Succulents are great house plants in so many ways. They can tolerate neglect. They stay small, so if you live in an apartment, you don't have to worry about running out of room for them. Best of all, there are plenty to choose from at your local garden center, so you can have variety, color, interesting textures and shapes and much more, all in one little windowsill garden. Planting a succulent garden can be great for gardeners with limited space.

All About Succulents

Succulents have thick, fleshy leaves. They originated in arid places throughout the world. Their thick leaves help them retain water, an important trait in areas that receive little rainfall each year.

This same trait makes succulents great home and garden plants for forgetful homeowners and arid gardens. Forgetful home gardeners who can never remember to water their plants will have a tough time killing succulents are long as they get the right amount of sunlight. Backyard gardeners who add succulent container gardens find they have an interesting planter that needs little care.

Succulent Varieties for Windowsill Gardens

When choosing succulents for your windowsill garden, look for varieties that stay small. A dish garden, or a garden planted in a shallow, flat dish or an old bowl, should incorporate plants do not grow quickly and retain their diminutive stature. Look for plants marked "terrarium succulents" or "terrarium plants." These should be well-suited to a dish garden.

Some succulents you might like to include in your windowsill garden include:

  • Lithops: Lithops, also called "Living Stones", are small, round, button-shaped succulents that do indeed look like living stones! In the wild, only the tops of these little plants appear above the soil line. They should be kept nice and dry with very infrequent watering.
  • Cacti: Cacti are also succulents. You can plant them alongside your other succulents in a windowsill garden to texture, height and color interest.
  • Aeoniums: Aeoniums grow out from a center into a pinwheel shape. They can have different shades of green or rosy pink in their leaves. The leaves will shrink back slightly when the plant goes dormant.
How to Plant a Windowsill Succulent Garden

Choose your plants carefully. Make sure that the succulents you add to your container garden have similar growth rates. Terrarium succulent plants should remain smaller and be suitable for a windowsill succulent garden. Since varieties vary so much at different nurseries, see what your local nursery has in stock to add to your little dish garden.
To make a windowsill succulent garden, you'll need:
  • Container: A shallow dish, an old ceramic planter, or a clay pot all make great little succulent containers. Drainage holes are optional, although they will help remove moisture if you accidentally over water your plants.
  • Pea gravel: Pea gravel at the bottom of the container also helps with drainage. You can use fish tank gravel, too.
  • Soil: Purchase and use only cactus and succulent soil mix from your favorite garden center for a succulent windowsill garden. It has the best texture and composition for these plants. Regular house plant potting soil may be too "heavy" or contain too many nutrients for these easy-care plants.
  • Plants: Choose at least two or three succulent plants, depending on the size of your container.
  • Decorations: You can add a few decorative rocks or other items to your windowsill garden if you wish.
Place a shallow layer of pea gravel in the bottom of the container. It should be 1/4 or less the depth of the container, depending on how shallow the container. The more shallow the container, the thinner the layer of gravel.
Add soil over the pea gravel to the top of the container. Using your fingers or a spoon, stick or slim trowel, make a hole in the soil. Gently tip over the container in your hand and tap the bottom to dislodge the plant. Place it root-side down in the container and push the soil over it to plant it firm into the container. Repeat with each plant, spacing them out so that air can circulate among the plants.
Water once, after planting, and place your windowsill succulent garden into a bright, sunny area in your home. Make sure it gets plenty of full sunlight. Water once a month or so, but not too much, and enjoy!
Using Cacti in Your Garden

It's easy to find cacti at garden centers and other stores nationwide, so some people like to add them to a succulent garden. That's fine, but make sure that the plants you've chosen all have similar growing conditions.

Most cacti need much less water than certain succulents. Kalanchoe, a blooming house plant that is also a succulent, needs much more water than cacti. It also grows rapidly when the conditions are favorable and can quickly outgrow its windowsill container garden.
Cacti can also grow rapidly if given favorable conditions. You may want to plant a separate cacti dish so that your cacti are grouped in one little garden and your other succulents in a separate dish or container.
Adapting this Project to Terrariums
You can also use these project steps to create a succulent garden terrarium. Using an old fish bowl or even one of those large old-fashioned glass candy jars found in the houseware department at your favorite store, you can create your very own succulent terrarium.
  • Because these jars or containers are wider and deeper and do not have drainage holes, it's important to add a thicker layer of pea gravel to enable excess water to drain away from the plants' roots.
  • Follow the gravel layer with cactus and succulent soil mix.
  • Place your plants.
  • Add decorative gravel, such as fish tank gravel, to the top layer.
  • Use rocks, interesting pieces of wood, or small figurines to create additional visual appeal.
  • Leave the top open to enhance ventilation and to prevent moisture from building up inside your terrarium. After all, it's a desert terrarium.
Whether you choose to plant a windowsill succulent garden or a terrarium, succulents are the plant it and forget it plants for people who just can't remember to water. While they aren't plastic plants, and yes, they will need water sometime, if you're a forgetful gardener, you travel a lot or you're a busy person, growing a windowsill succulent garden may be a great way to enjoy house plants without stress.