Planting a succulent rock garden


Succulents and cacti

A spiky barrel cactus with tiny magenta flowers amidst other waterwise succulents.

Hardy, drought-tolerant succulents make a beautiful statement in a water-wise rock garden. These are perfect for little nooks in your home and garden or as table centrepieces. Follow this guide to make your own, indoors or out.


What you’ll need:

  • Succulent/cactus potting soil, or one part sand to 2 parts soil
  • Gravel
  • Pebbles
  • Various sized rocks
  • A selection of colour-coded succulents and cacti
  • Indoor planters, pots or any container (hollowed out log, box frame, widemouth decorative bowls) or a free patch of ground 

Creating an outdoor rock garden 

Step 1

Choose a sunny location and plot the space you want to fill. Dig out 30cm soil and lay down small pebbles or gravel in the pit – this will improve soil drainage. Fill in the hole with the dug up soil.

Step 2

Create a border with large rocks. Save some medium sized ones for the finishing touches after you’ve planted your succulents.

Step 3

Wearing gardening gloves, arrange succulents in their pots by colour or in a pattern in the prepared bed. Consider the colour of the foliage rather than flowers as they only bloom for short periods of time. Place bushier, taller plants near the top or centre of the plot. Once you’re happy, transplant the succulents into the soil. Don’t overpopulate the patch – keep two centimetres between plants to allow for growth.

Step 4

Spend time arranging remaining medium and small rocks in the patch. Place some under foliage to look like the plants have grown over them. Clump some together. If you have rocks in different shades, group into different spots of the garden that have similar toned succulents.

Step 5

Top with a layer of pebbles as mulch. Water after planting.


Creating an indoor rock garden

Create a changeable display by repotting multiple succulents into small natural-material containers. Then arrange on a tabletop with rocks and pebbles of varying sizes. Alternatively, plant a bunch of succulents in a large wide-mouth bowl.

Step 1

Place small pebbles or a five-centimetre layer of gravel in the bowl. Since there aren’t any drainage holes in the container, this will help prevent wet feet. Add a layer of soil.

Step 2

Remove the largest succulent from its packaging, loosen the roots and place in your desired spot. It doesn’t need to be the middle, but will be a focal point to build from. Repeat the process with remaining plants – cascading succulents work well near the edges and a lush crowded look is the goal. Experiment with distributing various colours around the bowl instead of concentrating it in one spot.

Step 3

Fill in with succulent and cactus potting soil. Wait a few days to a week before watering to give the succulents some time to adjust and establish.

Succulent and rock garden tips:

  • Group together plants with similar watering needs – plump with plump, thin-leaf with thin-leaf. Cacti are water-wise and can go months without watering.
  • Place indoor succulent gardens in areas with high exposure to natural light.
  • Water sparingly – if the soil is moist, let it dry completely before watering. Don’t allow water to gather in the centre of rosette succulents.
  • Succulents thrive in cracks, crevices and rockeries. You can choose an area in your garden that already has these features.

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