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9 Spectacular Succulent Garden Ideas

For most people in my area, “succulent garden” is an alien concept, perhaps only conjuring images of shallow containers filled with small, fleshy plants. But succulent gardens range in size from a teacup to an entire yard and vary as widely in appearance as any other type of garden. Tight spacing of colorful succulents can create a lush, almost tropical appearance, while sparse plantings might mimic a beautiful desert landscape. Because succulents thrive on little water and minimal care, they are great plants for xeriscaping and low-maintenance gardens. Read on for more succulent garden ideas for your own water-saving paradise.

colorful succulent garden

Succulent Garden Ideas

1. Vertical succulent garden

donkey's tail
Donkey’s tail flowers

Perfect for small spaces or adding interest to a bare wall, vertical gardens can be made in a variety of ways. Hang flat-backed planters on a wall or fence, give new life to a wooden pallet, or stack cinderblocks in a corner to create a pyramid of little planters.

Smaller succulents work best for this, of course, but try mixing different colors and shapes. A few trailing varieties, like donkey’s tail or peanut cactus, or string of pearls, will cascade down the sides of the containers to soften the edges.

2. Rock garden

orange succulents in a rock garden

Succulents and rock gardens go hand in hand, especially in hot, dry regions. Place large rocks around the garden individually or in clusters or piles to imitate natural boulders, and use flat rocks or stone pavers as stepping stones or more formal pathways.

Gravel used as mulch complements succulents nicely. Just about any succulent can be used in a rock garden, from large, dramatic aloes to low-growing sedums. If you have a stone wall, consider tucking a few small succulents in the crevices or planting cascading succulents at the top to spill down the side.

Here are more plants you can use in a rock garden.

3. Cold-hardy succulent garden

Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum paraguayense, Succulents, 4in potted plants

Although it may seem like succulent gardens can only grow in warmer parts of the world, cold-hardy succulents make it possible for those of us with freezing winters to enjoy them, too! Here are a few great plants to get you started:

  • ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)
  • hens and chicks (Sempervivum sp.)
  • Eastern prickly pear cactus (Opuntia compressa)
  • stonecrop (Sedum sp.)

4. Container succulent garden

succulent garden in containers

Add succulents to your patio with creative container succulent gardens. These are especially great in colder regions, where you can bring the frost-tender succulents indoors during the winter.

succulent garden in a log

Use a hollowed-out log or stump for rustic charm, or add height with a repurposed birdbath or two-tiered fountain. In fact, just about any container can be used for a succulent garden, as long as you fill it with an appropriate soil blend. Remember to choose succulents to fit the size of the container.

5. Succulent “water” garden

blooming succulent draped over ceramic pot

To imitate water in a dry landscape, plant a gently curving “stream” of low-growing, blue-green succulents through a section of the garden.

Alternatively, place a decorative pot on its side and plant blue-green succulents so that they appear to be flowing out from the mouth of the pot. Arrange rocks around the pot and alongside the succulents to add to the aquatic image. Although you can use multiple types of plants, a single variety will likely work best.

6. Tabletop succulent garden

Kimisty 10 Inch Mid Century Large Round Succulent Planter Bowl with Drainage, White Ceramic Pot with Wood Stand, Succulent Garden Shallow Pot, Tabletop Centerpiece, Includes Decorative White Pebbles

Bring the garden inside with a tabletop succulent garden. Choose a container with drainage holes (and a pretty matching saucer) and fill it with succulent-friendly potting soil.

While terrariums seem to be a popular choice for indoor succulents, they tend to hold in too much moisture. You’ll want small plants like dwarf aloes, haworthias, Echeveria minima, and Little Missy sedum. Tabletop succulent gardens also make great gifts!

7. Cactus garden

cactus garden in a pot

Cacti make fun additions to any succulent garden, but you can also design a garden entirely with cacti! In colder climates, you’ll want to stick with smaller varieties grown in containers, but gardeners in warmer areas have more room to play.

As always, incorporate a variety of sizes and colors; some cacti have vibrant stems, while others feature bold, beautiful blooms. Keep in mind that some cacti grow slowly, so you might not see that height for several years.

8. Small succulent garden

small succulent garden

As you may have noticed by now, succulents can be grown in any amount of space. If you have a small yard, get creative about where you might be able to tuck in a succulent garden. That awkward, narrow strip beside the patio or between the front walk and the house could be filled with colorful succulents and pea gravel.

As long as the space receives enough sunlight, you can plant succulents.

9. Fairy garden

PRETMANNS Fairy Garden House Kit – Fairy Tree House with Accessories - 2 Girl Fairies and a Boy Fairy - Door can Open Wide - Fairy Garden Supplies 4 Pieces

If you delight in the whimsical or want a fun project that the kids can help with, consider creating a fairy garden. As with other container gardens, you’ll want small varieties of succulents. Bright colors and varied shapes are always best! Check out these flowering succulent plants for some inspiration.

Add fairy-sized items to the garden like stepping stones, a tiny picket fence, a miniature bench, or even a little cottage. Some gardening stores carry decorations made specifically for fairy gardens, but you can always make your own or repurpose tiny toys.

Who knew succulents could be so versatile? Whether you live in the desert or snowy New England, I hope you have found some inspiration here for creating your dream succulent garden.

succulent garden ideas
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Serena Manickam is a freelance editor and writer and sustainable market gardener in rural Virginia. She holds a BA in environmental science and runs Fairydiddle Farm, a small market garden in which she grows no-spray produce and herbs to sell at a local farmer’s market.

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