Tips for Planting Succulents in Containers

Find out the best planting tips for succulent container gardens! You’ll discover common mistakes to avoid when planting succulents in containers! 

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While planting succulents is pretty straightforward, there are a few things that will help ensure your succulents grow healthy. This post will point out a few tips that aren’t very well known, but make a big difference.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out parts 1 and 2 of this series covering the basic supplies you need for planting succulents and the step by step tutorial for how to plant a succulent.

These are great tips about common mistakes people make when planting succulents in containers
Aloe ‘Doran Black’, Sedum ‘Burrito’, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi ‘Marginata’

Plant above the rim

My dear friend Mimi of I Dream of Succulents actually requested I post this first tip on my blog. A very common mistake people make when planting succulents is placing the succulents inside the pot. I don’t mean the roots, I mean the plant itself.

In order to stay healthy, your succulent needs to sit above the rim of the pot.

If your soil is below the rim of the pot, water can easily pool up. The leaves inside the pot will quickly rot from the water and that can cause problems for the rest of the plant.

You may remember in my how to pot a succulent post that I say to fill the pot partially with soil and then put your succulent in. This will help you see if your plant is above the pot or below. Don’t just put the roots in an empty pot. Give it a base to sit on.

This is an example of a beautifully potted arrangement by Mimi. See how all the succulents and leaves are above the edge of the pot? The soil goes to the top of the pot and the succulents are above. She sells her arrangements on Etsy if you’d rather buy a completed arrangement instead of making your own.

I love the variety of plants in this arrangement by Mimi of I Dream of Succulents

Pack it tight… or not…

I’ve had several people ask me lately how much space needs to be between the succulents in their arrangement. The answer is… it depends. You can definitely plant succulents very close together and they will be just fine.

When succulents are close together they grow more slowly so they maintain the original design of the arrangement better. It can be trickier to water them when they are close together. But, especially if you’re designing the arrangement as a gift or for an event, this is really great way to plant your succulents.

This clam shell filled with succulents at Waterwise Botanicals is a great example of tightly arranged succulents.

Wow! The colors in this succulent arrangement are amazing!

You can also leave a little more space between your succulents and they’ll grow a little quicker (although they are pretty slow growers in general) and over time they’ll fill in. This is a great option if you’d like for your plants to get bigger or reproduce on their own more easily. If you are just starting out with succulents I’d recommend taking this slightly spaced out approach.


When there is space between the plants it’s easier to water the succulents properly. There is also better air flow so the soil will dry out more quickly. We know that quick drying soil makes for happy succulents!

Keep in mind that you don’t want the succulents too far apart or in a pot that is significantly larger than they are. Too much space will cause the succulents to focus on producing roots rather than getting larger. I would say that 1/2″ to 1″ is a good space between plants.

Try spacing out your succulents to encourage them to grow and produce new babies
Aloe ‘Crosby’s Prolific’

Let succulents hang over the edge of your pot

This is a design tip rather than an absolute necessity for healthy succulents. But, since we talked about making sure your succulents are above the rim of the pot, I thought it would be good to mention it.

To make your arrangement a little more interesting, place some succulents so they hang over the edge of your pot. You can use trailing succulents (such as “String of Pearls“) that actually hang over the side of the pot, or just let the leaves of your rosette cover the edge of the pot. Here are examples of arrangements done both ways.

Use a trailing succulent to add more interest to your arrangement
Sedum ‘burrito’, Pachyveria glauca ‘Little Jewel’, String of Pearls
Try letting your succulents hang over the edge of the pot for more visual interest
Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’, Portulacaria afra variegata, Crassula arborescens undulatifolia

Add some height

While we are talking design… another great way to make your arrangement interesting is to add a tall succulent or “thriller”. Add some shorter succulents around it, “filler”, and then the trailing succulents mentioned before, “spiller.” I have found this concept of thriller, filler, spiller to be a great “recipe” for creating an arrangement.

This isn’t a hard fast rule, but if you’re looking for a great way to make a statement, this is a good place to start. In this arrangement, I’ve used Kalanchoe tomentosa for my thriller, Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ and Graptopetalum paraguayense for my fillers, with Sedum ‘burrito’ and Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls) for my spillers.

Try using the thriller, filler, spiller recipe to make a great succulent arrangement
Kalanchoe tomentosa, Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’, Graptopetalum paraguayense, Sedum ‘burrito’ and Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls)

Use a top dressing and pot feet

I know I’ve mentioned these in other posts, but they are something that most people skip over so here they are again! Be sure to finish off your arrangement by using a top dressing. Your design will look more professional. As always, be sure to use a pot with a drainage hole and if your arrangement is outside, use pot feet to give your plants better airflow.

Learn why using a top dressing is important for container arrangements
Sedum clavatum

Do you feel better equipped to create an amazing succulent arrangement? My goal is to make your life easier and help you perfect the art of planting and growing succulents.

These tips should help you grow healthy succulents as well as guide you toward creating a stunning arrangement. Let me know if you found these tips helpful or if you think there is something I missed!


89 Responses to Tips for Planting Succulents in Containers

  1. How do I actually make up the pot to put them in?
    this is the pot i’m going to buy:
    (it’s windowsill sized), and I want to put small white stones in it. I have about 5 (currecntly) of succulents I want to put in it. How much soil do I need? Or can I just keep the plants in thier current pots, and just bury in the stones? But then how would I water this effectively?

    • You can fill that container with this soil and your succulents will love it! I don’t recommend using rocks at the bottom of your planter for drainage because it can actually cause the roots of your succulents to rot. For how to water succulents in a pot with out a drainage hole be sure to check out this post! And the succulents will be fine all together in that planter you chose, great choice!

  2. i purchased taller pots for outdoor planting. one size is 13.9Lx10.2Wx16.9h. should i add styrofoam or some filler at the bottom before adding the soil in order to keep the planting space small? what’s the best way to tackle this?

    • I usually don’t recommend putting added drainage at the bottom of the pot because it can cause more problems. If you pot really is large then I would add rocks at the bottom.

  3. I like your advice on planting above the pot line. That tip had never come my way. I lost several succulents over winter that was on my front porch. Living in Central Texas, I presumed the succulents would weather our mild winters. Thanks for all your worthwhile tips.

  4. I was given a beautiful succulent garden ,my problem is finding a place for it. I live in Arizona where ithe temps during the summer can reach 118 regularly. I was told that the garden cannot stand the hot sun but will it tolerate the temps if it is out of direct sun,on patio under cover.

  5. Cassidy,
    Hi, I have a couple hundred plants now and I have broken many of your rules. I have many planted in glass containers with small gravel then charcoal at the bottom. I have a couple of deep pots.I have them all in my sun-room. They did well over the winter but now the room is kind of shady. I am now paranoid about them all. If I put them outside won’t they get too much rain?

  6. Hello.. we are in a warm climate.. and i am a new succulents lover.. what kind of soil to use in planting succulents?

    • Yes, you can use that soil for your succulents. Be careful on watering, because it does not give a lot of drainage, which can lead to rotting or overwatering.

  7. I also use miracle grow soil. However, as my job as a barista, my fingertips can’t feel the soil well enough to know how wet the soil still is. Do you know of another way to test how much water is in the soil?

    • When I have pots that are hard for me to check I like to do it by weight. This is a little more of a guessing game but it works. I feel how heavy the pot is with and without water and just pick it up to see how heavy it is. You could also watering them and then see how many days it takes for them to show signs of under watering to get an idea of how frequently they should be watered. This blog post might also be helpful for you:

Let us know what you think!

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Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

Sound good?


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