How We Build a
Planting Bed

Too little is said about the successful bed in which
to grow succulent plants. Most of us are not blessed
with perfeclty draining soil that is of just the correct
coarseness for growing succulents.

Our approach is and has been, that if we give the plants a well drained, slightly raised bed, they will thrive and we
can vary the amount of water they get widely

Following is a pictorial account of the building of one
small bed in our back yard that is very successful.


The preparation of the soil is all important in any planting of any plant. What is the best growing condition for the plants that I wish to grow? How can I accomplish the preparation of that soil?

Fortunately, succulent plants are not very fussy about where they grow. They don't want soil that is overly acidic or alkaline. They grow best in neutral Ph soil that is coarse and well drained. Our house lot is built on very heavy red clay. Hard as a brick when dry and gooey when wet. We know that we need to amend this soil to have sucessful succulent plant growth. The ground is flat, no natural drainage, so we need to create drainage. You can't dig a hole in the clay, put cactus mix in it and expect your plant to survive. You've just made a perfect natural swiming pool for the plants when (or if) it rains.

Step 1:

I've removed flag stone from an area about 10 feet wide and deep. I am digging the soil up to about an 8" (spade blade) depth and turning it so that is is loose and ariable. I do not use a rototiller as it will not till deep enough for my purposes.
Step 2: Add amendment. In Southern California, we use Decomposed Granite, which is just that and is mined for use as a top dressing for places that would otherwise be muddy. For succulent plant growers, it is soil amendment. Any inert rock or hard fired clay will work. We add an equal amount to that soil that has been tilled up.
Step 3:

I mix the DG and soil by simply moving it from one side to the other. When it is time to rake it back into place, it is well mixed. Then begins the fun. In 10 or so beds in our garden, each has a different border. Some have none, just sloped back from the existing soil level while others have formal edges. In this case, I've used the removed flag stone, cut it to size and dry-stacked it.

Step 4: One pre-planned item in this bed is a 10 year old pot with succulents growing in it. It has a separate irrigation line, For this bed, I've used a soft pipe supply line and micro sprinklers.
Step 5: While we have some idea as to what plants will be in a given bed, I never pre-slect any until the bed is complete. The plants may or may not look right in the completed space. I've saved back enough of the DG to top dress the entire bed to a depth of about 1". This gives the planting a "deserty" look and completely suppresses weed germination.
1 Year Later: The plants are happy and their minders are happy.

Return to Index of Pages