How to Plant a Living Picture
The Living Picture Kit Includes:
- Redwood frame
- Enough cuttings to plant the size frame ordered
- Succulent mix
Cuttings are prepared by removing offsets, or stems, of plants like echeveria, sempervivum, sedum and crassula. With rosettes, the diameter might vary from ½” to 2”. The stem is usually cut to ¼” length or smaller. (Rudolf Schulz's book Propagation of Succulent Plants, provides an excellent overview of preparing succulent cuttings).
Prepare enough cuttings to fill the space of the frame to be planted. The cuttings will need to heal, form a scab, for about one week before planting. Store the cuttings in a cool, shaded area in a single layer while healing. Before planting remove any leaves that have dried up.
Pour succulent mix over screen in small amounts and gently move through screen by running your fingers over the screen and soil.
- Using a fork or nail, carefully raise the screen to allow soil to fall through the screen. Pulling up too hard can result in pulling the screen out of the frame - be careful. While holding the screen up, use the other hand to repeat the process of moving the soil through the screen.
- Place cuttings on top of the mesh. Begin by placing the cuttings that will serve as the focal points of the picture. Finish by filling in with cuttings that are more numerous and/or less flashy. You can move the cuttings around until you are happy with the placement.
- Allow the cuttings to root. As roots form, they move into the soil behind the wire. Once fully rooted, the soil is held in place by the network of roots behind the wire. If properly planted, the plants cover the entire surface of the wire mesh, preventing soil erosion.
Rooting the cuttings
The frame does not have any drainage, so water enough to get the soil moist to the bottom, but not soggy. Place the frame in a partial shade/filtered sun, airy environment. It should take about a week to dry out. You can check it much like you would a cake by putting a toothpick in to check moisture level. If in doubt, give it another 2 or 3 days and then water it again. One or two days after the first watering, the plants should look like they are taking the water in with the leaves beginning to fill and look less dehydrated. Now it is just a matter of watering as the soil dries and letting the roots fill the soil in the frame. After about 4 to eight weeks of the roots growing, the plants should be rooted enough that gently tugging does not move the plants. This is referred to as establishing the plants in the container. The cuttings will become more vibrant after producing rotts and taking in water from their first or second watering. Once the plants are well established it is time to hang your Living Picture.
Where to hang it
This planter has no up or down other than what you might think is up. In other words, you may hang it in whatever direction you want. Some use a picture frame bracket and some hang it on a nail using the edge of the frame. If you are concerned for the wall surface and moisture, then you need to take appropriate measures to protect your wall. Moisture will collect.
The best exposure is filtered sun or partial shade. An eastern exposure is usually sun that has not yet gotten too intense. An overhang, lattice or patio cover, a nearby tree, or some other method of filtering the sun will make it easier to maintain the Living Picture. Too little sun will result in plants stretching for the light and losing their color. Too much sun will make the plants appear to be stressed. Finding the right balance, will allow for the best results.
The Living Picture frame is nothing more than a planter. Of course, it is a very specialized planter, made for hanging on a wall. This is vertical gardening and like any other forms of gardening, you need to attend to your plants needs. Maintenance might include pruning, thinning, or even removing unwanted plants. Again, refer to the Rudolf Schulz book, Care of Succulent Plants, for a more detailed description on maintenance.
Succulent plants are very efficient and therefore use less water and fertilizer than most other plants. Also, because you are gardening in a very small space, it is best to fertilize minimally to slow the growth of the plants. We recommend using an all purpose water soluble fertilizer. Only fertilize about once a month and reduce the recommended dose to ¼.
Over time the plants are going to grow. At some point, you are possibly going to need to prune, thin, or even replant the frame. Like other plants you may have to replace plants that died, remove infestations of unwanted insects, and take care of any maintenance issues that may arise.