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Building a Succulent Rock Garden

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

You seem to see succulents everywhere these days! These fantastic plants are finding their ways onto wedding cakes and just about every catalog in a popular fad that can only be succulent mania. I think just about every restaurant in America has them on the table, some even plastic. My first memory of these great plants is my Great-grandmother Geneva Owen’s patch of them in a sandy soil near her back drive. Even as a child I found them interesting.

My young sons love succulents for some reason and have a small dish garden in their bedroom that my eldest re-planted by himself when some of the plants began to age. They’ve asked for them on trips to Lowes and other garden centers. My eldest son recently related to a friend his favorite part of a month long trip to the American south west was seeing the saguaro cacti. I guess it’s the graphic forms of these plants and ability to survive in an inhospitable land that just make them cool!

Enter a strip of hot dry ground between our house and the concrete drive way. This particular area makes growing things daunting so I happened to think this would be a great microclimate to explore our love of succulents and cacti. So, how do you build a succulent garden?

First, we found a hot dry area in our yard with a great deal of sun and good drainage. Next, I gathered rock from around our property and had an amazing gift of rocks. A great neighbor and friend referred me to a gentleman in the city whose late wife had collected large rocks everywhere they went and he was wanting to give them to someone who would appreciate them. My boys and I filled my pickup with rocks and brought them home to build a rock garden.

Then, we placed the rocks to make both a pleasing and natural shape and that would create pockets for the plants to thrive. Next it was on to the most important step, creating soil that would drain. We spread gravel all over the garden area. Then, me mixed a bag of play sand with garden soil and placed it around the stones.

Now for the fun part. My sons and I visited our local garden store and spoke with the knowledgeable owner who helped us select perennial succulents for our climate. That’s so important! In our South Carolina climate Chickens and Hens are the best choice. We selected large plants, small plants and various shades of green to give a variety of texture to the garden.

Finally we planted the hens and chickens to look as natural as possible and then covered the soil in a layer of pea gravel to complete the composition and watered in the plants well.

Caring for a succulent garden is fairly easy. I watered once a week if we had no rain until the plants were established. The greatest challenge is in weeding, remember any plant can come up through crushed stone so don’t let the weeds get ahead of you. So, sit back and enjoy your garden that will last for years!


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