Having a bunch of succulents on hand from various projects, I wanted to create something special for Valentine’s Day. Rooting succulents is easy and I wanted to make the rooting process attractive as well as productive.
Succulent cuttings simply involves cutting a 3″ terminal branch and removing the lower leaves. Leave them out for a few days to form a ‘callus’, a hard, dry, crust at the stem cut. This will prevent the cuttings from rotting which can easily happen with succulents.
All these rooted cuttings will be made part of my spring containers.
I thought I would use hypertufa which is a lightweight stone-like material made from Portland cement, peat moss, and perlite. Read my post on a Hypertufa Party. But in the middle of winter, I didn’t want to get into a messy outdoor project so turned instead to Shapecrete. An easy to use clay-like material that you mix with water, I picked up a tub at Home Depot. Simply mix with water, and shape into your preferred shape, and it hardens like concrete. Watch this video on how to use it. Another product that I use for lots of craft projects is Wonderflex, a plastic-like composite material used in theater, puppetry, and costume making. Easy to cut and shape, I use it for lots of things.
DIY Succulent Hearts
Shape strips of plastic called Wonderflex (available on-line)into a heart shape and fasten with a clip on a cardboard covered table. Attach the Wonderflex to the cardboard with duct tape all around the inside of the heart.
Mix up your shapecrete according to the directions on the tub and smear into the heart forming a lip around the perimeter about 1/2 inch high. Poke some drainage holes with a dowel in the bottom.
Moisten some sphagnum moss and place in the bottom, inserting the succulent cuttings. Keep the cuttings moist, misting them every day and they will root in a couple of months.
I made three different sizes of hearts, ranging from 5″ wide up to 10″ wide. for a trio of hearts. Any shape will work though…..
Who says you have to decorate with holly, mistletoe and pine? When I spotted succulent Christmas trees made up at a local nursery last Christmas for hundreds of dollars, I was inspired to create my own for Christmas. Succulents are so versatile that I use them in many decorating ways. Air plants are right up there in popularity and ease of growing.
Other succulent ideas for a cool gift to a plant loving friend is a tiny garden chock full of succulents and Christmas miniatures. Read to the bottom of this post for ideas on whipping these together. For Thanksgiving Succulent decorating ideas, go to A Succulent Thanksgiving or Succulent Pumpkin Centerpiece.
Branch out and explore the many textures and colors of succulents. To paraphrase the great Will Rogers: I never met a succulent that I didn’t like! I enjoy the sculptural colorful quality of succulents so much that I continue to find ways to use them around the house and garden.
DIY Christmas Tree
Taking months to fill in, I wanted to make sure that my tree was fully grown in for the holidays, so I started the tree in the early spring. Tiny succulents in two to three inch pots are available in big box stores for a good price and if you have any existing containers of succulents, you can trim the tips off for cuttings. But don’t despair! If you are making your tree now, simply use more cuttings to fill the surface in fuller.
Aim for a variety of colors and textures when you select your succulent to make the tree attractive and interesting. There are so many varieties of succulents that this isn’t hard to do. Containers are dotted around my property in the fall and I can’t bring them all in, so I take cuttings of them to root into my tree form.
Echeverias are my go-to for tree selections and they form a nice large rosette. One called ‘Red Velvet’ is sold extensively during Christmas because of the garnet colored fuzzy markings.
Step By Step for a Succulent Tree
Cut off a piece of chicken wire about 18 inches in length. This length depends on the size of the tree that you want to end up with. Mine ended up at 15 inches tall and 10 inches wide at the base.
Form the chicken wire into a cone and fasten together by bending the ends in.
Saturate sphagnum moss in water and stuff the form with the moss firmly; Be sure to pack the moss so that you have a firm base to work with
If taking cuttings, I cut the growing tip off, measuring between 2 to 5 inches in length, and strip off the lower leaves and let the cuttings sit out at room temperature for a day or two to form a callous.
If you are using small potted plants, remove the plant from the pot, shake off most of the soil from around the roots and you are ready to insert this into the moss form
Using a pencil or sharp pointed stick, insert the point into the sphagnum moss and wiggle the end to make the hole larger enough to receive the cutting or plant
Insert the cutting as far as you can; If the cutting is loose, you can use wire fern pins to hold it steady
Place the full moss cone into a pot of soil and fasten the edges to the soil with fern pins
For the first couple of days, keep the cone in the shade, gradually moving out to the sun, when the cuttings start to root which can take only a week or two
To water, submerse the cone into a bucket of water for a few minutes until thoroughly saturated, about once a week; alternatively, you can thoroughly mist the entire tree
As the plants grow, you will need to cut off the tips, and use these cuttings to fill in holes
My succulent tree kept growing all summer long and periodically, I would cut off a tip that was getting really long and fill in a bare spot so that by the end of the growing season, my tree was completely filled in.
If you want to see how to make other succulent creations, such as a wreath, a sphere, and a tiny garden, go to Succulent Creations to see step by step of making other shapes. For decorating pumpkins with succulents for the holidays, go to Pumpkin Treats to see how creative you can get with succulents.
Finally for Christmas, I placed the pot into a decorative container and decorated with some Christmas balls. As a finishing touch, I stuck some air plants for in for a feathery texture. Insert them in between the spaces of the succulents.
To keep the tree alive over the winter, I will place it in a sunny window and water sparingly because succulents can rot easily when they slow growth in the winter. When spring comes, I can increase the watering so that they begin to grow again.
Requiring little care, succulents do well in small containers and pots. Lacking a large root ball, you can pot them up in very shallow containers. Succulents do need sun, so place your mini garden on a sunny windowsill. You can change out the Christmas decorations when the holidays are over for a spring time one in February.