For the past few years, succulents have been the go-to plants for many busy gardeners. And why not? They are virtually care-free, can withstand heat and cold and are diverse in texture, shape and color. Many of them stay small and don’t take up a lot of space at the same time that they are easily combined to make a planting of any size you desire. For all of those reasons, succulents also make great gifts and decorations for the upcoming holidays.
Most succulent plants have thickened leaves for storage of moisture. It is those fat, juicy leaves that are the most interesting parts of the plants. Although some succulents do produce blooms, the shape, texture and coloring of the leaves make them attractive.
The diversity in the look of succulents is amazing. Some plants are upright; others cascade. Still others make a lovely tight rosette-shaped plant, and some have leaves that strike out in many different directions. It is no wonder that people collect succulents like they collect seashells, stamps or marbles — there is no end to their variation and beauty.
While many succulent plants grow large and serve as landscape features, the plants we are talking about here are the small varieties, the little gems that can be clustered together or potted separately to create spots of natural beauty in and around your home. You have a wide choice of containers also. Because succulents can fit in tiny spaces, cute little pots of all sizes and decorations work well.
One of the best ways to display a variety of succulents is to create a wreath that can be enjoyed especially during the holidays. If you have seen succulent wreaths in nurseries or at florists, you might think they look complicated and difficult to craft, but that is part of their charm. In fact, they are extremely easy to make and maintain. In fact, once you’ve made one, wreaths might be your favorite gifts to share with friends. All it takes is a few easy steps, but if you are going to give these great-looking wreaths, you need to start now.
Supplies you will need:
1. Find a metal wreath frame at any hobby or craft store. The frame should be round, and they generally range in diameter from 8 inches to 16 inches.
2. You can find florist wire at the same craft store. It generally comes in a spool; about 22 gauge is good. You don’t want it to be too stiff. It will have to wrap around the wreath easily.
3. Sphagnum moss is available at big box stores and nurseries. It is a dry form of moss that originally grew on the top of peat bogs
4. Plants. Select succulents growing in the tiniest pots you can find. If you have a friend with plants who is willing to share cuttings, that will also work. Look for complementary but different shapes and colors in the leaves — rounded and pointy, dark and light green, a touch of pink or red, colors that appeal to you.
Soak the moss in water for several hours to let it absorb the water and become easier to manipulate. Work on a sturdy flat surface. Begin building your wreath by pressing the moss onto the back of your wreath. You should have a pad of moss at least 1 inch thick.
Working slowly, wind the floral wire tightly around and around from inside the circle to outside every inch or so to secure the moss in place. Press it tight as you go. Make sure there are no big gaps between the loops of wire. Once the moss is secure, turn the wreath over and make sure your moss is filling the frame. If not, add more and secure it with wire. Add a metal loop on the back of the wreath at the top that can be used to hang it. This can be made of wire or the pull tab from a can. Once you’re satisfied with the wreath, soak the whole thing in a wide pan of water in which it fits flat.
Begin unpotting your plants. To make the wreath, you need nice-looking tops and no roots or very tiny roots. Remove the wreath from the water and begin arranging the plants. Tuck the ends of the stems well into the moss. Begin with your largest plants and move to the smallest. Fill in gaps with small sedums.
Once you’re happy with the design, sit back and admire your work! The wreath will need to grow for a few weeks while the plants settle in, grow roots and begin to spread. During that time, it needs to be kept evenly moist. Not soppy wet, but moist. A rimmed baking pan is a good home for it during this time. Add some water to the pan every day or so depending on how quickly the moss is drying.
Once the plants fill in, the wreath is ready to show off. Put it on a decorative platter, on a board or any attractive flat thing or hang it up by the loop at the top.
At this point, it doesn’t need to be moist all the time, but it does need to be remoistened from time to time. If it seems dry, mist it thoroughly with a spray or soak it in a pan of water until the moss is moist again. If you want to change out a plant or two, go ahead. These are tough babies, and if one starts looking leggy, simply pinch it back.
These lovely wreaths can be displayed on tabletops, hanging on windows or doors, inside or outside.
Thanks to Cathy Slaughter of Gabriel Valley Farms wholesale nursery for sharing her techniques and lovely finished projects. You’ll find some of her wreaths in local nurseries later in the year.