Low-maintenance and water wise, these striking planting combos will inspire you to make succulents the star of your mixed containers
*Attention eco-savvy gardeners, all indigenous plants are marked with an asterisk.
Succulents are brilliant when it comes to container gardening. They not only tick the low-maintenance and water-wise boxes, but as many varieties can be quickly and easily grown from slips, they’re a really affordable option.
As they’re trouble-free to transplant, you can reposition them or add more to a mixed planting whenever the mood strikes, making it simple to give your containers a fresh look. You can even keep some of them in their plastic pots and drop them in to provide seasonal colour.
For an eye-catching, contemporary combo, follow our lead and add some fuss-free ornamental grasses and foliage plants to the mix. Include plants that will cascade attractively over the sides of the container, and if you plan on positioning your pot in a hot spot, don’t forget that there are some wonderful succulents whose leaves take on reddish tones when they’re water-stressed or grown in the sun.
Good drainage is vital for succulents to grow successfully in containers so always place a generous layer of gravel chips in the base and use a good soil with a high proportion of river sand rather than a bark-based potting soil. Although it’s the nature of succulents to survive with an irregular and minimal water supply and little food, they will reward you if watered and fed regularly.
Container idea 1:
Mother-in-law’s tongue, Sansevieria spp.*, is the anchor plant of this leafy collection; when it spread, we let it be as we loved the structure of its smooth, upright, sword-shaped leaves, their soft, grey-green colour and the way the other plants found their way between them. These include a yellow-green spekboom, Portulacaria afra*, a pale, lemon-yellow flowered vygie, delosperma*, and a pelargonium with marbled leaves (you could use one of the ivy-leaved varieties instead). The leaves of the rosette-like succulent pick up the colour of the painted cement container; the clusters in the centre form a focal point, while those at the right end act as a full stop. A variegated carex grass is the finishing touch.
Container idea 2:
With its burnished palette of coppery and red plants, this container has a fairly balanced composition. At the centre is a carex grass with a stunning cascade of orange-copper tinged leaves, which we underplanted with a cluster of star-like, dark-plum echeveria to catch the eye.
A grey, low-growing grass, Carex ‘China Blue’, acts like a groundcover and provides an interesting colour contrast. Easy-to-grow, bronze-tipped Aeonium arboreum adds height at the back, while chains of delicate sedums, crassulas and a bold Kalenchoe thyrsiflora with grey, red-edged leaves cascades over the edges. To liven the planting up, we brought in touches of yellow with Sedum nussbaumerianum, flowering kalenchoes, and on the right, golden Crassula ovata*, the jade plant.
Container idea 3:
Shades of grey, dusky pink and deep maroon were the colour choices for this container filled with indigenous and exotic succulent plants. These include an unusual, low-growing grey grass, Carex ‘China Blue’, and Trifolium repens, a spreading clover which comes and goes depending on moisture levels. The jade plant, Crassula ovata*, adds height; its colour is echoed in the variegated leaves of spekboom, Portulacaria afra*. The grey hue of Senecio ficoides* (in the foreground), and mother-in-law’s tongue* is picked up in the colour of the other succulents, several of which are flushed with a blush of pink which has both a softening and warming effect on the whole display.