Succulents have naturally geometric shapes that lend themselves so well to being displayed in a configuration with a repeating pattern. This makes a tremendous low-maintenance centrepiece for a dining or kitchen table. The resulting display is fascinating when viewed as a whole, but its also entirely possible that dinner guests will get lost in admiring the intricate detail of the individual plants.
Choosing a Container
Choose a shallow dish for the container; it need not have drainage holes, but take care not to overwater the plants.
A circular dish is ideal, but rectangular and square vessels also work well, especially if they have sharp rather than rounded corners, which will give the display a very modern look.
What to Plant
Providing they are small (i.e. supplied in little pots), any succulents or cacti would be suitable for a centrepiece.
At its simplest and best, a container could be filled with alternating diagonal stripes of two different species of houseleeks (Sempervivum) or Echeveria. Some of the latter have such glaucous tones that would work particularly well against other darker and greener species, such as E. elegans and E. “Black Prince”.
The aim is to have several of each plant arranged in a pattern that best sets off their distinctive colouring, shapes and heights, while still achieving a pleasing overall display. Sedum also works particularly well in this kind of succulent centrepiece.
Both succulents and cacti prefer well-drained soil, so use a half-and-half mix of multipurpose compost and grit (horticultural-grade fine gravel, available from garden centres).
Before planting, lay the plants out to check the spacing; for the best effect, there should be no visible bare compost.
Water carefully so as not to over saturate the compost.
Keep the planter in a sunny position, and water as required, aiming to get the spout of the watering can directly over the compost rather than splashing over the leaves, which can rot if left wet in these conditions.
In the summer months, a half-strength diluted liquid fertiliser will also be of benefit to your plants.
Pick or cut off any shrivelled, dead or rotting leaves as necessary; a pair of tweezers is a useful tool for this.
Any baby plants produced can be teased out, cutting away some root as well as the tiny rosette, and planted in their own pots. Replant the whole container after a year or so, in springtime, to refresh it.
Step by Step
Prepare Your Pot; you can use a pot without drainage holes, or even an attractive glass vessel, but, in this case, you need to prepare the base of it. Start with pebbles or gravel to a height of 2 cm, followed by a further layer of crushed charcoal, to another 2cm. Taking care with this level or preparation will ensure the soil doesn’t become waterlogged.
Fill the Pot; it is now possible to buy ready prepared succulent potting mix from reputable garden centres. This has been specially formulated to drain quickly, creating the ideal environment. Otherwise, as described above, use multipurpose compost, thoroughly mixed with grit. Fill the pot to within 2cm of the top of it.
Plant Your Succulents; before planting, you could lay out your succulents in the approximate design you would like, to ensure the plants look pleasing together. Plant each one carefully, and make sure the roots are fully covered by the soil mix. Succulents have no problem being placed close together if this is the look you are wanting.
Add Finishing Touches; if there are unsightly gaps between the plants, and you don’t wish to see the soil, you can add decorative pebbles or pieces of mosaic glass.
Clean Your Plants; your succulents will benefit from a quick wipe, as no doubt they will have become dusty or have soil on them. An old paintbrush or toothbrush is ideal for this task.
Water the Centrepiece; be careful not to overwater, as this can rot the roots. Simply moisten the surface.
This is an attractive perennial, evergreen succulent with spoon-shaped leaves, coloured dark green with a purple tinge. Its name translates as “ever alive” thanks to its tolerance of extreme temperatures. They are commonly known as houseleeks, as they were grown on roofs in the past and thought to deflect lightning. The leaves are arranged in rosette fashion and have short, dense hairs which almost gives it a furry, velvety appearance. During the summer months, it produces star-shaped yellow or pink flowers and is easy to care for, requiring no pruning and can survive on very little water.
The Echeveria succulent is easy to grow and maintain, able to withstand neglect and requiring little water or nutrients. It has attractive coloured leaves in various tones which form rosettes and is slow growing. The fleshy leaves have a waxy exterior which can leave marks on the skin if pressed too firmly. It prefers a bright, well-lit interior and should not be overwatered; the soil should be left completely dry. Never stand the plant in a saucer of water as this will cause its roots to rot. There are trailing varieties of Echeveria, which are ideal for the edge of your succulent centrepiece.
This gorgeous perennial, a semi-evergreen, grows in small clumps, no more than 10 cm, making it ideal for indoor planting. The dark green fleshy leaves have a pink and white edge, with bright yellow flowers making an appearance in late summer in star-shaped clusters. They are simple to grow, and don’t even need to be planted; they can just be laid on the soil, and their roots will reach out by themselves. They require very little care, other than occasional watering, but may need pruning as they can spread rapidly, and their weight may cause them to topple over.
Share Your Story
Do you have a centrepiece on your table? What is it composed of? Which succulents would you recommend for a centrepiece? Feel free to add any comments below.