Planting a container filled with wonderful succulents is a great way to create a drought-tolerant, water-wise dish garden. Succulents offer interesting textures, shapes and colors, and they can give your garden year-round interest.

Finished succulent container

This miniature succulent garden is full of great drought-tolerant colors and textures.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Planting succulent container

Arrange your succulent container with taller selections toward the center and cascading ones around the sides.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

Succulent close up

Stonecrops and hens and chicks make great pairings in a succulent dish garden.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Manning

I happen to think that because succulents are such interesting plants, they deserve unique containers. The pots don’t have to be fancy – just different than the standard shape. Since succulents don’t need a large soil reservoir for water, it’s okay to choose a short, wide container with room for several varieties.

Choosing the plants for your succulent container garden can be a fun adventure. You’ve probably seen them in your local garden center, but you’ve likely walked right by on your way to the more popular bedding plants or perennials. If you want a larger succulent selection to choose from, you may want to check out mail-order catalogs or Websites for the more obscure – but still easy-to-grow – options. Just be sure to read the plant descriptions so you buy succulents with similar water and sun-exposure requirements.

Here are some great plant choices to particularly look for:

Sempervivum, also known as hens and chicks, is a terrific choice thanks to its vigor and drought-tolerant nature. The cultivar ‘Spring Beauty’ has evergreen foliage and grows about 3-4 inches tall. Another great cultivar is ‘Silver King’. This one blooms in summer and grows to about 4-6 inches tall, offering wonderful foliage colors.

Sedum, which also goes by the name stonecrop, is another nice drought-tolerant pick – and it attracts butterflies! ‘Purple Emperor’ is a cultivar that grows to 16 inches tall and has attractive dark purple foliage with pink flower clusters appearing in midsummer. S. spurium ‘Schorbuser Blut’, also known as ‘Dragon’s Blood’, has flat, purple-tinged leaves that turn reddish-bronze in fall. It’s a shorty at only 4-6 inches. Red flowers bloom from early summer to fall.

Another plant to try is Lewisia, or bitter root. Sunset Group, in particular, has gorgeous blooms in colors of pure pink to orange and yellow. This beauty flowers from late spring to early summer and often reblooms in fall. It grows about 6-8 inches tall.

Once you’ve picked out your succulents, you’ve got to prepare a container for them. These types of plants require good drainage, so put a coffee filter or a few broken pieces of a terra-cotta pot over the hole in the bottom of your container so it doesn’t get clogged with soil. Also be sure to use a good potting soil – you may even find one specifically for succulents that’s fast-draining.

While you might be tempted to sink your plants into the pot right away, it’s important to remember that even though you’re planting a container, it’s still a little garden. Give some thought to how you want to arrange your selections. Consider which plants will easily spill over the sides and which ones are more upright. If you leave them in their original pots until you get the look you want, you won’t run the risk of disturbing the roots if you aren’t pleased with the first arrangement. Once you’re happy with your design, remove the succulents from their packaging and plant them in your container.

Once you’ve got them planted, move the container to where it’ll receive the best light for the plants’ requirements. Then you can pretty much just sit back and admire your work. Remember, these are easy-care beauties, so they don’t require a lot of work. But do monitor the soil. While succulents are drought-tolerant, they still require watering.

When summer rolls around, be sure to fertilize. The rest of the year, the plants are dormant, so they don’t require feeding. Choose a good, well-balanced liquid fertilizer, like 20-20-20. Make sure it’s got some trace elements (small amounts of minerals like iron, zinc and copper) to help your plants grow. Since succulents don’t need high amounts of fertilizer, use about 1/3 the suggested amount. For instance, if the instructions say to use 1 tablespoon per gallon, use 1 teaspoon.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. Succulents are so easy, it’s a breeze to give them a try. You’ll simply be amazed at the endless beauty these plants give you as they effortlessly survive tough drought conditions and last practically year-round.