Califonia Bountiful

Gardening: It's easy to make a 'succulent pizza'

July/Aug. 2011 California Country magazine

Choose your plantings as you would your toppings

I'm a pushover for succulents. Because my winters are too cold to have them in the ground, I have them in pots on the deck. Trouble is, too many small pots look disjointed and busy, so when I saw how a friend created what he called "succulent pizzas," I knew I'd found the answer.

The idea is to use large terra cotta saucers—12 to 18 inches across—that go under pots to plant succulents. The saucers are low and wide like a pizza pan, and it's good to have a mixture of plants, like a real, living pizza. You can use anything as a container as long as it's low and wide and has drain holes.

Depending on the size of the saucer, I use 20 to 30 different succulents, some singly, some in groups of three or more. They combine effortlessly. I pack them in cheek by jowl without a lot of planning. I combine whatever looks good. I don't move things around a million times. I just throw them in. It's that easy. It doesn't take long and it's fun.

I try to make sure I have an assortment of shapes and sizes. The rosette types of succulents look good in groups. Also select something tall and something trailing. Experiment, but remember to buy more succulents than you think you need because when you pack them in closely together, it takes more than you'd think to fill the space.

Here's how

  1. Using a cement bit, drill three evenly spaced drainage holes in the saucer.
  2. Pack plants directly on the saucer bottom as tightly against each other as you can. Put the tallest plants at the back so it doesn't look like you're recreating the Matterhorn. Group in odd numbers; it looks more natural.
  3. Fill in bare spots and along edges with potting soil.
  4. Water the succulent pizza gently every couple days until the plants acclimate and then cut water back to once a week. Don't overwater; succulents hate wet feet. But don't let them get bone dry and shriveled. The planting will last a year or more before plants get too big and start reproducing. Use them to make more succulent pizzas for friends and family.

Pat Rubin is a longtime gardener and garden writer. Send questions or comments to her at

Gardening to-do list for July/August

  • Mulch, mulch, mulch. It does wonders for the garden, from conserving water to keeping the soil friable—that is, easily crumbled. It also makes the garden look neat and tidy.
  • Cut spent blooms from irises and gladiolus. Divide and replant crowded clumps.
  • Leave the grass clippings on the lawn when you mow. They don't make thatch; they add nutrients to the soil.
  • Fertilize fruit and nut trees: almonds, apricots, peaches, walnuts and cherries. Thin apples, pears, nectarines and peaches to about 6 inches between each fruit.
  • It's time to plant winter vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce.
  • Water early in the morning to conserve water.
  • Choose crape myrtles while they are in bloom.
  • Pinch dahlias, asters and mums for bushier plants and more blooms.
  • Keep an eye on tomato plants for hornworms. Check the undersides and watch for chewed leaves and black droppings. You have to remove the hornworm from the plant. Toss them in the garbage or put them on the ground for the birds to find.
  • Cut back Mexican evening primrose to the ground and you'll get a second flush of bloom in late summer.

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