Succulent Container Gardens: Topdressing

What happens when you're done planting your succulent container garden? Take it outside and water it, right?


Topdress! Accessorize! Finish it!

Recycled glass mulch

We have a variety of "mulches" for your container gardens. From tumbled recycled glass to found driftwood, crushed shells and aquarium gravel, the top dressing can be the difference between drab and fab!

Succulents under the sea garden

Not everybody has to be as ultra glam as our friend Barbie, who lives in North Carolina and repurposes her costume jewelry as "pot jewelry." (Below) But also, why not? We say, whatever floats your boat.

In a more conventional sense, topdressing elegantly finishes the container pictured below, providing a neutral background for the plants. The darker tone of the gravel pulls together the red of the pot with the red of the aeonium leaves, creating a harmonious look.

Succulent container garden

Topdressing Essentials

We advise you to use contrasting colors of plants in design (and the burgundy and chartreuse colors of the plants in the above container are a good example of that) to create interest and excitement. You can also do that with topdressing or mulch. You're not limited to one color of topdressing. You also don't have to use a mulch that matches the plants. Here are some examples of making the mulch work for you. 

Mulch that Stands Out Vs. Mulch that Blends In

In the container on the left, the gravel is much lighter in color than the plants. It therefore stands out much more, while the gravel in the container on the right just tends to blend into the background. In general, light colors tend to pop into the foreground, while dark colors recede. 

Two Colors, One Container

Gravel in succulent container garden

Don't limit yourself to one color of topdressing! Mixing colors can make different plants pop. If you're combining two colors of topdressing, it's a good idea to coordinate with plant colors to keep the design tidy and harmonious. 

Creating Effects

In the miniature garden above, two separate gravel mulches are used. One is a mixture of cream and sandy colored pieces to approximate desert soil. The other is this tumbled glass mixture, which creates a dry riverbed flowing through the garden. 

If you're making a mini garden, mulches and topdressing can go a long way in creating miniature "rooms" within the garden. 

tumbled glass

Trick of the Trade

When Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Design was speaking at Succulent Extravaganza she shared a tip about topdressing with us. If you're creating little succulent gardens in 4 inch or smaller pots to give as gifts or favors you'll want to prepare the containers so that the mulch doesn't fall out. Her trick? Mix a little elmer's glue in with the rocks before you spread them on top of the soil. Water will penetrate to the soil below just fine, and you won't end up with a giant mess. 

Succulent Gardens
Succulent Gardens