Top Dressing: Decorative rocks for your succulents

Learn how to add a professional touch to your succulent arrangements by using a top dressing, or decorative rocks. This simple addition will take your succulents to a whole new level!

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One of my favorite discoveries in regard to designing with succulents is the use of top dressings. If you’re not familiar with this term, a top dressing is simply decorative rocks that are placed on top of the soil after your arrangement is set. This often overlooked feature can make a beautiful arrangement even more stunning.

What a good idea! Using a top dressing for succulents really makes an arrangement look more professional!

My friends Michael and Danielle Romero were the first to introduce me to this idea. They are amazing designers and I was fortunate to photograph some of their arrangements when working on my book, Idiot’s Guides: Succulents. When I arrived to photograph, they were just finishing up adding the top dressings to several succulent arrangements. It was so great to see the transformation of these arrangements as they carefully selected top dressings to coordinate with their succulents.

This combination of Graptoveria paraguayense with the purple top dressing in a purple pot was my favorite.

Stunning arrangement with Graptoveria paraguayense and a dark purple top dressing with a geode accent rock

I also loved these crazy Crassula marnieriana with a simple pink and grey pea gravel as the top dressing.

Crassula marnieriana witha simple gravel top dressing that mimics it's colors

Adding a top dressing to your succulent arrangement is so simple. After you’ve filled the pot with soil and plants, just pour the top dressing right on top of the soil. Using these tweezers and bead scoop are helpful for small spaces. See the difference a top dressing made with this Echeveria ‘Lola’?

Echeveria Lola potted without a top dressing

Echeveria Lola potted with a light pastel top dressing from Bonsai Jack

Adding these decorative rocks not only looks good, but it’s functional too! The top dressing help keeps the soil in place when watering. This prevents the arrangement from shifting very much over time. it can also reduce the amount of dust that flies up when you water.

While I loved this idea of using top dressings, I was surprised at how difficult it was to find a top dressing for succuelnts I loved that was easy to purchase. I’ve spent hours shopping online and locally for just the right thing. When I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for, I reached out to the fabulous Bonsai Jack for help. Sure enough, he was able to add a line of top dressings to his store! We came up with seven different color options to choose from. I’m partial to the light pastel myself, but there are options from light to dark so you’ll find something you love! The options include: light pastel, dark pastel, earth tone, gold, black lava, maroon lava, and pumice (white).

Light Pastel

Here is an arrangement I made with the light pastel top dressing, Graptoveria ‘California Sunset’, Crassula rupestris, and a bonsai pot from Hamazo.

Graptoveria California Sunset and Crassula rupestris with a light pastel top dressing

I’ve photographed a few of the top dressing options from Bonsai Jack and included them below. By the way… if you buy two bags of top dressings from him you can get the second one half off with code “topdressing”. Such a great deal!

Dark Pastel

A stunning combination of succulents with a coordinating top dressing

Earth Tone

Echeveria Neon Breakers with an earth tone top dressing

Gold

Stunning Sedum nussbaumerianum with Crassula lycopodioides and a gold gravel top dressing

Are you convinced? Top dressings really make a succulent arrangement look finished and professional. Once I discovered how awesome they were, every arrangement now gets one to finish it off. If you’ve used top dressings with your arrangements, I’d love to know what you used! I’m always on the lookout for fun new options :)

54 Responses to Top Dressing: Decorative rocks for your succulents

  1. The is an excellent website. Great instructions & before & after pics of design & pruning. I wasn’t aware that pruning succulents was “allowed”. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge & efforts.

  2. I have recently added pebbles to the tops of my potted succulents. However, I am having a bit of trouble when watering. The soil tends to seep up when I water and it causes my decorative pebbles to look dirty and not quite as clean, the soil debris tends to stick around days after. Do you have any advice for how I can avoid this from happening? Thank you!!

    • If you want your top dressing to stay clean and neat then it is totally fine to make the layer deeper and thicker, so that the debris is less likely to rise to the top.

  3. I have always used top dressing for all my cacti, and succulents. I go to the pet store to get the natural pebbles. I supposed you can use the variously colors too.

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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.

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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.

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