38 Ideas for Succulents in Containers
Easy-care container designs for your doorstep, patio, and garden
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Potted Echeveria and Senecio mix well with other low-water, sun-loving perennials such as African Daisy. Keep single plants in individual pots to easily change the grouping with the seasons.
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Keep it simple
A top dressing of blue glass mulch elevates a simple Echeveria ‘Lola’ to a stand-alone accent container. Place a line of small potted succulents down the center of an outdoor table as a living tableau.
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Hang a vertical planter by your front door to give a hip, urban feel to your doorstep. The living picture is dripping with ‘String of Pearls’ succulents (Senecio rowleyanus) and bronze-tipped aeonium. The ‘City Planter’ is available from Potted LA; pottedstore.com.
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Go for green
A cluster of bright green aeonium rosettes in a glossy black pot makes a statement against a brightly colored door. Aeonium ‘Jolly Green’ has a compact form well suited for containers.
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Under-plant with succulents
A container of false arelia is top-dressed with a living mulch of Echeveria, Sempervivum, and Senecio creating a miniature living landscape. As plants grow to be too crowded, pinch off pups to make more room and use in other containers.
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Designer and co-owner of L.A.-based nursery Potted, Annette Gutierrez uses a weathered wood sideboard to display a collection of potted plants, such as ‘Sunburst’ aeonium with sedum (in red pot) and a tiny succulent landscape in a low white bowl. Low white Bauer Canoe bowl from pottedstore.com.
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A bougainvillea and a citrus tree were not enough to cover the back fence, so Potted's Annette Gutierrez filled the understory with potted succulents including Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ (in orange pot), Aeonium (light green pot), Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ (low blue-green pot), Agave attenuata (tall green pot) and sword fern (far right).
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Bold and bright
Use brightly colored vessels to make small succulents stand out.
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Group a collection of hanging planters filled with Echeveria above an outdoor lounge for vertical interest.
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Create a living centerpiece by planting a colorful mix of Echeveria, Sempervivum, and trailing Sedum in a narrow container. Follow our video for step-by-step instructions.
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Glazed ceramic containers filed with a pale green agave (Agave attenuata) and trailing silver dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’) pop against a dark painted wood background. Design: Beth Mullins, growsgreen.com.
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Costa Mesa garden designer Molly Wood fills vintage metal chicken feeders with tiny succulents for a rustic centerpiece. Hen and chickens (Sempervivums), echeverias, and a dainty stonecrop grow in cactus mix in a 4 1/2-inch-deep trough. Design: Molly Wood Garden Design, Costa Mesa, CA; mollywoodgardendesign.com.
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A shallow bowl measuring about 2 feet across and 6 inches deep provides just enough room to show off a rainbow of succulent colors. A mix of bright green Sedum ‘Angelina’, pink rosette-shaped Ghost plants (Graptopetalum pentandrum), and fleshy green Crassula argenta ‘Gollum’ pick up the more subtle tones of large grey-green and pink Echeveria.
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“I almost always include something lacy, something hanging, and something architectural,” says Oakland landscape designer Joshua Stenzel. Then “throw in one thing that’s unexpected,” such as the Sempervivum succulents dripping out of a low pot here.
The plants: Upright Euphorbia tirucalli (back left); feathery Acacia iteaphylla (back right); Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’ (left); strappy bromeliad (Vriesea philippo-coburgii, center); variegated ‘Cornelius’ agave (bottom right); cascading mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis, bottom left).
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Make an impact by including one tall planting and repeating one strong color in either the foliage or the pots. “One thing I’ve learned with small-space designs is to skip the dainty little pots and go for big and bold,” says designer Josh Stenzel.
The plants, left to right: Agave; Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’; E. tirucalli.
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Start with a plant or pot you love and let it lead the rest of the design. For this quartet, Oakland landscape designer Joshua Stenzel first chose earthy ceramic pots, then selected plants in a complementary palette of coral and pale green.
The plants, clockwise from top right: Gray-green Echeveria; salmon-colored Kalanchoe orgyalis; variegated agave; and red-tipped Mangave ‘Bloodspot’.
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Bowl of succulents
A crush of silvery Echeveria, pale purple ghost plants, and trailing Sedum ‘Angelina’ make a colorful container display perfect for dressing up an outdoor table.
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Pops of icy blue in cooling contrast with warm combos of bright pinks and deep purples makes for a striking color scheme. Start with the plants, then pick a container that will extend the color theme. Here, a 16-inch-wide olive green pot makes the brighter foliage pop.
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Transformed nursery box
Paint and stenciling transform a nursery box into a house number. A large potted succulent takes it up a notch.
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Miniature desert garden
Asymmetrically arranged golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and pale clusters of thimble cactus (Mammillaria gracilis fragilis) create a pint-sized desert landscape. Top dress with a dark gravel mulch to show off the pale cacti colors.
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This mix of pink-tipped Kangaroo paws, Echeveria ‘Afterglow’, Adenanthos cuneatus ‘Coral Drift’, and Sedum reflexum provides a daring blend of textures.
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Cluster sun-loving soft-leaf yucca, bushy magenta bougainvillea, and mounding powdery blue Graptopetalum (Ghost Plant) to give a patio a feeling of lushness.
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A Chamaerops humilis palm (top left) and a ‘Frosted Curls’ carex (center) add texture to Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ (bottom left) and Goodenia affinis ‘Little Luna’ (bottom right).
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Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ (center) takes center stage against ‘Silver Shadow’ Astelia (top), ‘Black Adder’ phormium (right), and Plectranthus ‘Mike’s Fuzzy Wuzzy’ (left).
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Succulent mini landscape
Plum-colored foliage is a rich accent against soft greens in these easy-care containers. Arrange taller plants in the center or back, trailers near the pot’s edges. For immediate effect, choose large plants and big pots (shown above left: 10 in. across, 14 in. tall; right: 16 by 18 in.). Design: Daniel Nolan, Flora Grubb Gardens (floragrubb.com)
Container at left (clockwise, from bottom left corner of pot): Aloe humilis (6 in.); Phormium ‘Guardsman’ (5 gal.); Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ (5 gal.); Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (1 gal.); Echeveria pulvinata (4 in.); Aeonium leucoblepharum (6 in.).
Container at right (clockwise, from bottom center of pot): Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (1 gal.); Sedum adolphii (4 in.); Coprosma ‘Evening Glow’ (1 gal.); Chondopetalum tectorum (1 gal.); Echeveria ‘Coral Glow’ (6 in.); Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic’ (6 in.); Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ (1 gal.).
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Mini garden in a pot: 3 easy pieces
With copper-tipped Echeveria subrigada ‘Fire and Ice’ (center) playing off rich chocolate Aeonium arborescens ‘Tip Top’ (left) and cascading Sedum rupestre ‘Blue Spruce’ (right), this pot of sculptural succulents creates a dramatic focal point.
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A single plant with a bold, sculptural shape is easier on the eye than a mixed planting. Clean white ceramic pots allow the plants to shine.
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Echeverias and other small succulents, planted in a blue bowl, look like underwater creatures.
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Mood & attitude
“This is the It Plant,” says San Francisco nursery owner Flora Grubb of the icy blue powder-covered Echeveria cante, pictured at bottom left. “I’ve never seen a plant as iridescent as this one.” Here, the succulent shimmers against moody dark foliage—‘Cheryl’s Shadow’ geranium and ‘Black Adder’ phormium, which add structure in back.
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A variegated Aloe arborescens with subtle stripes appears to explode above Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ in this 14-inch-high zinc container. “It’s the best sedum I’ve grown,” says Jarrod Baumann, who designed the planting. “It stays full and lush and doesn’t look ratty, even after it’s done blooming.” Design: Zeterre Landscape Architecture, Los Altos, CA; zeterre.com
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Jolly green giant
Spanning 18 inches across, Aeonium ‘Mint Saucer’ gives this combo some serious heft, like an oversized flower, but one that never needs to be deadheaded (an Aeonium lives a few years before sending up a stalk of yellow flowers and dying). Standing above it is velvety Plectranthus forsteri 'Aureus Variegatus', with limey green margins. Trailing at right is Rhipsalis teres heteroclada, a succulent with pencil-like stems.
Pro tip: The old container recipe—thriller, filler, spiller—still stands the test of time.
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Arching gracefully in all directions, ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum displays juicy round leaves and stems topped with pink, star-shaped flowers. Mexican snowballs (Echeveria elegans) anchor the right side, young pups bunched up against mother plants. In back,
the nonsucculent Pelargonium sidoides catches the light on its silver leaves, echoing the color of the Echeveria.
Pro tip: Pelargonium sidoides is a favorite to mix with succulents. Its fuzzy, ruffled leaves and wandering habit transform any combo from rigid to loose.
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The big chill
In the center of the container, a hybrid Echeveria sits like an unfolding lotus, but one with far more staying power than the fleeting flower. Small, almost iridescent ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) echoes the shape and color of the larger succulent. At right, purple-leafed heuchera picks up the Echeveria’s pink edges. In back, feathery dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) offers some stature and fuzz to the mix.
Pro tip: Adding height, like the dusty miller, offers visual contrast, plus it creates dappled light for more sun-sensitive plants growing in its shadow.
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Succulent stars, including a blooming Echeveria hybrid and a trailing Cotelydon hybrid, nestle between mounds of soft ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue and bright green thrift (Armeria maritima ‘Armada White’). At far right, the silver heart-shaped leaves of a Pelargonium sidoides spill over the edge of the planter.
Pro tip: Incorporate thrift into more of your plantings. The unsung plant is a playful and sturdy champ, forming tufty evergreen mounds topped with lollipop blooms in white, pink, or red.
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Terrestrial tide pool
A handful of Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'—dark purple rosettes on sticks—grow upward from the back of the pot. Next to them, silver woolly bush (Adenathos sericea) has a kelp-like quality, appearing to undulate as if growing in the sea. In the foreground, variegated Helichrysum peiolare, dark purple ‘Obsidian’ Heuchera, and a hybrid Echeveria balance colors and shapes from front to back.
Pro tip: If you’re going for the kitchen sink look, add cohesion by echoing forms and colors.
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Highlighting its red-tinged margins and sharp tips, a single ‘Blue Glow’ agave tucks up against a lush backdrop of soft plants. In back (from left to right), variegated Sedum lineare ‘Sea Urchin’ cascades over the rim; ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum shows off its pink blooms; and purple spurge (Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’) displays whorls of leaves on either side of an herbal-scented Pelargonium ‘Oldbury Duet’.
Pro tip: When filling a large footprint, consider using multiple pots. They’re easier to move around, and you can play with their placement as planting evolves.
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Beauty and the beast
‘Elijah Blue’ fescue and similarly colored Pelargonium sidoides look sweet and wispy, while their evil third holds court at right. ‘Grape Jelly’ dyckia forms a picture-perfect rosette of rigid purple foliage, but the leaves of this terrestrial bromeliad are armed
with vicious teeth. Watch out—this combo is killer.
Pro tip: Use more dyckias. They handle drought in stride and, every summer, send up tall stalks of bright orange or yellow blooms that hummingbirds find irresistible.
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If those fuzzy leaves in the rear look familiar, it’s because they’re lamb’s ears (Stachys), but a new variety: ‘Bello Grigio’, with slender, silver leaves that almost glow. At its base, Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’ contrasts with its black branches and Jurassic-looking leaves. In a single pot (foreground, right), the spines of an Agave potatorum ‘Kissho Kan’ catch the light. At left, ‘Vera Jameson’ sedum stretches itself in all directions, offering pink flowers at the tips.
Pro tip: Use one type of plant per container for a modern, color-blocked look.
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How to keep them happy
- Plant these combos in fast-draining cactus mix and let the soil dry between waterings.
- The plants in these containers can take full sun along the coast and part shade inland.
- Succulents are frost-tender. During cold snaps, protect any container that includes them.
- As shallow rooters, succulents thrive in shallow bowls, where they can grow for a few seasons before needing to be divided and repotted. If you mix in perennials, use a pot at least 8 to 10 inches deep to accommodate their roots, then divide and replant or refresh with new plants each spring.