Make a Living Succulent Picture
Create your own living mosaic to hang on a wall, indoors or out!
Add a little charm and greenery to your home with an extravagant living-succulent picture. This succulent display is so stunning, it's practically meant to be framed. Succulents are a natural choice for vertical gardens because they grow slowly and have low water requirements. With our step-by-step guide, you can make a living picture all by yourself.
If you're new to growing succulents, follow these design tips to get your creative ideas growing!
- Keep the price down by using an inexpensive flea market picture frame and free cuttings of succulents from your garden
- Choose varieties that stay small
- Limit your palette to three or four colors. Select different varieties of succulents within that color scheme
- Create a river of color through the picture. Form a diagonal swath of one color, either with one type of plant or different varieties in that color scheme
- Give your picture a focal point, such as a cluster of succulents or a singular large specimen such as Aeonium
What You Need
- Pruning snips
- Succulent cuttings
- Shadow box made of redwood or cedar 1x3s, cut to fit the back of the frame
- Picture frame with back and glass panel removed
- 1/2-inch hardware cloth, cut to fit the inside dimensions of the frame
- Staple gun
- 1/4-inch plywood backing, cut to fit the back of the shadow box
- Paint brush
- Clean cloth
- All-purpose potting soil
Step 1: Make Cuttings
It's easy to take cuttings of established succulents growing in your garden. With small pruning snips, cut stem sections 1 to 2 inches long. Remove lower leaves. The roots will sprout from these leaf nodes. Let cuttings dry on a tray for a few days before you plant them. This curing process causes cut ends to callus, or form a thin layer of cells.
Step 2: Cut Shadow Box Frame
A shadow box adds depth to the back of the picture frame, allowing space for soil and plants. Use naturally water-resistant redwood or cedar 1x3s, cut to the dimensions of the back of the frame. Nail or screw into place.
Step 3: Set Hardware Cloth
With the frame still face down, insert hardware cloth. The 1/2-inch grid is small enough to hold potting soil in, yet large enough to accommodate stems. Staple hardware cloth to the edges of the frame.
Step 4: Add Backing
After setting the hardware cloth, lay 1/4-inch plywood backing on the back of the shadow box. Secure with nails. This backing will be the finishing touch to your shadow-box frame.
Step 5: Paint Frame
Turn the frame face up. Brush on a coat of outdoor paint to change the color of the frame and offer some protection against the elements. For an antique effect, let the paint dry for a few minutes and then wipe the frame with a clean cloth. If desired, paint the underlying box, too.
Step 6: Add Soil
Allow the frame to dry completely before filling the box with potting soil. Pour soil on top of the hardware cloth, using your hands to push it through the openings. Shake the frame periodically to evenly disperse the soil. Add more soil until it reaches the bottom of the wire grid.
Step 7: Poke Holes
On a flat surface, lay out succulent cuttings in the design you want in the frame. Push a chopstick or pencil through one square of the wire grid and into the soil.
Step 8: Fill with Plants
Place the stem of a succulent cutting, such as this mother of pearl plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense), into the planting hole, allowing the leaf rosette to rest on top of the wire grid. It's not necessary to dip cuttings in rooting hormone—succulents root easily in soil.
Step 9: Create Design
Tuck in larger plants first, followed by smaller ones. Plant as close together as the grid allows. Depending on plant size, not every square will be planted. After planting, you may see hints of the wire, but as the succulents grow, they'll close the gaps.
Step 10: Let It Root
After planting, keep the living succulent picture flat and out of direct sunlight for a week or two to allow cuttings to form roots along the stems. For additional security, support stems with floral pins or crafts clips. Gradually increase light levels to full sun exposure. Do not water the first two weeks.
Step 11: Put it on Display
Set the living succulent picture on a table or shelf where it can be propped up against a wall. Or hang the frame on a wall with sturdy picture hooks. Water succulents once a month—lay the frame on a flat surface and thoroughly moisten the soil. Make sure the frame is dry before you hang it up again. In hot areas, protect plants from midday sun. Indoors, set a living succulent picture near a south-facing window.