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I'd like to plant a selection of small succulents in a shallow pot, but the information I find on the internet is very contradictory. Can anyone help with the following questions please?
1. Should the pot have drainage holes at the bottom?
2. Should I place pebbles at the bottom of the pot?
3. Is it best to use compost specifically for cactus & succulents?
4. Do you need to put pebbles at the top of the soil?
5. Do they prefer sun / shade?
6. Do they need to be watered frequently?
Succulents cover a rather large group of plants! Some are desert plants such as cactus. Some, such as Christmas cactus are native to growing in the crotches in trees that have accumulated organic material. You'll get better information searching for the species you are interested in.
Since the nature of succulents is the ability to resist drying out, most are going to be unhappy in soil that holds too water. Most of the things you have mentioned deal with helping water drain. Each one is a way to deal with drainage., but not the only way.
Do they need to be watered often? It depends on the particular succulent. I water my aloe once a month or so. my Christmas cactus 2 or 3 times a week.
Good luck and give us an idea of what you want to grow and someone will try to give you better answers.
I agree with Doug, it would help to know exactly what you're planning to grow. However...in general here are some answers for you
1. Should the pot have drainage holes at the bottom? YES YES YES (no matter what succulents you grow) I would never plant anything except bog/water plants in a pot without drainage holes. Otherwise it makes it way too easy to overwater, and succulents in general need less water than most other types of plants, so a pot without drainage holes would be the worst situation for them.
2. Should I place pebbles at the bottom of the pot? No, I wouldn't--here's a thread that discusses why that's not a good idea. It's actually counter-productive and will put the roots in a place where they'll tend to actually be wetter, not drier. Since you're not a paid subscriber you'll only be able to read the very first post, but there's some great info just in that first post. http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1073399/ Another thread here that I think probably discusses some similar concepts, and you'll be able to read the whole thread since it's in a free forum (it's in a houseplant forum, but many of the things Al discusses also apply to anything you're growing in a container even if it's outdoors) http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1226030/
3. Is it best to use compost specifically for cactus & succulents? Not necessarily--in the threads I linked to above there's some discussion of how to make your own potting mix that will drain much better than any commercial bagged potting mix. However, if you don't want to do anything other than a bagged mix, cactus & succulent mix may drain a little better than regular potting mix.
4. Do you need to put pebbles at the top of the soil? You don't need to, but it shouldn't hurt anything so if you like the look of it go right ahead.
5. Do they prefer sun / shade? Depends on what you're growing--some will like sun and some will like shade.
6. Do they need to be watered frequently? Again depends on what you're growing, as well as on how large the container is, how much sun it's getting, what your temperatures are like, etc. But in general succulents need to be watered less frequently than other plants grown under the same conditions.
You repot them. At that point if you like having the dish garden with smaller plants, start some cuttings or buy some new plants for those and move the larger plants into their own pots so they have more space. Or plant them in the ground.
Agree, eclayne. I have many pots with multiple plants in them. Sometimes they stay together as they grow, sometimes they are separated or paired with something else.
Sweet little planters, Monkey. Similar to the fairy garden my Mom and daughter gave me last spring, but totally different plants.
It looks like there is a lot of new soil surrounding the roots of these plants, so be sure to let it dry well before adding more water. The first few times they do need water, I wouldn't totally soak the pot because the soil without roots in it yet will take a long time to dry. If it gets too soggy too often, the roots of these baby plants could rot.