This season, I craved something more inspired than a pine-tree-boughs-stuck-in-water centerpiece. Suddenly a DIY succulent Christmas tree was on my to-do list.

DIY succulent tree for holiday table
Thomas J. Story

What to put at the center of my holiday table is a yearly challenge. Most years I’ve either phoned it in (the pine tree boughs), or I’ve overdone it (the mini gingerbread A-frame cabin village complete with twinkling lights). This year, I wanted something different in terms of color—red and green just wasn’t going to cut it—and I’m not the only one. Turns out 2021’s holiday decor trends include black Christmas trees, jewel tones, metallics, and even neon.

I personally don’t want to trip the light fantastic, but I did keep thinking about how pretty the silvery tones of the succulents in my garden pots would look as a centerpiece. And this is how I arrived at a most succulent DIY. (Get it?) Namely, a Christmas tree made entirely of succulents.

One thing I can promise you about this DIY: It’s definitely a conversation starter. I recently hosted a small outdoor cocktail gathering that led to gasps of “You made that?!” and “Oh, my god, is that real?”

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Indeed. And while I’m sure one could make this out of plastic succulents and foam, I don’t recommend it. Floral foam is horrible for the environment, and, as the garden editor, don’t get me started on landfill-choking plastic succulents, either.

Besides, to go plastic would be to miss one of the things I love about this project most: It’s alive, and the succulents can survive for weeks in the tree itself. (They’re usually pretty easy to care for.) This means that, when the holidays are over, I can gift some to friends and plant the rest. My Meyer lemon tree planter, in particular, will be getting a very chic succulent glow-up come January.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I do a DIY, and I find that some important “live and learn” lessons were left out in an effort to make the tutorial seem easier than it really is, I go a little bananas. We all know friends don’t drive friends crazy during the holidays, so here are a few important things to note before you begin:

This succulent Christmas tree is easy, but it’s not fast. Succulents are tender little plants, so allow yourself enough time to gently tuck each one into place and adjust as you go. I found I needed over an hour to make my tree, so put on some holiday music—or mix a cocktail, if you are so inclined—and enjoy yourself.

The size of your pot will determine the size of your tree, so choose carefully while keeping in mind the size of the area where you ultimately want to display it. I used a 10-inch flower pot, which means my tree is 23 inches from base to top—pretty tall, and heavy. I love it, but an 8-inch would have worked well, too. (And would save money, as buying succulents in bulk is definitely an investment.)

Also, you will require extra plants. Although I used about 75 succulents to make my arrangement, having a baker’s dozen more than I thought I’d need was essential as the plants occasionally fell apart. If you find yourself in a pinch, do what I did when I wanted to fill in some holes: Scavenge your own garden. I augmented my tree with jade, which is growing like crazy in a planter in my backyard, and added a nice new element to the shape.

What You Need

Succulent tree DIY supplies

Deanna Kizis

  • A variety of 64 to 120 succulents in 2-inch nursery pots, depending on the size tree you want to make
  • A roll of chicken wire
  • Cutting pliers
  • Gloves
  • Floral u-pins*
  • 16 oz bag of reindeer moss*
  • An 8- to 10-inch flower-pot*

*Not pictured

To purchase your plants, try your local garden center—I got mine from Los Angeles mainstay Rolling Greens Nursery—or save money by ordering them in bulk at SuccyCrafts.com.

The chicken wire is sharp so don’t try this without gloves. Amazon sells a kit with gloves, cutting pliers, and wire that might come in handy if you don’t own these supplies already.


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