Coastal Succulent Garden Tutorial

The sunshine and warmer temperatures are back in north Texas (for now at least)! We've had such a cold winter this year that I am ready for Spring to officially be here this month. We'll get to be outside in the sunshine more, store away our winter clothes, and best of all start bringing out all gardening tools and plants.

I recently reorganized my room to have a corner nook space. I put my couch next to the window and my seashell coffee table in front over a rug to combine my simplistic furniture with fun prints and splashes of my favorite color, turquoise. I had MANY fake plants, to be honest too many to keep up with dusting every week and sneezing every morning. For quite some time I wanted to replace all of them with real ones that would actually clean the air instead of pollute it with dust. But every time I would get the urge, I'd think - what if I kill them, I'll never want to take care of real plants inside again... my solution is succulents.

Succulents are cacti type plants native to desert areas, semi-dry coastal regions, and mountain alpines that require low maintenance care due to their stems and leaves storing water over long periods of time. They come in an abundance of different colors, species, and sizes so you can potentially collect a great grouping of them! They like bright sunshine and semi-dry soil. I started seeing succulents becoming more high-profile in popularity over the past few months and did some research on how to care for them. My favorite part about succulents is that once you buy one you can grow baby succulents by carefully taking off a leaf and putting it in dirt to grow. Just amazing how nature works.

A potted coastal succulent garden was just what my corner nook space needed for that extra pop of greenery and easy care year-round. Over the weekend I finished my potted garden of succulents, placed them on my seashell coffee table in front of the window and they've been looking great! That''s not to say that the gardening process was easy though. I learned a lot throughout the process, and want to share this tutorial of how to make your own indoor succulent gardens and what to look for when buying your first plants.

Pictured above is everything you should need to start.

First thing I did was make a trip to my local Calloway's Nursery. I chose them over Lowe's or Home Depot because I already knew their employees were more knowledgeable, have higher care quality for their plants, and carry more diverse selections. Plus this was my first time trying out succulents. I browsed around and decided on a couple different species:

*Echeverias

*Haworthia Attenuata

*Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora

*Crassula Justi-corderoyi

I also bought some of their Black Gold cacti potting soil and a bag of lava sand to make sure I could get rid of the fungus gnats lurking in the pots.

Key to killing and avoiding fungus gnats is to keep the dirt dry and sandy so their larva starve and die-off without moist soil. Sounds brutal, but these pesky gnats get on my nerves so I was going to use anything it took to make them unwelcome. If you don't do anything to get rid of them they will contaminate your soil and feed off the roots and stems of your plants. Since succulents don't need water frequently, your dirt should have plenty of time to dry out in-between waterings.

Just FYI, if you ever have any questions about plants, Calloway's Nursery Facebook page is a great resource, and they're quick to respond!

Go to your local Hobby Lobby or Dollar Tree and grab a couple bags of large and small riverbed rocks. The rocks will be used throughout the planting process to encourage water drainage and irrigation with the soil. You will also want to find a container of regular sand to mix in the top layer of the soil to discourage fungus gnats from finding a home. Remember they don't like sandy dry places.

I didn't want to buy expensive pots, so I chose to purchase terracotta pots with drainage holes to paint my own designs on, and round plastic water catcher plates so I could see how much water drains out of the pots.

A major drawback in my project was thinking Rustoleum spray paint would be an easy way to get my patterns painted quickly. SO WRONG. After I had spray painted half my pots and let them dry, I went to pick them up and the paint completely came off on my hands, I was pretty upset. This mishap was probably due to moister in the air or the fact that terracotta is a breathing clay material. That said, I fell back to my trusty outdoor patio paints made for getting wet and dirty, and hand-painted my pots. If you're sensitive to paint fumes like I am, wear a mask and glasses.

I wanted to play off the turquoise and brass accents in my room, so I chose black, white, gold, and a mix of blue and turquoise paint. I left some of the natural terracotta pot showing for a more natural and weathered style. 

Alright, so after your pots are done it's time to plant! I had 9 plants to fit into 5 medium pots and 2 small pots. You might notice some succulents look like they have a layer of white powder on them...more on this dreadful realization in a few minutes.

Before you start planting you'll want a bin beside you to place soil the plants were in from the store. Since there were fungus gnats lurking in it for the most part I considered it contaminated and the bad soil just got thrown outside into a dormant flowerbed. Wear gloves, it's going to get messy!

Potting step #1:

Place a handful of large riverbed rocks into the bottom of the pot. Next put a handful of small riverbed rocks on the large rocks.

Potting step #2:

Put a handful of cacti potting soil in the pot and mix into the small riverbed rocks.

Potting step #3:

Place a handful of lava sand on the cacti potting soil and mix. You'll repeat this step until you've filled your pot half way.

Potting step #4:

Take your succulent out of its store pot and remove most of the soil from the roots. Place it into your pot and fill in the space with a mix of both cacti potting soil and lava sand.

Potting step #5:

Once your succulents are planted, take a pinch of the regular sand and mix into the soil at least 1'' down. Then place small riverbed stones on top.

Now for the dreadful news I mentioned earlier... So as I was planting my succulents a white powdery covering was on most of them, especially my Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora; I was a little concerned. Surly this was not normal, so I took a damp wash cloth and paint brush and wiped and dusted each stem and leaf's top/back to remove the powder. I thought it might've been a protective coating the store put on to prevent bugs - boy was I wrong.

After literally Googling 'white powder on succulents' I found out I had a contagious white mold problem on my hands. Just great right. White mold is another name for Sclerotinia stem rot or simply powdery mildew in white, yellow, brown, or black growths. Unfortunately this mold likes the same environment that succulents do: warm and dry. It can spread from succulent to succulent ALL OVER THE PLANT. Eventually the mold infection can deflate, deform, and damage the leaves turning them yellow and pale green.

Some good news though - it's curable. Just like I did, remove infected leaves and wipe them down. Then apply a fungicide on the leaves and stems of all the succulents to kill the mildew. If you're the slightest bit concerned your succulent may have this problem, fungicide also acts as a preventive medicine so to speak. Increase the air circulation too. I used Southern AG Liquid Copper Fungicide diluted with water as directed for 2 quarts, which should be enough to get me through a week of spraying once a day. You can see the night and day difference in my Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora before and after I cleaned it up.

BEFORE

AFTER

Make sure to wear a mask when using fungicide. It might not smell that bad, but it is a poison. Once you spray the succulents keep them outside for at least 2 hours to dry out thoroughly.

By this point, I had already worked on these succulents for a good half day because of the fungus issue. But I still had one step left before I was all done. Their first dose of FLOOD WATERING.

I read so many different things about how to water succulents it was kind of ridiculous. Everything from ice cubes, watering once a week, watering every 6-8 weeks, etc. I didn't know where to start with watering at all until I came across three really rational YouTube videos on how to water succulents based on the climate they are natively from. A good tip to remember is they love saturated water in a flash flood form in the spring/summer about every 3-4 weeks, but don't need hardly any during fall/winter due to using their internal storage of water to get them through the dry seasons. You'll want to take a listen to these videos before you water:

1. Gardening Tips & Tricks: Watering Cactus & Succulent Gardens

2. Watering Cacti and Succulents

3. Watering Cactus and Succulent Plant

Once the flood watering water done, I added shells and driftwood to the top of the soil. I also wrapped the pots with some jute string, beads, and shells for a coastal feel.

Now I was able to FINALLY put all my pots on my coffee table in my room. They'll get full sun in the morning and afternoon followed by indirect light as the evening comes near. Fingers crossed they'll continue to do well.

To finish off this project and rid my hands of smelly dirt and germs I used The Good Home Company's Beach Days hand soap from Beach Grass' shop. If you're like me, a little careful about what you put onto your skin that eventually goes into your body - this soap is a must-have for keeping at every sink your home and is worth the money. Aside from being the perfect color for my bathroom, I love that they make their product right here in the USA from biodegradable materials. An additional plus in my book is that this soap is paraben, phthalate, sulfate, animal cruelty, phosphate FREE! Which means it's 100% vegan and safe for even the most sensitive skin like mine for a naturally clean feeling and a fragrance that stays around.

It smells HEAVENLY COASTAL. Just picture laying out by the beach in the sand with your suntan lotion on, cool breeze sifting through the salty air, and eating a bowl full of fruits while you gaze at the ocean waves crashing up on the shore. It is that fragrance that gently softens and cleans your hands! A beach house retreat fragrance captured by fresh jasmine, suntan oil, and sea air. One of The Good Home Company's goals is to have the people who use their products have an emotional connection when using them inspired by memories or future desires. They definitely got me dreaming! Grab some Beach Days hand soap or any of the other five Beach Days products like lotion, dryer sheets, vacuum beads, etc by visiting Beach Grass' shop today.

Quite the tutorial huu? Hope you enjoyed it! If your hesitant about gardening with succulents like I was in the beginning, just go for it! You'll learn a lot in the process and there's a whole community of gardeners out there who are willing and able to give advice, good luck!

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