Tips for Planting Succulents in a Bird Bath

Learn how to ensure the succulents you plant in a bird bath will survive! Plus get other tips for how to create a fun design with your succulents.

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Last year I had a lot of fun filling my parents empty bird bath with succulents. It was really beautiful and we loved having succulents there instead of just the empty bird bath with sometimes dirty water in it.

Succulents are great for planting in birdbaths!

Succulents are a great fit for a bird bath! See how to make sure they thrive with this post!

However, I made a few mistakes when planting it and most of the succulents burned up and died. Fortunately, I’m great at learning from my mistakes :)

I decided to plant more succulents in the bird bath and this time, made sure to set myself up for success. I still recommend looking at the full tutorial for that bird bath as it has some great information.

Create a stunning centerpiece in your garden by filling a bird bath with succulents
Here is the original planted bird bath before it died from too much heat.

There is one thing I would change from the original tutorial and I’ll cover that here.

The biggest problem with the original planting is actually the time of year I planted it. It was planted in July which is one of the hottest months of the year here in Utah.

While these Sempervivums and Sedums can tolerate quite a bit of heat, they weren’t acclimated to it before planting: they had been in partial sun and never got sun in the hot afternoon.

The bird bath is in full sun almost all day long, including the afternoon when the temperature hits it’s peak. Since the bird bath is metal, it heats up quite a bit during the day, making things even hotter for the succulents.

Remove all dead succulents before adding new ones
These are the only succulents that survived after the summer heat.

Another problem was lack of consistent watering. The bird bath does not have any way to get water other than rain or being watered by hand. We forgot about it and didn’t water it more than once a week. In the summer, in this particular situation, that was not nearly enough.

Within a couple weeks, most of the succulents had completely died from overheating and lack of water. I used my super well draining soil (which is fabulous for succulents 95% of the time) but because of the heat, it only stayed wet for a few hours and the succulents hardly had time to soak up the water before it dried out.

As you know, in order for succulents to develop strong roots they need the soil to be soaked but then dry out within the next few days. If you didn’t know that… check out my post about watering.

I knew that if I replanted in the spring before the weather warmed up it would make a huge difference for acclimating the succulents to their new home. They wouldn’t get as hot during the day, even with the full sun, and would have a better chance of putting out strong roots.

How I replanted the bird bath

Since most of the succulents had died, I removed them, but left any that were still alive. And I had a cute little helper while I did that :) He’s pretty fascinated with plants, but mostly loves dirt, so the next step was his favorite.

Learn how to take a sad looking bird bath planter and make it look great again!

Once I had the dead plants removed, I took out most of the soil.

Well draining soil may not be the best option when planting succulents in a metal bird bath - see why in this post

Then, I added in soil that held water a little bit longer. I knew that the succulents would be ok in this particular soil because I have them in the same soil in the ground in other areas of the yard. So far the succulents in the bird bath are doing much better!

A slow draining soil helps keep succulents in this bird bath cool

After I filled the bird bath most of the way with slower draining soil, I added the well draining soil to the top. This will keep the top of the soil dry to prevent rot at the base of the rosettes.

Learn what soil is best for succulents in a bird bath in this post

I then added in a “river” of rocks and more succulents (still cold hardy Sempervivums and Sedums) along with a top dressing, just like in the original post. I love the way the rocks look in the arrangement. It adds a lot of character and makes the design much more interesting.

Using rocks with succulents is a great way to add visual interest

It’s been almost two months now and the succulents are doing really well.

They don’t seem to be bothered by the full sun and heat and they are growing!

Key takeaways to make sure your bird bath grows beautifully

  • Plant in the spring when the weather is cooler so the succulents have time to adjust before getting full sun in the heat of summer.
  • Use a soil that doesn’t drain as quickly to help keep the succulent cool in the metal bird bath (only if it’s in full sun most of the day, otherwise use a well draining soil)
  • Water thoroughly using the technique I recommend and make sure to water it somewhat frequently to prevent sunburn.
Succulents work really well with rocks
I love the Sedum “Little Missy” in the front of the bird bath.

Now, keep in mind that not all bird baths will have this problem, especially if they are in the shade or have a deeper planting area. However, I hope this helps you get an idea of some difficulties you may run into when planting in such a shallow container.

See how to fill your own bird bath with succulents!

As a little side note… two years ago I planted succulents around the base of the bird bath too. These have done amazingly well. We also had a little “Johnny Jump Up” that made it’s way into the mix somehow and now it’s flourishing too!

Johnny Jump Ups are a great companion plant for succulents!

Now that things are setup a little better, the bird bath really makes a statement in the garden and should be set to grow for years to come!

21 Responses to Tips for Planting Succulents in a Bird Bath

  1. I love your posts, Cassidy! They are so clear and specific. My succulents, maybe 20, are planted directly into the ground in a Mediterranean climate (foothills north of L.A.) and do take a beating from the summer heat. I’m thinking of replanting them into pots on little wagons. Then the wagons could be wheeled in to shade on the patio during the worst of the heat.

  2. Thank you very much Cassidy for sharing this information, it will help a lot. Have a great weekend! Hugs Elaine

  3. Hi Cassidy! I like your post, but I wonder how you deal with raining. Did you drill a drainage hole on your bird bath? I planted some succulents in my bird bath couple weeks ago, too and being so frustrated because of so much rain. I even made a drainage hole on it, but don’t know why the soil still stay wet after the rain for about a day or so. Do you have any ideas about this? I used potting mix for cactus mixed with perlite and sand. I am living in Houston.

    • I did drill a hole in the bottom (see this tutorial for the full start to finish instructions). It’s totally fine for the soil to stay wet for a couple days, as long as it’s drying out by day 3 or 4. Even still, with rain you can’t really do much about it, other than cover the bird bath. Succulents will usually be fine with a few days of wet soil from time to time. If the soil stays wet for more than a week, then you may run into trouble. Otherwise you should be fine.

      You could look at using a soil with larger particles like the one I use. Here’s more info about it:

  4. We had a concrete birdbath in which I found a shallow plastic liner with holes. It slipped in perfect and then I planted succulents. Never any problem with draining rain water–when we were lucky enough to get any!

  5. Love the bird bath idea and I could put mine in an area that didn’t get too much sun or heat. My problem with my outside succulents is too much water May through about the first of July. I am in the Midwest and it usually rains a lot in the beginning of the growing season. My pots end up being wet for too long at a time. Any suggestions or ideas besides just not putting them out.

  6. You have even figured out how to make it reasonable and straightforward to peruse. You have some authentic work ability. Much thankful to you.

  7. hi Cassidy I was very interested in planting my succulents in my bird bath I have a plastic bird bath will it work in planting them in? thanks barb

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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.

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