Aah, the holidays. But, baah, the stress. It’s not the Christmas music that gets on my nerves (truthfully, I miss Alvin and the Chipmunks the other 11 months of the year) – it’s all those messages about managing my “holiday stress level.” The advice never seems to apply to any of the specific oddball stressors my family seems to generate. (I.e., what to do if a houseguest – okay, my father – decides to perform his “walking meditation” on my creaky hardwood floors until 4 a.m.)

Finished Wreath

Succulent wreaths are beautiful decorations that last.

Photo Credit: Sarah E. Smith

Moss Mix

To start, place the wreath form over a chunk of moistened moss lying facedown, then add some soilless mix for the succulents to grow in.

Photo Credit: Sarah E. Smith

Planting the Succulents

Make 1-inch indentations into the soil layer, and insert small succulent plants to decorate your wreath.

Photo Credit: Sarah E. Smith

Ann Munson & Wreath

Ann’s easy-to-make succulent wreath can be decorated for any occasion throughout the year.

Photo Credit: Sarah E. Smith

One soothing holiday prescription is to make something – like a succulent wreath. This quick, cheap and rewarding activity rates high in my stash of stingy strategies and satisfactions. While you’ll never hear the self-help gurus recommend this project for stress reduction, there’s nothing more laid back and undemanding than succulents. They’re a model of self-containment and contentment with minimum resources. And – not that well-adjusted people like us would have such shallow, faddish values – but succulents are hot in hort-head circles right now. So this relaxing endeavor will score with the hipsters in your group of friends (or make a great gift). Even better: This wreath isn’t just for the holiday season – it’s a wonderful decoration no matter what the occasion!

The succulent wreath is simple (no need to wander into Martha Stewart’s zip code), and these low-maintenance plants provide a finished product that can last for years. Ann Munson, an artist and gardener from West Linn, OR, who makes living wreaths for sale, guided me through the process. Here are her steps for putting together a succulent wreath or centerpiece for any season.

Materials

  • A wire wreath “skeleton,” called “a form” (They cost less than $5 at the craft shop.)
  • A small bag of cactus mix potting soil (or use one-half of regular potting soil mixed with one-half perlite)
  • Sphagnum or sheet moss
  • A spool of 22-gauge florist’s wire (you can substitute fishing line or copper wire)
  • A dozen or so very small, light succulents, like hen and chicks (Sempervivum). Don’t choose anything tall, floppy or heavy, which will likely fall out of your wreath.
  • A pencil, chopstick or skinny knife

Directions – Preparing the Wreath

Moisten your moss. Let it sit a minute, then gently wring out any excess water. Next, dampen the soil.

With the wreath form lying flat, make a secure, 2-inch loop to hang your finished wreath with at the 12 o’clock position. Make your loop without cutting the wire from the spool (keep it attached and reel it out continuously for the whole project).

Spread out a hunk of that damp moss facedown under the wire wreath. Make sure it’s big enough to wrap all the way around the width of the form. (Essentially, you’re going to make an omelet or burrito with the moss. The moss will serve as the outer wrapping, and a bit of cactus mix will be the filling.)

For your “burrito” filling, make two “meatballs” of soil, and place them in the center of your form. Fold the moss over the back of the form, and wrap it firmly in place by running the florist’s wire around the form. Make sure to space your wrappings of florist’s wire about 1½ inches apart to give you enough room to insert the succulent plants later. (Ann says this can be a tricky part. “At first it feels like it’s all going to fall apart,” she says, “but then it starts to kind of hold itself together.”)

Be sure to keep your wire consistently taut as you build each section of your wreath. (Keep laying out moss, adding balls of soil mix, then securing them into place.) An evenly taut wire all the way around your wreath will give you a nice, symmetrical look. (Of course, if it winds up a little off, you can just call your wreath “rustic.”)

When you’ve finished getting the form wrapped, turn it around and look for any bare spots. If you see any, just fill them in following the same steps above. When you get all the way around, wrap the end of your florist’s wire around that first loop you made, and tie off to the frame.

“Planting” Your Succulents

Ann likes to make diagonal patterns when she places her succulents in the form. “You want to be conscious of using the inside and the outside of the [flat] surface,” she says. (That means you should ignore your initial instinct to position them like soldiers in a row around the campfire.)

Make a very shallow little hole into the soil with a pencil, chopstick or steak knife. Insert a baby succulent no deeper than about an inch. Be sure to space each plant an inch or two apart so they can grow. When you’re finished, add any type of ribbon or a big bow, depending on the season. (Putting a focal element off-center, at 5 or 7 o’clock, creates more interest than plunking it squarely at the top or bottom.)

Keep your wreath flat for about two weeks before hanging it. The succulents need this time so their little roots can get anchored into the soil. While it’s horizontal, use your wreath as a centerpiece or table decoration by the front door or on the patio – just be sure to keep it protected from rain.

After the first two weeks, go ahead and hang it on your front door or give it to a friend as a gift. Just make sure they know to give your beautiful present as much sun as possible and to moisten it regularly (perhaps once every two weeks) with a spray bottle or by taking it down and gently trickling a small amount of water on the succulents. With that minimal care, this is one fresh wreath that will last and last – unlike all that holiday stress.