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Close Planting Succulent Arrangement

I dearly love a succulent arrangement close planted, lush and full. Do you? Or do you think it’s nuts because the plants will surely outgrow their arrangement too fast? (They won’t.) Do you think planting succulents close together will harm the plants? (It doesn’t.) Just how close can you plant succulents, anyway? (You’ll be amazed.) Or are you willing to try it, if only you knew how to plant so many succulents together in such a small space? Let’s take a look at all of these questions as I show you how to plant a succulent arrangement like this.

How Close Can You Plant Succulents?

As we discussed when I covered how to plant succulents for fast growth, these plants will maximize their use of all available resources. In this way, they’re like goldfish. Carassius auratus, the common goldfish, can live for years in a small bowl on your counter, reaching just a couple inches long. Yet in a large lake, these same fish are called carp and quickly grow up to 30 pounds! When given abundant space and soil (and light and moisture) succulents grow fast to fully make use of the available resources. When they are planted very close together, with several plants’ roots competing for soil, moisture and nutrients, the plants will naturally grow much more slowly, so as not to run out of resources. They are exceptionally well adapted to growing in very harsh conditions. Close planting simply works with succulents’ natural abilities to thrive in very close planting quarters.

You have likely heard that “succulents love having their roots crowded”. I would say instead, that succulents will thrive even with crowded roots. This is very different from “normal” garden plants that would quickly overgrow or die in similar conditions. Certainly, I find it easier to care for succulents when they are planted close together. You run less risk of overwatering your succulents when there is no empty soil to hold excess water.

Close planted succulent arrangements and containers last far longer than most people think because the succulents slow their rate of growth. You should expect to grow your planter for well over a year without trouble.

Succulents and Planter

succulent planter with soil, several succulents and drywall mesh tape to cover drainage holes

When you’re close planting succulents for an arrangement, you will need some supplies. Start with a planter that has great drainage. If it doesn’t, you can drill your own drainage! You need fast-draining succulent soil and plenty of succulents. Think I have too many here? I add to it!

Use any type of succulents you like together. The key consideration is that all the succulents will thrive in the same light exposure. I used Echeveria Captain Hay – I love the red leaf margins! I also used Portulacaria afra variegata for height and great color. The stacked Crassula perforata, ‘Ivory Towers’ adds a whimsical element with its odd, angular structure, and it also has red margins. I then added Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’, and Crassula platyphylla (not shown here), both with wonderful stress coloring that will deepen in warmer temps and more light.

This post is not about succulent design – it’s about how to close plant succulents. Choose any style container you like!

when planting a succulent planter, you need good drainage

I love this planter that my husband, Jerry made me. He added slices of a log with the bark on to the outside of a hexagon planter he built. So it looks wonderfully organic, but has plenty of room for planting. He drilled holes for drainage – and Hitchcock approves. So we’re all set to get started.

Prepare Drainage Holes in Planter

planting succulent planter with drainage, cover the drain holse with drywall mesh to keep soil in

I like to use drywall mesh tape to cover drainage holes. It keeps the soil in and let’s the water flow out. It is tacky on the back, so it stays nicely in place. And a single role lasts for hundreds of pots. You can also use screen or shards of pottery. Just be sure you don’t slow the rate of drainage as you block soil from falling out, and you’re good!

Fill your planter part way with soil, with extra standing by. I always use a fast draining succulent soil, to which I add pumice for even better drainage. And I always add worm-castings to both feed my succulents and to ward off pests.

Remove Excess Soil from Rootballs

planting succulents close together, remove excess soil from roots

When close planting succulents, knock away most of the excess soil from the roots. You’ll be planting too close to maintain the shape of the pot. Without the excess soil, you’ll tuck the roots into a spot far smaller than the pot the succulent grew in. Firm up the soil around the roots to keep the plant in place.

Because this is a round planter that I want to look good from all sides, I planted my tallest succulent, the Portulacaria, in the center. I planted the echeveria at an angle to slightly hang over the edge of the planter. I like a natural look, so I avoid obvious symmetry, and I like a somewhat wild-look to my succulent arrangements. Follow your own aesthetic.

Arrange Planter from All Sides

partially planted succulent arrangement

As you plant your succulent arrangement, continue to turn the planter. View it from all sides, so the final arrangement is full, balanced and attractive all the way around.

Divide larger succulents as you plant. I only used part of the Portulacaria, and I separated individual parts of the Crassula and the Sedum to tuck them in among the other succulents.

Fill in spaces between and around and over the roots with additional succulent soil. Firm it into place.

Add Moss for Finishing Touch

add moss to finished succulent arrangement

I promise you, there is room for even more succulents! That may be my personal motto! 🙂 But this seems like a good place to stop. To cover the bare soil, I added just a whisper of natural sphagnum moss in a few spots. Soak the moss in water to make it pliable. Squeeze out excess water, and tuck small bits in among the plants.

Close Planting Succulent Arrangements

completed succulent arrangement with succulents planted close together

I deliberately did not choose any aeonium or graptopetalum for this arrangement. You can certainly close plant these succulents. But I will keep this succulent arrangement so I can photograph it many months from now, and again in a year to post the images here and show you how well it does. Both aeonium and graptopetalum grow long stems with the rosettes at the end of the stems. They would be more likely to outgrow this arrangement.

Here, I expect the Sedum rubrotinctum to eventually spill over the side of the planter. It is a lovely trailing variety. The Crassula perforata will grow taller. I suspect the Portulacaria will branch a bit more and grow taller. The Echeveria and Crassula platyphylla will grow a bit larger around. Overall, it will fill in a bit, and I might want to prune the tall growers a bit, but it should thrive for well over a year!

completed succulent arrangement with succulents planted close together, rear view

Be sure your succulent arrangement is full and attractive from all angles.

completed succulent arrangement with succulents planted close together, side view

In time, the Sedum will spill over and the sides of this planter will be better hidden. I should have added another sprig of Portulacaria. I could have added a bit more moss…

completed succulent arrangement with succulents planted close together over head view

This has the equivalent of six 4-inch potted plants close planted in this succulent arrangement. The opening of the planter measures 5.5″ at its widest point, corner to corner. 5″ from side to side. Not only will these plants grow like this they will thrive!

Caring for Close Planted Succulent Arrangement

squeeze water bottle for watering completed succulent arrangement with succulents planted close together

I won’t water this close planted succulent arrangement for a few days. That will give any broken or bruised roots a chance to heal, first.

This humble squeeze bottle is possibly my most indispensable succulent tool! The long neck and slender nozzle allow me to get the water right where I need it in a crowded planter like this. Take care to water at the soil line, so water doesn’t collect in the crowns of your plants. As always, water thoroughly, but only when the soil is dry.

Remember, the most important part of succulent selection for a planter is that all the plants share similar sun exposure. While you will wait to water, go ahead and return this planter to the same lighting that had the individual plants happy and healthy. In time, this arrangement will develop much more stress coloring as it gets more sun and summer temps warm.

There you have it! I have been promising to write this post for a while. I hope you found it helpful! Please feel free to ask any questions – that’s why we’re learning together! Please leave a comment and I will get right back to you!

Because life is just better with succulents!

P.S. – Please subscribe for more succulent DIYs and care! I’ll send you my FREE e-course 7 Steps to Succulent Success! – Thanks so much!

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how to plant succulents for full look right away

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Joy Brady

    I just started my succulent adventure. I cant find a chart naming the plants. What kind of sun they need and their names. What size they will be. I bought cuttings. Don’t Know if I can grow them. I love the way they look. I use to garden out side. I can no longer because of health. Love reading your Blog

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Joy,
      Welcome to the wild world of succulent love! 🙂
      I am delighted you are enjoying the blog – let’s see if I can help you with your current questions.

      This is a blog post I did on how to identify succulents, and it includes a succulent chart with pictures. Let’s start there. Also, if you can send me photographs – I’ll be happy to take a look for you. Please email me at Kat [at]
      Once you know what the varieties are, you’ll be able to learn their specific needs.

      I would be so surprised if you have such rare or finicky varieties that you won’t be able to root and grow them. Please send me photos – I will be happy to work with you growing them! 🙂

    2. Betty Cambra

      Hello Kat, new to succulents, fell in love. I have a question about propagating a succulent someone threw out this beauty but not sure if I can propagate the leaves, I just don’t see where I can attach a photo?? Thanks so much

      1. Kat McCarthy

        Hi Betty,
        Please send me a photo via email to Kat (at) I’ll be happy to take a look.
        We’ll figure it out together! 🙂

  2. Joan

    Hi Kat. Enjoyed this article. I’m growing succulents indoors in a large shallow bowl that has no drainage holes. I just love this bowl and not able to drill holes. I put a layer of pebbles in the bottom before adding soil and plants. Hope I can succeed . Also are there any succulents that don’t do well together.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Joan,
      Please don’t add the pebbles at the bottom. It is very od, but this does not work the way you think it does. It actually will make the water issue worse.
      Your best bet will be to pre-measure your water and add it very sparingly. This can work! But it is a bit tricky. Can you send me a photo? I could give some advice on the amount of water to provide.
      Make sure the succulents you choose share the same lighting needs. And in this case, don’t mix in cactus – without drainage, it would just be too complicated.
      You can make this work! I advise withholding water until you see some signs of wrinkling leaves, then water the pre-measured amount.
      Please let me know if this wasn’t clear, or you have any other questions!

  3. Gail

    Hi Kat,
    Thanks for all your articles. I enjoy reading them very much. I started collecting succulents last year and am super pleased to say that most of them (one or two casualties) have survived our Winter here in the UK and there’s lots of flowering going on! I’ve patiently propagated lots of babies too. Thanks for all your succie wisdom 🙂

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Gail,
      That’s awesome! So glad to hearing you are enjoying so much success!
      Thanks so much for your comment – you made my day!

  4. Barbara Hultman

    Any chance your husband sells that planter? It’s absolutely beautiful!

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Barbara,
      Thank you! He does make some planters for sale, but this one is a one-of-a-kind (so far!). =)

  5. Valarie Dellrocco

    When your planting this close together to all the succulents need to have roots or can they be cuttings. I have cuttings that are calloused over but not very big root ball and some don’t have any roots yet.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Valerie,
      Technically, you can “plant” succulent cuttings!
      Just be prepared for the possibility that some cuttings may not take. This is more likely when you need to water some rooted plants but also have some cuttings. However, many will root and take. And it’s a great way to get a really full look fast!

  6. Katrina

    Love your articles, they are super informative. I have learnt so much in the short space of time that I discovered them, just thought I’d state this before asking a question ?.
    I was wondering what suggestions you’d have for plants that would work well with aeoniums. I really want to create a close planter using them.

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Hi Katrina,
      Thanks so much! 🙂
      The only concern I would see to arranging with aeonium is the summertime, when they go dormant. If you want to select other varieties that also go dormant, I would choose Sempervivum. The two look great together and both appreciate a shady, dry summer. You’ll find a list of summer/winter dormant succulents here.
      Have fun with this!

  7. Katrina

    Thank you so much ? been wanting to create a nice, mixed succulent display but always been to worried to try. Definitely going to attempt in now ?

    1. Kat McCarthy

      Awesome, Katrina! 🙂
      You just made my whole month!
      Did you know that I recently started a Facebook group for succulent-lovers? We would love to have you join us and share your new arrangement! And if you get stuck for ideas – just ask!

  8. Alice Carroll

    Thanks for the reminder that being pretty from all angles is the goal that any plant arrangement should have. I’m interested in looking for succulent arrangements that will make for a nice centerpiece for the coffee table. I think that taking care of succulents would be a lot easier to do than houseplants, especially when I have to be out of town for a while.

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