Plant a Succulent Container Garden

Succulent Centrepiece

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.

Succulent Centrepiece

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.

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.

Succulent Centrepiece


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.

Succulent Centrepiece

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.

Succulent Centrepiece

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.

Succulent Centrepiece


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.

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.

Succulent Centrepiece

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.

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Good Plants for an Office

For those who work in grey, lifeless offices filled with the hum of different technology and overhead strip lighting, it will come as no surprise to learn that these environments are dangerous for human health. However, by just introducing a few common house plants, it is possible to improve the air quality and create a more refreshing and relaxing work environment.

Greener Office Space

Everyday Pollutants

As long ago as 1989, NASA conducted a study on house plants to ascertain which species most effectively filtered and purified indoor air. The average urban office is likely to have high levels of pollutants in the atmosphere; either the windows cannot be opened, trapping all the emissions from the various machines within the office, or, if the windows can be opened, indoor pollutants are exchanged for external ones, such as vehicle exhaust fumes.

The worst offenders as regards pollutants in the air are trichloroethylene, xylene, formaldehyde, ammonia and benzene, which can variously cause symptoms from a relatively innocuous irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, to the more severe nausea, dizziness and fainting with prolonged and massive exposure. These may sound like dangerous industrial chemicals, but they are found in everyday items, including some cleaning agents, printing inks, paint, exhaust fumes and even paper towels and tissues.

What to Plant

A few well-placed plants on a desk and around the office can go a long way towards creating improved air quality, as well as giving everyone some greenery on which to rest their eyes. The best plants to choose are as follows.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)

This is an evergreen plant, native to the tropical rainforests and swamps of southeastern Asia. It has waxy green leaves, and may occasionally produce a white or yellow flower, followed by orange or red berries. It prefers a shady spot, as direct sunlight can scorch its leaves.

Greener Office Space

Tail Flower (Anthurium andraeanum)

This is an evergreen perennial, with large, simple leaves and a distinctive bright red and yellow spiked flower. It originates from South America, particularly Colombia and Ecuador, and prefers a constant temperature and high humidity. It should be watered regularly, with the use of a liquid fertiliser.

Greener Office Space

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

This indoor palm easily adapts to any environment and is native to Mexico and Central America. It grows very slowly and has delicate, lacy leaves, which should be trimmed off if they die. They prefer bright light and humid air, which can be sustained by standing their pots on a bed of pebbles.

Greener Office Space

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

This is a favourite plant for novice gardeners, as it is easy to grow, maintain and is virtually indestructible. There are nearly 200 different varieties, and they are often used as a part of a display in hanging baskets. They need very little light, and consistent temperature, and will tolerate any type of soil.

Greener Office Space

Pot Mum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum)

Ideal for containers, this is the most versatile of the species and is available in many colours, including white, red, orange and purple. They are easy to grow using rooted cuttings and require daily watering in warm conditions. They typically bloom in late summer or autumn but can be forced to flower all year round.

Greener Office Space

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)

This is easy to care for, an indoor plant, which can survive in lower light conditions, as direct sunlight will burn its leaves. Overwatering is the main reason this plant dies, as it causes the roots to rot; once every three weeks is enough. Originally from Hawaii, they prefer high temperatures and average humidity.

Greener Office Space

Benjamin Tree (Ficus benjamina)

Also known as the Java Fig, this plant can be evergreen or deciduous and has simple, leathery leaves. It has tiny flowers, quickly followed by reddish fruit which turns black. It originates in South Asia and is easy to care for, rarely suffering from any diseases. Be aware, that the leaves can cause an allergic reaction.

Greener Office Space

Barberton Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

This pretty pot plant is related to the familiar yellow and white daisies, but is a striking red colour, and much more prominent. Its name dates back to 1889, after the German botanist Traugott Gerber. It is one of the more challenging plants to grow indoors, as although it requires sun, it doesn’t like heat.

Greener Office Space

Common Ivy (Hedera helix)

This is an evergreen climbing plant, which has green-yellow flowers, soon followed by black berries. It originates in both Europe and Asia and can become somewhat invasive if left unattended. Its ideal for planting around the edge of containers, allowing its leaves to spill over, but be aware its sap can be irritating to the skin.

Greener Office Space

Lily Turf (Liriope)

This is an evergreen perennial, with densely packed spikes of purple flowers, followed by black berries. It originates from China, Japan and Taiwan, and can survive in most conditions, easily coping with drought. It can swamp other plants, so needs to be taken care of by pruning if necessary.

Greener Office Space

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

This particular fern enjoys a warm atmosphere and is easy to care for. It has graceful fronds, ideal for drooping naturally over the edge of a container. It doesn’t like draughts and is renowned for being able to soak up vast amounts of water, therefore increasing the humidity of the air around it.

Greener Office Space

Plants for the Office

All of these plants are sold commonly in garden centres, and all will filter at least one, if not several, of the pollutants from the air listed earlier. For desks with only space for one plant, choose Sansevieria or Spathiphyllum, as they are the ones that will filter all five of the worst toxins. Larger plants can also be useful for dividing up space in an office and can be a pleasant distraction in a relaxation area, taking away the stress of work. Which plants do you have in your office?

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