Cheap n’ Easy Container Idea: Succulent Window Box 2007


Over the years, I’ve made a tradition of both putting together a new succulent window box idea every spring, and posting about it here. Since planting up this year’s box a few months ago, I’ve been taking photos as a prelude to a write-up here. But just when I begin to write, something in the box changes and I convince myself the box is even better and requires new photos. Now that I have broken my digital camera and am in gear purgatory I will just have to settle for the last batch of images and write this thing up already.

Sun-loving and exceptionally drought-tolerant succulents are just about the only plants that can survive the growing season slugging it out in a window box on my painfully hot and dry fire escape. I grow sun loving plants in larger containers on the fire escape as well but the succulents are the only plants that can withstand a day or more without attention and a long drink of water. They are hardy too, some like the ‘Goldmoss Stonecrop’ have been living in the same box for four seasons straight surviving straight through our cold, sporadic city winters. Many assume that because succulents are easy that they are also boring yet mine put on a good show, growing, draping, evolving with the seasons, changing colours, and eventually producing wacky alien-like flower forms.

From the Front (Photographed in May):

Clockwise from right front: Goldmoss Stonecrop (Sedum acre), Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Sedum spurium Probably ‘Red Carpet’ , Sempervivum ‘Pacific Sexy’, Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’, Sedum sieboldii


  • Regular potting mix with about 1/4 sand added. The other 3/4 can be straight up potting mix with an addition of compost if you like. Succulents need good drainage so a little sand helps. If your spot is really hot and dries out quickly you can forego the sand and just go with a well-draining potting soil.
  • Window Box – This one cost about $15 and was purchased at Ikea several years ago. This kind of galvanized metal container is much more popular and easier to find these days. Make sure to poke holes in the bottom with a large nail if holes are not provided. Succulents require good drainage or they will rot.
  • Plants – Most of these plants cost about $1.99-2.99 with the exception of the wildly expensive sempervivum coming in at $7.99. My cost for this box was $16 which is a bit higher than previous years which tended to come in at around $12. or under.
  • Gravel or Decorative Rocks – Make a great succulent container mulch. Mulch prevents soil erosion, holds in some moisture, and just plain looks good. Rocks are cheap and reusable. You can also try aquarium gravel, marbles, broken pottery, or beach glass.

From the Front (Photographed in June):

From the Side:

Close-up on Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’:

Previous years: 2006, 2005, 2004

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “Cheap n’ Easy Container Idea: Succulent Window Box 2007

  1. You’re not kidding, Gayla – those keep on getting better and better! Puts my sad little dish of succulents to shame.

  2. Hi, First of all let me tell you that I love your website. Being a city gardner since I was a wee little one I can relate to your rooftop garden. Now I own a home and am so worried about gardening in the dirt outside of my plantars. Your website is a little bit of heaven for me! The pics are lovely!

    I just bought a mini little succulent dish- about 3 inch radius. I want to transplant it to a bigger dish and add more – but how- I think they are so delicate. I think one of the leaves fell off the other day when I touched it. Any ideas on transplanting them to another dish? I think they are mainly hens and chicks.

  3. Your succlent box looks fantastic! What a good idea.

    I have boxes in the sun that I tried growning marigolds in the last two years. I fried them. Now I am trying geraniums. They are doing better but need dead heading at the moment.

    I never thought of succulents.

  4. Lizard: It’s difficult to transplant some succulents without loosing a leaf or two or three. Just try to be reasonably careful. Try using a spoon or something to help dig the roots out… hens and chicks tend not to have insane roots. They are resiliant plants and will adjust quickly.

    Jolynn: Most geraniums (the big fuzzy leaf kind) can take a bit of heat and drought so you should have better luck with them. Succulents are the easiest when it comes to hot and dry locations.

    I literally just plant and water every few days. You can water less often if your space isn’t as hot as my fire escape. Think so hot you would be uncomfortable sitting there for a few minutes.

    Renee: Seriously there are so many stylin’ succulent varieties. I am never bored or uninspired.

  5. Well thanx to you and an artical I saw months ago in Domino I have finally made a small succclent arrangement. I have “babies toes”, chics n hens and topsy turvy and 2 others. I keeping mine indoors as a cool coffee table house plant. Can’t wait til it’s big like your’s.

  6. I think the box itself was about $15 when I bought it years ago. The plants were about $16. The soil isn’t much and has been reused many times. The rocks were probably a couple of dollars. Really the biggest expense are new plants every year save the one plant that comes back and multiplies itself every year. I have used pieces of it and some sempervivums from last year in another pot that didn’t cost me a thing.

  7. Years ago, my mom introduced me to hens and chicks when I got upset that I couldn’t get flowering plants to grow. Now I’m addicted to succulents! I love the funky, plump leaves, occasional flowers, and rad colors. I live in the Southeast – very hot, very humid – succulents work great here! And Gayla, your’s look fantastic!

  8. GREAT idea!
    It looks beautiful!

    I’ve been trying to come up with something funky for our balcony. Thanks for posting this!

  9. Hi, I am a renter, so balcony gardening is all I can do this year…I attached my pots to the top rail of my deck with cable ties…I am a computer whiz, and I use cable ties like alot of mechanics use duct tape! My hubby told me to just screw to pots to the rail, but I knew the wind would not be kind to them. We have had horrible wind storms, and my pots haven’t budged!!!

    PS–I do mixed pots, and next season, I will replicate yours!


  10. I have a little strip of sandy dirt next to my house that I can never get anything to grow in. This year I tried succulents like stonecrop, hens and chicks, etc. Next to them I arranged all the rocks I have collected over the years along with any other weird-shaped metal pieces and old tools I’ve picked up on walks and hikes. It looks pretty groovy, and one thing I really like about succulents is that they thrive on neglect (in the midwestern part of the US at least–I have a tendency to overwater).

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