your arrangement, choose a planter having color, shape and texture that’ll either mimic the succulents in the arrangement or create an interesting contrast.
Not only choosing the right container can make a lot of difference, but also various types of accessories like crushed stones or pebbles can make your arrangement look stunning.
Shape, Texture and Special Features
You can achieve still another interesting variation of succulents by using a variety of plants with different shapes, textures and special features like flowers, spines and hairs.
Some succulents have amazing textures. Some examples are Haworthia, Gasteria and Aloe. They have white markings on them.
Similarly any kind of Cacti can offer a superb texture to your combination with its spines and unusual stems. Succulents in the genus Euphorbia come in a variety of textures and growth forms. Little cacti can make a fun addition to your arrangement with their spiky appearance. You can choose them in small to medium size and spikes. They will make your arrangement look harmonious and attractive.
And of course, the beauty and diversity in flowering succulents is limitless which you can use in your combinations to create truly stunning succulent arrangements.
Planting Succulents with Herbs
It’s not necessary to plant only various succulents together. You can combine succulents even with altogether different types of plants. For example, planting succulents and herbs together is especially satisfying because many herbs that are used in the kitchen are quite drought tolerant once established, love bright light and grow well in containers without needing a lot of care and maintenance. In short, they resemble much with most succulents in their growth and care needs. Moreover, herbs add a range of colors and textures to your succulent garden. What’s more, they also have fragrances that give a new dimension to the succulent arrangement. Plus, even if you use your herbs, your succulents will keep your garden looking lush and full.
Yes, you’ll have to apply some tricks while watering your succulent and herb combination arrangement. This is because while some established herbs can be as drought tolerant as the strongest succulent, they are typically planted in the ground and provided slightly more moisture as they acclimate. Therefore when you plant herbs with succulents in a container, giving the herbs slightly more water than the succulents is a good idea. For this, you’ll have to apply certain tricks.
- Along with a container with drainage holes and your assorted succulents and herbs, you’ll need cactus potting mix and regular potting mix.
- Keep some cactus mix aside and make a 50/50 mix of the remaining cactus mix and the regular potting mix. You’ll have to use this soil for planting your herbs.
- Now fill the bottom half of the planter with the straight cactus mix and plant succulents and herbs on it. Make your desired arrangement. Then plant succulents on straight succulent mix and firm up the soil.
- Now you’ll have to remove the succulent mix from the spots you’ve allocated for the herbs. Remove one plant at a time. Fill the emptied space with the 50/50 succulent and potting mix. Firm the soil. Once this is done properly, water all the plants well.
- This will help your herbs hold slightly more water around their roots than succulents. Henceforth, whenever you water the plants, around once a week, the soil around the herbs will retain a little more water for the herbs, whereas the cacti won’t be burdened with excess moisture. Thus both the types of your plants will be happy and healthy.
You can also use another trick for the herbs which want more water. Set a couple of ice cube on the soil beside your herbs that need more water a few times every week. This will perfectly handle the higher water needs of these herbs. Ice will slowly melt releasing water right at the spot for the herbs’ roots and will get an extra dose of water between weekly waterings for the whole planter.
Some herbs that can be good companions of succulents and cacti are:
The water needs of these herbs will be well met by incorporating succulent mix combined with the potting soil as given above.
With More Other Types of Plants in the Yard
If your yard has no favorable conditions, you may find it difficult to grow high-maintenance ornamental plants. However, succulents and cacti have no problem. They can grow and flourish even in adverse conditions. But if you don’t want your garden to be full of thorns and spines, you may wonder which plants to grow along with succulents. Don’t worry, there are plants you can pair with your succulents and make your garden look lush and colorful.
Drought tolerant flowering plants like Osteospermum are a good example. This daisy has flowers that may stand upright or can trail along your succulents. Same is the behavior of the perennial Santa Barbara daisy. You can let them trail among trailer succulents like agave and aloe.
Other perfect companions for succulents are ornamental grasses that usually bloom in the fall and continue across the winter. They have so many varieties that have similar maintenance needs as several succulents and cacti. Ornamental grasses if properly located can provide afternoon shade too. This afternoon shade can save leaves of some succulents from getting sunburned, although most succulents prefer sunlight throughout the day. It’s advisable to study the types of your succulents to know if they benefit from the shade-providing ornamentals.
Among grasses, the Blue Fescue Grass is shorter, yet can be an attractive companion to succulents.
You can grow even herbs, like Rosemary, Yarrow, Salvia and Lavender, in your yard alongside succulent beds and not only in your succulent arrangement in a container. They prefer the same conditions as that of most ground planted succulents and cacti. Based on your layout, you can plant these herbs surrounding the bed or at the back. If the bed is open on all sides, you can even grow them in the center.
Another option is shrubs or large bushy plants. Choose the ones that are drought-tolerant and need slightly more sunlight than succulents, for example, Blue Mist Spirea. Just like succulents, Blue Mist Spirea needs well-draining soil which doesn’t need to be fertile or rich. It also needs watering rarely.
Euphorbia also grows in such conditions in the form of a small shrub or tree and complement succulents growing nearby. A bigger shrub that grows well in such conditions is Rockrose. It’s a good idea to plant these in a sandy loam soil.
A well-draining soil save succulents and other plants from root rot. If your soil is clay, you should amend it with sand, compost or pebbles. This will prevent winter or spring rainwater from accumulating around the root system. You can even add a thick layer of gravel, pumice or grit to such a soil.
So now what are you waiting for? Start collecting succulents and other plants that match each other and create stunning arrangements that you’ll be proud of.