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You Can Grow It: Making a succulent and cactus garden

As Jim Duthie shows us, these container gardens are really easy to create and they make a great gift.

BOISE, Idaho — Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a gardener, here’s something that anybody can successfully make and grow.

Garden master Jim Duthie shows us how to put together an indoor cactus and succulent garden.  

I’m at 36th Street Garden Center in Boise with Emily Anglin, the general manager, and we’re going to talk cactus and succulent container gardens. These are very popular these days, very trendy, and something that’s really easy for most people to do, isn’t it?”

“It is. It’s one of the easiest things to plant and grow and keep alive,” replied Anglin.

Succulents are fleshy plants that store water in their tissues, so they can thrive in dry conditions for long periods of time. there are many varieties of succulents, including all of the cactus plants.

A small container garden like this will require very little water and hardly any maintenance.

“You can see there’s a lot of ways you can get creative, like this one, to me, this looks like a sea creature, and so we kind of made a sea theme in here. And so you can do really anything…“

You basically choose your container, pick out your plants, and start planting.

“I chose just a variety of plants. We have a barrel cactus, and then this is a…. it’s in the succulent family, it’s an Echeveria and then this is a hobbit jade.”

Since this container doesn’t have drainage holes, Emily’s making a french drain by putting a shallow layer of pebbles and gravel in the bottom of the container. That will allow excess water to drain away from the roots. Then the plants can draw up moisture as they need it.

A little sprinkling of horticultural charcoal over the drainage layer will help cleanse and purify the water in the bottom of the container.

Next we add the planting soil. but this isn’t your typical potting mix.

“No, you’ll use a cactus and succulent soil which is a little bit sandier.”

Regular potting soil contains a lot of humus, but this cactus and succulent soil is drier and grittier, with lots of small pebbles and sand.

“So I’m just going to fill in over our rocks and our charcoal that we put in.”

And then you’re ready to start planting, starting with the barrel cactus.

It’s a good idea to use some leather gloves so you don’t get poked with the cactus thorns.

“So the first thing I’ll do is take the cactus out of its growing pot.”

You can gently wake up the roots by making a few cuts to encourage more vigorous growth. Then saturate the soil by spraying it with water. Once it’s planted, it only needs to be watered every week or two.

Dig a small hole deep enough to cover the root ball, and nestle the soil up around it.

“Next one we’ll do is our Echeveria.”

“And then just nestle this in.”

“So now we’ll pull apart our jade plant.”

This jade plant actually consists of several smaller plants that Emily can separate and then use to fill in around the container.

“Eventually, they’re going to grow together and fill out.”

Once you have the plants where you want them, gently tamp the soil down around them.

“And then this next part is my favorite part of the whole thing. It’s the icing.”

For finishing touches, we’re adding some small rocks and decorative white gravel to completely cover the planting soil. And you can add anything else your imagination comes up with.

“Fairy gardens are still really big, so if you have little fairies that you want to put in there.”

“You can really make it interesting and fun.”

“There you have it. A very beautiful succulent and cactus container.”

It is easy to make, easy to care for, and you can find everything you need at any garden center in town.

Cactus and other succulents grow well indoors, as long as they get a few hours of bright light each day. They require only a little water once every week or two, and they can live for many years. The 36th Street Garden Center has a terrarium bar where you can make your own gardens, but you’ll find succulent plants and planting supplies at any garden center near you.