Sunday Garden Chat: Succulent Gardening, Pt. I

First of two updates from MaryG and Higgs Boson’s Mate in Southern California:

It was a busy, busy autumn and winter for gardening here. I have always wanted a vertical succulent wall, but never thought I could have one. While Higgs Boson’s Mate was cleaning out my garage last summer, he came across a pile of old wooden soda crates I used to use as bookshelves for paperbacks. We decided they would make great planters for succulents that could be hung up on the large blank wall of the garage in the back yard. He cleaned, fortified and watersealed them first.
higgs 1
He lined them with cocoa matting, filled them with potting soil mixed with extra sand and vermiculite, and stapled blank landscaping fabric and half-inch plastic hardware cloth on top. I bought some succulents at Cosco and nurseries, but needed more than I could comfortably afford doing that way. I found a guy in San Diego who sells succulent cuttings online. He sells through his own site, Amazon, Etsy and eBay. His prices are highest on Amazon, then Etsy, then his own site, then eBay, so of course I bought on eBay. I got 150 cuttings for $69.95 with free shipping. Here is what they looked like:
higgs 2
We were able to make six boxes at first; here is one of them a month or two after it was done:
higgs 3
In order to get more cheap plants for more boxes, I looked up how to propagate succulents. The clearest demo said that rather than pulling off leaves and sticking them in some dirt, you leave them loose on top of the soil and spritz them with water once in a while. So, we dumped all of the leaves that fell off after we put up the boxes into an old planter we called the “puppy farm,” like this:
higgs 4
We had waited longer than the three days they recommend for letting calluses form on the cut ends of the plants, and it was more than two weeks before we started the farm, so I did not hold out much hope, but I was wrong. When we looked up close after a month or two, we saw this:
higgs 5
Dozens of baby plants sprouted out of the leftover leaves! So in the last couple of weeks, without buying more than a couple of new plants just to get a few more colors in the mix, I was able to make four more boxes off of leaf sprouted plants, cuttings from some of the original plants, and puppies from the farm, like this one:
higgs 6
This is one of the new boxes:
higgs 7
They are quite heavy and we haven’t decided if we will put them up on the wall, or just enjoy them all where they are.

To be continued, next Sunday…

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51 replies
  1. 1
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Very attractive. Well done to you both.

  2. 2
    JPL says:

    @Debbie(aussie): ditto

    Sunday morning garden posts, give me hope that spring is around the corner. Actually today it’s suppose to be in the seventies but then it cools off the rest of the week.

  3. 3
    Tommy says:

    Timely post here, I just picked up a magazine on container gardening. Still going with the three raised beds I built, but I wanted to try something “new” this year (I have some space in the yard and a large back porch without much stuff on it). I am not that “creative” with my gardening yet (this will be my fourth year) and I wanted the magazine just to see all the ideas they had for what you could plant stuff in. Many ideas I NEVER would have thought of.

    BTW: NOT to hijack this thread, but as a nerd I should just say I bought a HP Chromebook (runs only the Google’s Chrome browser and apps you can use through it) and it is a stunning little piece of hardware. I’d think a wonderful thing for a “surf” board or for somebody not that good on a computer. But as somebody that lives on a computer, builds web sites, has multiple computers, tablet, smartphone, I just wanted something to, well I got rid of cable TV this weekend and I wanted to use it mainly with the Google Chromecast (Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube), but now I actually see myself using it some for work.

    OK back to gardening!

  4. 4
    jeffreyw says:

    Ack! Thunder and lightning with sleet and freezing rain. Coffee is good. Have a puppy.

  5. 5
    WereBear says:

    @Tommy: as a nerd I should just say I bought a HP Chromebook

    Glad you like it!

    As an early adopter, I take credit for all Chromebooks bought on BJ. :)

    Those gardens look quite SUCCULENT!

  6. 6
    WereBear says:

    @jeffreyw: That’s a cute one! Should go fast.

  7. 7
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @jeffreyw: Thunder with the sleet and snow here too. Expecting as much as 9″, below zero tonite. March, in like a lion….

  8. 8
    Tommy says:

    @WereBear: Wish I could grow some succulents where I live. But we currently have about 5 inches of snow on top of 1/4 inch of ice we got last night. Oh happy, happy, joy, joy. Don’t think they would make it the winter here unless I brought them in the house, and I have a cat that would not make that possible. She is a digger :).

    Yeah I knew about the Chromebooks but felt they were more of a gimmick. But decided to get rid of my cable and one VOIP line (saves me $178/month even with a monthly Hulu and Netflix subscription) and wanted it really just for that and to surf the web. But after doing some digging I was like, interesting, I might be able to do a lot more with that, since there are Google Store apps for many apps I use on my mobile devices (Wunderlist, Pocket, Evernote are just three examples). I couldn’t be happier. I ended up not going for one of the $249 models and got the $349 with a larger HD screen. Heck the thing even came with two years of T-Mobile for free (didn’t even ask me for a credit card).

  9. 9
    IowaOldLady says:

    Those are beautiful. I’m so impressed by BJ garderners. I am gardening deficient.

  10. 10
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Mary G., I love the boxes you and HBM put together. My wife hates succulents for some reason (her mother grew them but Mrs OHB’s dislike goes beyond that) but I always found their looks… intriguing, if that is the right word. I am going to build a stone wall across the front of the porch and I have some sandstone with pockets in it that would be perfect for some. I wonder if the Mrs will notice?

  11. 11
    PurpleGirl says:

    Those succulent boxes look fantastic! Congratulations on getting a bunch of them made. I look forward to reading part 2 next week.

    In my former apartment I used to have a dozen or so succulents. The light wasn’t the greatest yet they lasted for a few years. In my current apartment I have a terrace that gets lots of sun and the first spring/summer I was here I tried to have flowering plants. The plants basically burned in the full sun. I should try some succulents this year.

  12. 12
    dp says:

    You people with your green thumbs make me jealous!

  13. 13
    gelfling545 says:

    I bought a gardening magazine last week but, with single digit temps, I haven’t had the heart to look at it yet.

    The succulent boxes are just lovely. I’ve started to use a few hardy succulents in pots in places that are hard to keep watered and may expand the collection this year. A nice thing about succulents is how easy it is to propagate more.

  14. 14
    eric nny says:

    Beautiful! Succulents are difficult in northern new york, but I do have some hen and chicks that somehow manage to pull through every year.

    Ordered seeds last weekend and now I have to snow blow again this weekend. That is not progress. But I will tap my maples today.

  15. 15
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I plan to start seeds indoors today as I finally received some of the tomato seeds I ordered. Tomatoes and peppers. Maybe some onions?

    The succulents look really nice. So colorful!

    NOAA says that we should expect 8 to 12 inches tonight/tomorrow. Sigh.

    Our local weather guy said we will probably have a cold spring. In that case, planting seedlings in May might be the best idea. Last year, we planted in April.

  16. 16
    Betty Cracker says:

    Well done, MaryG and Higgs Boson’s Mate! I love to see a creative and thrifty use of materials on hand, and it warms my heart to know that the two of you are collaborating so successfully to produce more beautiful things in life.

  17. 17
    Ferdzy says:

    Very nice! I’m looking forward to seeing them all set up and in place.

    Last week we planted (inside! inside!) our onions, leeks, celery, celeriac and parsley. They are all now showing signs of sprouting, or are even well up.

    Yesterday we planted potato seed. That’s the seeds from the seedballs, not seed-potatoes. This is an experiment for us; we will see what we get! If anything.

  18. 18
    Elizabelle says:

    Love the succulents. Well done.

    And love the peaceful co-existence of Mary G, Higgs, and said succulents.

    Good all around.

  19. 19
    MomSense says:

    I love these posts from Mary and HBM! I’ve been thinking of doing an indoor succulent garden since the outside is covered with snow and ice with dog poop sprinkles on top.

    I do have an orchid success story though. The little orchid I rescued from the supermarket on clearance because of a broken stem two years ago is blooming again. It grew several new stems and even the broken stem I taped has several new shoots full of buds. My other orchids are all blooming as well with lots of new growth.

  20. 20
    lurker dean says:

    wow, well done, those boxes look great!

  21. 21
    Tommy says:


    I bought a gardening magazine last week but, with single digit temps, I haven’t had the heart to look at it yet.

    LOL. I bought one yesterday just cause IT IS in the teens here and we just got .25 inch of ice, 6 inches of snow on top of it last night. Now more sleet coming down as we speak.

    Trying to “trick” myself it isn’t this cold and spring is here ….

  22. 22
    Svensker says:

    We just got 3 inches of snow on top of the ice that’s been sitting around since December. Gardens? Bah.

    As for those wooden coke crates, are you sure you want to use them for planter boxes?

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Cervantes says:


    Those are beautiful. I’m so impressed by BJ gardeners.

    I second that.

    With various kids I used to plant seedlings in egg-shells indoors; then when it was time we’d move the egg-shells out to the gardens; and then my involvement would taper down gracefully as my good lady wife enjoyed taking care of the gardens.

    @OzarkHillbilly: Off topic: Thanks for sharing that story about your son. I hope he is doing well these days.

  25. 25
    Botsplainer says:

    No gardening for me today. Got an ice storm coming, to be followed by several inches of snow, guaranteeing that we lose power and trees. Then the following two days are in the deep freeze.

    Wife is visiting her father and delaying her return; I have a reservation waiting at a hotel and intend to beat the rush (I’ve suffered this before). Am leaving the cat at home, and taking the dog with me, as they take pets up to 50 lbs (last weigh was 50 a couple of weeks ago).

  26. 26
    Tommy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Heart breaking. I bet you saw the story late this week that maybe like 1/3 of the food in the US we buy is thrown away. Years ago I noticed I was throwing away a ton of food and told myself I would stop this (and I have). Then I started to pay attention to how other people did this.

    Heck I go to the holidays at the family my brother married into and they throw away more food then we eat (by like maybe a factor of 2-3 — it is hard to comprehend). I started to bring plastic bags to bring it home with myself and take it to a few places I found would accept it — a rehab/AA place loves it). I did this for a few years and they were asking (behind my back) if I couldn’t afford to buy food.

    I found out and was like you fucking idiots. You have more then you need and you don’t seem to understand (they think Obama is a Muslim BTW) others do not. I am like you talk about being Christians and as an Athiest I am acting as your Bible tells you to act. Ponder that for a few.

    I should note this was a few years ago …. and they still do it.

  27. 27
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    That puppy reminds me of General Stuck’s Charlie. Hope Charlie is having a good life.

  28. 28
    jeffreyw says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I thought the same thing when I saw it. RIP

  29. 29
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Cervantes: He is doing…. OK. He lives in Baton Rouge, he’s honest, works hard, works steady, never complains, and I hear from him regularly. Unfortunately he is his mother’s son and he got some of her “substance abuse” genes. He just got released early from probation for a DWI. Never a word of complaint about any of it, just kept his nose to the grindstone did everything he was supposed to early and often. Even found a way to laugh at them sending a SWAT team to arrest him after he (and his lawyer) missed a court date they forgot to tell him (or his lawyer) about. I keep hoping he will learn, and he does, but he only learns not to make that mistake again.

    Hmmmm… Wonder where he got those genes?? ;-)

  30. 30
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tommy: I know what you mean.

  31. 31
    TerryC says:

    I will look forward to Sunday mornings all this spring, to be able to share gardening and growing stories. I used to love succulents and had a couple hundred 30 years ago. Now, I just ordered 450 trees and am beginning a plan to reforest much of 18 or so acres of former farm land with nuts, fruits, and berries. Just got the hydrological report telling me where we need to move dirt for gravity fed watering and am about to purchase a subcompact diesel tractor. (As soon as the foot and a half of snow and ice is gone.) Everything will be moved and planted in 4 years when I “retire” from the day job at age 70.

  32. 32
    Emma says:

    After starting the Whole 30 plan (someone recommended it in one of John’s diabetes threads, many thanks) and being shocked at the price of organic produce I have decided to start my own vegetable garden — well technically restart as I had one years ago. Next weekend we’re prepping the space and starting seeds.

  33. 33
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @TerryC: Cool, where you at?

  34. 34
    Elizabelle says:


    So true re the vintage Coke box planters. Thought they might be valuable as collectibles.

    However, I see a business opportunity. Those, even planted, would be snapped up if sold — pricily — at an upscale farmer’s market. California is full of folks with lots of money and no vintage Coke wooden cartons.

    Otherwise: enjoy.

  35. 35
    TerryC says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Ann Arbor, Michigan; five miles from the University of Michigan Diag.

    Did I mention that this is a permaculture undertaking? Anyone here doing permaculture?

  36. 36
    WaterGirl says:

    @jeffreyw: We had thunder and lighting with a big snowstorm a couple of weeks ago. I was out driving in it, and it was very strange. Welcome to our new weather world.

  37. 37
    Cervantes says:


    they throw away more food then we eat (by like maybe a factor of 2-3 — it is hard to comprehend

    That’s 2-3 times more per capita, I take it.

    It’s the sort of outlandish behavior Roald Dahl would have appreciated.

    (No, Dahl was not perfect, either.)

  38. 38
    WaterGirl says:

    Lots of people say I have a green thumb, but I just can’t grow succulents. I used to buy the ones that I just couldn’t resist, but within months they always looked very unhappy, so I would give them to my friend Tina who was very good with them, and she would end up with a gorgeous plant.

    I repeated this process any number of times until I figured out that when I found a succulent I just couldn’t resist, I could just buy it for Tina and enjoy it at her house.

    RIP General Stuck.

  39. 39
    Elizabelle says:

    I love succulents too, but probably overwater them.

    The trick for watering orchids is to give them 3-4 ice cubes one day a week. Period.

    Can you do something similar with succulents (in the house)?

    I live in Northern Virginia. Realize they’re a desert plant.

  40. 40
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Thank you all for the kind compliments. MaryG and I were aware of the prices those Coke crates might fetch on EBay. We both like “found” containers and repurposing old stuff the best so making our crates into containers was a natural. MaryG omitted one step in the preparation of the crates; painting them inside and out with Thompson’s Water Seal. The stuff is sovereign for protecting unfinished wood outdoors and it doesn’t leach any harmful chemicals into the soil.

  41. 41
    kc says:

    Those look great!

  42. 42
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    One other thing; the furry head in the fourth picture is my friend, Leland. He’s an antic terrier-and-something mix. He adopted me four years ago and not a day has gone by that he doesn’t make us both laugh.

  43. 43
    nellcote says:

    Due to the water shortages I’ve been thinking about investing more heavily in succulents this year so thanks for the tip on the etsy seller with the starts.

  44. 44
    Jackie says:

    Care to share the supplier’s name ? Since you were pleased with the product, I prefer to use folks that come recommened.

  45. 45
    John Weiss says:

    @dp: Chin up dp. Everyone’s thumb is green, if you only pay attention.

  46. 46
    Jane2 says:

    Those are great, HBM and MaryG! I’m not nearly at the stage of doing anything like that, but am going to venture into the world of one raised bed for a few vegetables….or more likely, seeds and stuff for marauding robins and squirrels.

  47. 47
    Elizabelle says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    Did notice that furry little head.

    Leland, hmm? Cute pup.

  48. 48
    Cervantes says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Well, it sounds as if he’s trying. The “hear from him regularly” part is invaluable and helps keep everything else more or less manageable. Good luck to him and to you!

  49. 49
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Leland means “Meadowland.” My son named him and it fits. He loves to go into a meadow and sniff and pee and sniff and pee and…

  50. 50
  51. 51
    Mary G says:

    Thanks to everybody for the compliments and thanks to HBM for all the work.

    The succulent seller goes by sharkofthegrc on eBay; he’s only got a couple of things up right now. Probably doing well enough on the other sites – his own, the Succulent Source, as jimmz succulent collection on Amazon – here is a sample, and as 5starsucculents on Etsy.

    I can recommend his stuff highly based on my one order. Only two of the 150 cuttings didn’t make it and I got a ton of starts from the leaves that came off in the mail/handling.

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