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Living Artwork: How to Construct a Vertical Succulent Garden

A gardening DIY even the blackest of thumbs can handle.

Looking for a gardening project that’s almost impossible to kill? The frame-worthy vertical succulent garden is your friend.

With a little inspiration from Sunset Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens, we came up with this hopefully helpful how-to for Dallas DIY-ers.


Find Your Frame

If you’re not handy with a hammer and nails, the Home Depot nearest you likely stocks these pre-built succulent frames available for less than $20. If you’re crafty, you can construct a succulent frame from wood and wire mesh. Choose redwood or cedar for best results—you’ll need four equal lengths of lumber. Nail the corners together, staple wire mesh to one side of the frame (1/2 inch holes are best), then nail a square of exterior plywood to the open back. You can then leave the frame as is, or attach a picture frame (with backing and glass removed) to the front with wood glue for a more polished look. Find wood glue at Home Depot, Michael’s, or Jo-Ann.


Choose Your Soil

Cactus soil works best, as it wicks away moisture and provides an arid environment, and can be found at Home Depot. Pack the soil lightly into the mesh while the frame is laying plywood-side down on a flat surface. Shake the frame a bit to disperse the soil, and make sure it fills up to the wire mesh.


Pick Your Plants

Succulent frames grow best when you begin with “pups” (small buds or clippings from an already mature succulent). Don’t have any succulents on hand? Inquire whether your local nursery has clippings for sale, or order clippings from Succulent Gardens online and have them shipped to you. You can also purchase a few tabletop succulents locally at Ruibal’s and Redenta’s to display in pots around your home after collecting clippings. Select, pups with at least an inch of stem, and cut or break them off of the succulent. Remove lower leaves, then let the clippings dry for a day or two to allow these leaf nodes to callus, or heal.


Insert Your Clippings

Plant the pups by pushing their root into the soil; do not overcrowd them. It’s best to start with the biggest clipping, then fill in with smaller clippings. (If you want inspiration, head to DIRT, a trendy and tiny florist in Bishop Arts, which specializes in terrariums, succulent displays, and succulent bouquets.) You’ll need to let them take root, so leave your frame lying flat for a week or two before you begin lightly watering. Don’t hang the frame until the succulents have had at least a month to develop strong roots.


Hang Your Frame

You’ll need to select a location with mild sun— somewhere with morning or filtered light—and water it liberally every two weeks. When watering, stand the frame up to drain before re-hanging. Because each type of succulent has different needs, it’s best to consult the nursery where you purchased your succulents to get a second opinion on watering or fertilizing methods. If you experience issues with growth or rotting due to excess moisture, head to Nicholson-Hardie, where experts are happy to help.


Take a Class

The Dallas Arboretum hosts workshops multiple times a month. On June 18, you can take a hands-on class to build your own vertical garden with guidance. Sign up here for $110 (or $99 if you’re a member).


Feeling Lazy?

You can buy completed frames on Etsy, where you’ll find a variety of shapes and sizes, including circular or star-shaped frames.

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