Create your own picture frame planter blooming with a mosaic of live succulents and moss. This DIY project isn’t nearly complicated as you’d think — you can get everything you need to make a vertical garden at your local craft store. The textures and colors will make any space (indoor or outdoor) come alive — and even gardeners with the blackest of thumbs can care for succulents.
Succulent Wall Garden
- wooden picture frame (8” x 10”)
- wooden box/tray (12” x 12” or any size that’s slightly bigger than the opening of your frame)
- ½-inch wire mesh (a.k.a. hardware cloth)
- tin snips (or any heavy-duty wire-cutting shears)
- staple gun
- paint or wood stain (optional, any color)
- wood glue
- frame hanging kit (with hanging wire and two screw eyes)
- moistened succulent/cactus potting mix soil (enough to fill the box)
- array of 2-inch succulent plants (For example: hens and chicks, stonecrop, Aeonium, Dudleya, leatherpetal, panda plant, tiny aloe, etc. You will need about 15 small succulents, depending on the size and type.)
- preserved lichen/moss (any color — we used a mixture of reindeer moss and forest moss)
- chopstick (or pencil, wooden dowel, popsicle stick, etc.)
- spray bottle
Tips before you get started:
- Flatter succulents will work better than taller, more tendril-like plants.
- If you end up with extra moss, use it around the base of a potted plant for decoration and to help retain moisture.
- Since waiting for the glue to dry takes up the majority of time in this project, you can speed up the process by attaching the box to the frame with screws instead. Make sure that the box is really flush to the back of the frame so that no soil falls out.
- If you want to make a bigger hanging succulent planter, we recommend reinforcing the box with screws because the soil will be heavier.
- You can also leave the planter horizontal and use it as a dining table centerpiece. (In this case, don’t attach the eye screws and hanging wire to the back of the frame.)
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money on succulents at the nursery — forage succulent cuttings or “pups” from your backyard.
- Remove the glass from your picture frame. Using the tin snips, cut the wire mesh to the fit of the opening on the back of the frame. (If you have it, measure the size with the paper backing.)
- Fit the wire mash onto the back opening of the frame and, using the staple gun, staple it into place.
- The wooden shadowbox will be visible from the side of the planter, so if you don’t like the way the unfinished wood looks, paint or stain the box. Let it dry according to the instructions.
- Apply a liberal amount of wood glue around the rim of the box, and place it over the opening on the back of the frame. Weigh the box down with books or any heavy object (or clamp it together). Some of the glue may seep out when you weigh down the box, so wipe away any excess while it’s still wet). Let the glue dry according to the instructions. When it’s dry, check the seams between the frame and box to make sure that it’s well-sealed–if there are any gaps, fill them in with more glue and let that dry.
- Attach the screw eyes one-third of the way down from the top of the frame (about 3 inches down, if you’re using an 8-inch x 10-inch frame). You want the screw eyes placed high enough to that when you hang the planter, it won’t flop forward and spill out the succulents. Attach the hanging wire to the screw eyes securely.
- If your cactus potting mix is completely dry, moisten it so that it’s damp. Fill the box with the soil, shaking it side to side and pressing the soil down through the mesh with your hands. Add enough soil so that the box is full and the soil is packed in pretty firmly.
- Take your succulents out of their pots and gently knock off any excess soil from the roots. You may want to separate larger plants into individual shoots. (To get an idea of how you want to arrange the succulents, you can lay them all out on top of the mesh before proceeding.)
- Use the tin ships to cut an opening in the wire mesh just large enough to accommodate the roots of one succulent. (Some are small enough that you can just poke them through the half-inch opening in the mesh without cutting it.)
- Use a chopstick to create a small hole for the succulent in the soil, and gently press the plant into place.
- Repeat this process to plant all of the succulents in the soil.
- Fill in the spaces between the succulents with the moss, using the chopstick to gently press it down into the openings of the mesh.
- Hang your vertical planter on the wall, or lean it against the wall on a shelf. Display it indoors or outdoors. (If you hang it outdoors, you’ll want to use a frame that can stand up to the weather.)
How to care for your succulent wall garden:
- Succulents can survive without a ton of light, but it’s best if you can hang your planter in a spot where it will get moderate to bright sunlight.
- The moss likes to be misted weekly. If it starts to dry up and harden, give it a thorough misting and it will soften up again.
- Once a month, take your planter down and lightly water it to moisten the soil — but keep in mind that the box doesn’t drain, so do not overwater it.
- If you notice that any of the succulents or moss aren’t thriving (or if a succulent outgrows the frame), you can always pull them out and replace them.