Wall Planters that Pop with Succulent Sophistication
When it comes to the cactus family, succulents are often considered a fan-favorite. These drought resistant plants come in a variety of architectural structures, one more elaborate than the next. Perfect for California weather all year round, these desert flowers offer sophisticated beauty to any garden or indoor planter. So, recently when a client asked me to bring some life and personality into the foyer of his office, I knew exactly what would do the trick.
Who doesn’t love those interior spaces featured in the pages of Elle Decor boasting gigantic glazed pots with ornate patterns holding leafy Fig or Citrus trees? I love those images so much I pin them to my Pinterest boards for design inspiration on a daily basis. Nice work if you can get it, but for the majority of us living with limited floor space (or space in general), we have to seek alternatives that realistically make incorporating live plants in our design scheme a possibility. Planters that can be mounted on the wall are a great solution to this predicament. Below I will take you through the multi-step process and offer some useful tips I learned along the way from consulting with a botanist I happened to come across in the nursery at Orchard Supply Hardware.
Selecting the Mountable Wall Planters
There are numerous places to find Mountable Wall Planters from Home Goods to Williams Sonoma. It’s really about choosing a planter that works functionally in your space and is appropriate for your overall design aesthetic. I think it’s also important to choose a wall planter that best showcases the succulents themselves—something that will allow a pop of greenery in all its varying shades to stand out and be the accent in the room that you want it to be. For this particular job I found some beautiful white ceramic planters from West Elm designed by Shane Powers. These contemporary oval-shaped pots come in three different sizes and attach to the wall with ease. All you need is an anchor, a nail and a drill.
Tip number one: stay away from glass planters. Glass has a tendency to trap moisture, which creates unfavorable conditions for succulents. So terrariums and encased receptacles should be avoided.
Buying Your Succulents
Whether you go to a local independent nursery like my favorite Rolling Greens, or you go to a chain store like Home Depot or Orchard Supply Hardware, there will be a great variety of succulents in disposable starter pots for you to pick and choose from. I recommend selecting some plants that are meant to cascade off the sides of your planter to frame the plants that look like spiraling flowers or green shoots. Succulents have an array of textures, patterns and colors so use your artistic sensibilities to mix and match plants that compliment each other. For example, I love the succulents that resemble my favorite flower Ranunculus with red coloring on the edge of each leaf. I paired that with another succulent whose primary color is similar to the red found on the edge of the first plant. Adding a third bright green succulent created a striking contrast. Together in the same planter the colors and textures are well balanced and help to enhance each of the plants individual attributes.
Soil...Or Lack There Of
Once you’ve chosen the ideal wall planter and your favorite succulents, it’s time to begin the assembly process. Larger pots have holes at the bottom that allow for drainage. Many of these indoor wall planters don’t have them. You could take your pots to the hardware store and have them drill a tiny hole or two in the bottom risking the breaking of your pots, or you could create optimal soil conditions for plant growth without the hassle.
In a large bowl or tub, mixed equal parts cactus mix, charcoal, and medium sized river stones together. Because the charcoal acts like soil and lifts the water up to the roots, while the river stones allow for water to flow with ease throughout the mixture, the little bit of soil encasing the roots from the disposable starter pots will be a sufficient amount. Every planter is different, but in my case, I filled the pot 2/3’s of the way and then created pockets for the succulents to sit where I wanted them to be positioned. I broke up the soil around the tangled roots, freeing them to bind with the mixture. Then I packed more of the mixture around the plant along with more rocks on top to secure it into place. The rocks on the top allow for the right amount of moisture to be kept in the plant when it’s time to water it and allow for the right amount of air to circulate in the mixture so the soil can remain dry—something succulents really like.
Now the fun can really begin because you’ve reached the stage of filling your planters with the succulents you’ve chosen to group together! This is where your artistic genius meets your green thumb and the creative juices can freely flow!
Once you’ve assembled your planters, packed the mixture of soil around each plant so that they are secure and no roots are showing, it’s time to place them on the wall. Here’s where the anchor, the nail and the drill come in handy. When you’re at the hardware store you’re going to want to get an anchor that can firmly hold the weight of your planter. Depending on the sturdiness of your walls (whether you’re drilling into dry wall or a stud behind that dry wall) you’ll want to factor all of that into the amount of succulents you put in each planter. These bigger pots can get heavy, so just be careful in your weight calculations.
Succulents are cacti so they like warm temperatures and need lots of sunlight. It can be tricky growing them indoors but extremely doable. Make sure the plants get at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight per day. So as much as they may look really cute in that dark corner between the bookcase and the TV, they’ll only last for a couple of weeks in that location. You can put them near a window but only if the sun exposure doesn’t cast light directly on the plants because then they will get sunburned and shrivel up and die.
Succulents contain their own water-storing system located in their stems and leaves, so the key is not to over water them. They don’t like to sit in wet soil. They like to soak up the water and dry out. Watering once a week is a perfect amount especially for such a small grouping in a wall planter. There is no need to pour water into the soil. Using a spray bottle to thoroughly wet the leaves and stems, allowing for the excess to drain into the soil should be all the water the plant needs. Keep your eye on it. Rules are made to be broken if your particular living, breathing plants aren’t acting in accordance. You may find that giving a healthy water-pour once a week or even once a month yields better results but I caution you to go easy with this approach. Succulents do go through a dormant period (Winter) where they don’t need as much water and will stop growing. Don’t panic, be patient and follow the protocol and by Spring you should see your plants revive. Too much moisture will also attract bugs, so again, it’s very important not to over water these plants.
The water: In a spray bottle combine 1 tablespoon of plant food (Miracle Grow works just fine) in the crystal form and 1 to 2 cups of warm water. The use of warm water is key because the temperature is what allows the crystals to activate and dissolve. Shake it up and leave it for about five minutes. After that, you can spray the leaves and stems of the succulents and give a good squirt to the top of the soil until the planter is soaked. Once a week, and that’s it! Otherwise, leave them be, watch them grow, and enjoy!