June is hot and so are succulents —the trend that is. I live near several locally owned garden shops in Birmingham, so I stepped out yesterday to check out their selection. Whatever your budget, here’s how you can bring the succulent trend home.
1. Make a statement with an artful container designed by an expert
At Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery at Pepper Place, you’ll find rustic pots brimming with succulents and accented with sparkling glass and chunks of stone. The containers are created and designed by a supplier out of Heflin, Alabama, who also grows the succulents.
The large pots start at $60 and the price goes up from there, depending on size and components. While this is the most expensive option, honestly, it’s not a bad deal for a living, long-lasting work of art.
2. DIY light: Put together your own succulent container
All the local garden shops I visited in Birmingham offered a nice range of succulents, starting at about $4-6. Find a trio that you like together, and pot your own for less than $20. It’s a bit like choosing and arranging tiny sculptures.
For the soil, Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery recommends regular, high-quality potting soil. Make sure the package doesn’t have the words “moisture retention.” For succulents, you want the water to drain fast.
Feast your eyes on this bountiful table a succulent selections starting at $4 at Shoppe in Forest Park. I also love how this shop uses the natural hillside to its advantage. Cookie cutter, this place is not. Go and you will see!
With so many locally owned garden shops in close proximity in Birmingham, visit a few to pick out your succulents. It doesn’t take much extra time, and the end result will be worth it. Their selections are all a little different. Plus, the staffs are super knowledgeable, and the more people you talk to, the more you’ll learn.
I love the cute mini succulents available at Oak Street Garden Shop in Crestline Village. You’ll also find a great selection of larger succulents there, as well as a wealth of useful information about planting and care on the shop’s blog.
3. DIY heavy: Propagate your own succulents. Scout your containers at thrift stores and estate sales.
If you’re willing to put in the time and care, you can create a succulent masterpiece of your own on a very small budget.
As a novice gardener, I’ve had a fair amount of luck propagating succulents by rooting cuttings or by dividing plants (carefully taking a section of the plant with the roots).
To create this mini succulent garden for the guest room, I used all cuttings or divided plants from a friend’s bountiful containers. The shell planter is a ’70s vintage Fitz & Floyd piece that I found for $4 at an estate sale in Mountain Brook.
Since the planter has no drainage hole, I placed some rocks below the dirt. I pre-measure the water to avoid overwatering. Almost a year later, this planter still thrives.
While I do my share of cutting and dividing, beware the Pinterest hype about single-leaf succulent propagation. The process is slow, and you will understand afterward why a few bucks for a succulent is a sweet deal. (And you’ll support a local Birmingham business to boot.)
The how-to instructions you find online to grow new succulents from a single leaf usually go something like this: Gently wiggle a leaf till it snaps off the stem; set the leaf aside until a callus forms at the base. Then set the leaf on top of soil, and keep it moist. Eventually, root hairs and a new plant will grow from the leaf.
Single-leaf propagation works a fair amount of the time, but you have to have a lot of patience. I began the process last fall, and today I have plants the size of a fingertip. I tuck baby succulents into pots alongside larger ones—perhaps one day they’ll become show stoppers in their own right.
Remember those $3.95 mini succulents I found at Oak Street Garden Shop? I bought one, and it’s destined to become a thank-you gift for a friend. Here’s what I did to make it special on a budget.
Project: Mini Succulent Sampler in Vintage Metal Box
- Vintage metal box, purchased for 49 cents at a Jimmy Hale Mission thrift shop in Birmingham
- High-quality potting soil (do not use “moisture retention” variety)
- Rocks, found in yard
- Various succulents (see notes)
- Smooth pebbles, repurposed from other garden projects
- Found objects: chunks of quartz and small vintage tiles (found in my yard), seashells
- Pretty notecard
- Place rocks in bottom of box to help with drainage.
- Fill with soil.
- Gently pull apart roots of potted plants.
- Arrange and tuck plants into soil.
- Top soil with smooth pebbles.
- Decorate with found objects. (Have fun with it!)
- Write a note to gift recipient and tuck into box lid. Voila!
- The star of this planter is a $3.95 mini succulent (back right). Bonus: the plant came with a tall flower shoot, which adds height to the arrangement.
- I tucked in baby succulents, which I propagated from leaves (center, and front right).
- In the back left, I placed two small succulents propagated from cuttings. Though they’re small, they add variety and texture.
- The plant spilling over the front left corner is Peperomia prostrata. I bought a tiny pot for $5.95 and divided it among three different planters (what a deal!)
Looking for more garden fun in Birmingham? Check this out.