Make yourself a fabulous outdoor succulent pan

First published by Rattan Direct on 22 May 2016.

A succulent pan …

Um, thanks, but what’s that?

It’s a shallow container filled with low maintenance succulent plants of different colours and textures that change with the seasons. (We’re talking about succulents here – plants with very fleshy leaves – rather than cacti. Most cacti don’t like the Great British outdoors.)

Why should I have one?

Because you deserve it, of course! And it will be a spectacular centrepiece for your patio table – or anywhere else. And a wonderful talking point. It’s good in all seasons – flowering succulents in summer, and leaves touched with frost in winter.

But why should I make one?

So you can choose exactly the right container, size, design and colour to suit your own patio or garden.

The wide range of succulent colour and form
Incredible succulents by Christopher Michel. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence

 

Difficulty level?

Very easy indeed.

A few facts about succulents

They come in different colours and leaf types. For outdoor containers you need hardy succulents such as these tough and easy customers: sempervivum, sedum, crassula, stonecrop, jovibarba.

They are very low maintenance! They need little watering because their thick fleshy leaves, stems and roots retain water.

They love full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours a day.

A small collection of succulents, faukaria blooming by Mr.Rosewater. Succulent
A small collection of succulents, with faukaria in bloom, by Mr.Rosewater. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

They don’t like wet feet so plant them in well draining soil in a container with drainage holes.

Houseleek and stonecrop on a roof, near Cilcain, Flintshire.
Houseleek and stonecrop on a roof, near Cilcain, Flintshire. By Michael Ely, licensed for reuse under Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you haven’t got a container, a roof may do! Seriously, although houseleeks (sempervivum) and stonecrop (sedum) do sometimes decide to grow happily on roofs it can be tricky to achieve.

Succulents have relatively long lives but make sure you choose outdoor ones.

Ingredients

  • A fairly shallow container because succulents have short roots. Choose whatever you like, it doesn’t have to be for plants. Some people use a ring cake tin (sometimes called a bundt tin) because it will go round a parasol.
Succulents in a ring cake tin (bundt tin). Succulent growing.
Succulents in a ring cake tin (bundt tin) by Courtney at A Diamond in the Stuff
  • Good drainage holes in the bottom. Drill several small holes (wear protective goggles) if your chosen container doesn’t have any.
  • Free draining compost mixture. Something like 1 or 2 parts horticultural sand or grit to 3 parts multipurpose or potting compost is fine.
  • Gravel to finish it off and keep soil from splashing on the leaves.
  • 3 – 7 (the number depends on the size of your container) succulent plants of different textures (look around in your local garden centres).
Sedum Rubrotinctum, Echeveria Black Prince, Crassula Radicans and Crassula Bride's Bouquet. Succulent
Sedum Rubrotinctum, Echeveria Black Prince, Crassula Radicans and Crassula Bride’s Bouquet by stephen boisvert. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.

Method

  • Fill your container with the free draining compost and sand mixture.
  • Plant the largest or most colourful succulent in the centre of the container as a focal point.
  • Plant up the edges of the bowl with a mixture of succulents. You can plant closely to give a lush impression.
  • Fill in any gaps with the compost mixture, tamping it down a little.
  • Finish off with some gravel.
  • Water in, focusing on the soil not the leaves. Don’t overwater.
  • Raise the container a little – pot feet are ideal – to ensure it drains well.
  • And, once again, stand back and be impressed with yourself!
Succulent pan in the sunshine, showing different colours and different textures (S Buchanan)
Succulent pan in the sunshine, showing different colours and different textures (S Buchanan)

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