Succulents are definitely popular and trendy in gardening and decor at the moment. In fact, everyone loves the little plants right now, even the people who usually don’t tend to like gardening or taking care of plants. More than just a plant, succulents have become a culture of sorts in their own way, and are now commonly seen as a print in clothing and decoration pieces or even as plush toys and cartoon characters.
There aren’t a lot of arguments against keeping succulents. These are the kind of plants which are perfect for small places and indoor decorating, as they don’t grow much, which means they can easily sit on a desk or window sill, as they won’t take up much space. However, they do have quite specific needs.
Make a Living Succulent Picture
Step 1: Take Cuttings
It’s easy to take cuttings of established succulents growing in your garden. With small pruning snips, cut stem sections 1-2 inches long. Remove lower leaves. (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 (form a thin layer of cells).
Step 2: Gather Materials
You can use any frame to create a living succulent picture. We chose an antique wood frame for a vintage look.
Here’s what you’ll need to complete the project:
Picture frame with back and glass panel removed
Shadow box made of redwood or cedar 1x3s, cut to fit the back of the frame
1/2-inch hardware cloth, cut to fit the inside dimensions of the frame
1/4-inch plywood backing, cut to fit the back of the shadow box
All-purpose potting soil
Step 3: Add a Shadow Box
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 4: Set Hardware Cloth Inside the Frame
With the frame still facedown, 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 5: Add a Backing
Lay 1/4-inch plywood backing on the back of the shadow box. Secure with nails.
Step 6: Paint the 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 7: 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 8: Poke a Hole
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 9: Fill In 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.
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
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.
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.