A Window Box of Succulents

Succulents in a Window Box

I’ve been a succulent enthusiast since the start. They are easy to care for, can be crammed into small spaces, and they come in a wide range of alien-like forms. What’s not to love? While I have always grown a great many of them, moving out of my old apartment and into a very dry house has really brought my succulent problem to another level. I am no longer able to keep African violets, tropicals, and other humidity-loving plants thriving here, and once I had figured that out, I simply got rid of the plants that couldn’t cope and replaced them with even more succulents. And since many succulents don’t need big pots, I crammed even more in still.

Late last winter I interviewed succulent enthusiast and grower Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens and caught Succulent Fever, the Sequel. Suddenly the one million tender succulents overwintering in my office and basement simply would not do. We must have MORE, I say! So I went out and made sure that this year I had at least two million hundred-fifty (as the grade-schooler next door says) succulents to drag indoors come fall, a painful chore that I shall be forced to face any minute now.

This is the dilemma we succulent addicts living in cooler climates face. We could stick with the hardy succulents, but by god, there are just too many gorgeous tender plants to covet. I know I will be cursing myself in the coming weeks as I drag pot upon endless pot up and down stairs, but until then I have enjoyed the bigger, super-fabulous succulent pots I allowed myself to create this year. For a few months I was able to look out at lush containers full of tender succulents in all sorts of wild forms and imagine that I lived in California where they can keep these colourful jewels outdoors year round.

Succulents in a Window Box

I will show you more containers over time, however I thought I would start with this beautiful, wide, terra cotta window box (scored for just a few dollars at a thrift store) full of tender echeveria, graptoveria (a hybrid of echeveria and graptopetalum), and one other trailing purple succulent that I have been unable to identify. The fact that I have been unable to identify many of the plants in this box or their specific varieties was one reason why I’ve neglected to post about it. I’d love to tell you exactly which combination of plants I have growing here, especially the cream and green variegated one that I’m sure many of you will love. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find succulents that are misidentified or not identified at all. I spent quite some time combing through my books trying to identify these varieties, but I was never certain enough to confidently list names here. Even the variegated plant has me stumped. It could be a an echeveria or an aeonium, I just don’t feel confident to say. If you have some suspicions I’d love to hear what they are in the comments, especially about the purple plant that I have never seen before.

If you’d like to see a few more succulent window boxes, there are a number that I created over the years while gardening on the roof. Succulents were some of the only plants that thrived in a metal pot on a very hot and exposed black metal fire escape, although you will see in the photos that I stuck almost exclusively to hardy succulents that could be overwintered outside.

Click through to my interview with Katharine Tracey for some of her tips for growing succulents in pots.

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 “A Window Box of Succulents

  1. The cream and green specimen does not look like my Aeoniums, meaning the growth habit does not seem to be tall enough. I would vote for Echeveria if the choice is between those two. With ample summer sun, heat and maturity, Aeoniums produce “pups” below the uppermost rosette, at the top of their stems, each fall right before I am forced to bring them inside. The pups can be plucked off and allowed to scar over a day or two, then planted in sandy soil and kept in a warm spot over the winter inside. (I use my naturally warm boiler room which has hanging lights for overwintering specimens and later for seed starting.)

    That enchanting dark Sedum hanging over the edge looks like S. tetractinum according to my text called “Sedum – Cultivated Stonecrops” by Ray Stephenson. In case you also have this book, look at page 171-172,
    “an excellent subject for hanging baskets, window boxes or edges of stone troughs”, figure 6.23 and also color plate 34.
    The description along with plate 34 describes a family of Sedums that are “yellow flowered Far Eastern species with fibrous roots”. If you’ve seen it flower pink or white, I guess that would disqualify it as S. tetractinum.

    Here’s a link with a possible photo of the mystery Sedum … Perhaps submitting your picture to Dave’s website for ID help might get a more definitive answer.

    I adore the succulent families and am always on the lookout for a nifty container in which to feature them. Wooden Dutch clogs were my pick this summer. I found a large pair for 25 cents at a yard sale and a miniature painted pair for a dollar at a flea market. They always bring this response from visitors: “Look how cute that is!”.

    My small hypertufa trough is so lovely that I experimented with leftover concrete from a porch replacement, making two nice pots. THAT was loads of fun. When we moved here in 1990 there was a strangely shaped rectangular type of rock about a foot high and 8″ wide with hens and chicks growing on it. They are still growing on it today! I have replaced the lean soil only in dribs and drabs. Sometimes I stick in errant pieces of chicks. A ring of glued stones arranged by someone in the past helps to keep the mass from washing off in downpours. People are amazed to see this “planter”. Once you catch the succulent “bug” you don’t want a cure.

    • My friend Uli just emailed me identifying the sedum as the same. I had no idea it was a sedum and had never seen one like that before.

      I’m still on the fence about the variegated one. Uli thinks it is ‘Aeonium ‘Sunburst,’ which was my aeonium guess. You’re right that it doesn’t have the same elongated growth habit of my other aeoniums, but I’m not discounting it yet. The mystery continues.

      Love the clogs!

  2. What a captivatingly lovely little window box. Just christly lovely. Thank you so much for loving plants in such a crazy way that I do too. Makes me feel not-quite-so-exclusively a plant-a-maniac as I do usually. So nice.

    Hmm. Lovely. It’s the word.

    Sorry that I have such a potty-mouth.


    As you were, with many thanks. Sorry for interrupting.

  3. I started succulents in pots on my porch last year and this year they have crept into many other areas, it is really an addiction. I do love the stunning variety. I have limited myself to those that can survive outdoors through Seattle winters which are fairly mild.

  4. I have always loved cacti and succulents.
    My very first plant was one of the Lithops spp. A living stone plant. I was eight :) I think they marketed them on the label as “Living Pet Rock” plants or something like that. The label had googly eyes, obviously aimed as an impulse buy to shut the whining kid up at the checkout in Kmart.

    • This surprises me because lithops are notoriously difficult to keep… at least they are for me. But I can see the novelty value for kids. When I was a kid it was Sea Monkeys, which I too got at Kmart.

  5. Gayla, The Variegated Aeonium lookalike is Aichryson x domesticum vareigata. It is sometimes sold as an Aeonium. Thanks for the nod. I’m just about to do a post on what to do with a big succulent pot for the winter.

    • Wow, I had not heard of that genus. Thanks! Great minds… I had started writing something similar yesterday as a part of this post and realized it was getting too long so am saving for another day. As mentioned, I have more big pots this year so I will be resorting to mostly cuttings rather than overwintering as-is.

  6. Beautiful and what a find with that container! I also enjoyed your hardy succulent gardens – I have planted a few hardy succulents in my permanent outdoor containers and they have come back beautifully. I also planted succulents this year to use as my outdoor containers (with the plan that they will become houseplants over the winter) and I am hooked! They look as fresh as the day planted and I know they will survive the dry winter heat indoors. I love containers that I can simply move in and out. I always try to make certain that any plants I buy come with a tag – otherwise it’s pretty hopeless (for me) that I would ever be able to identify it.

  7. Hi Gayla,
    Love the window box :) I also love succulents. Unfortunately, I have had to limit myself to only hardy varieties (zone 6 and below) because whenever I would overwinter my tender succulents, they would really stretch even by the sunniest window. I’ve thought of using one of my grow lights, but I feel like it’s such a waste of energy and expensive light bulbs. How do you get around this with your succulents?

  8. I really like having boxes of succulents. They are so lush and fill a box so well, they make a presence. I am a little lazy at times with my pots and sometimes leave the succulents to winter outside (in Zone 5)…so far I have been lucky and they have come back, as long as they were very well drained, otherwise they turn to mush.

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