An Enduring Welcome
Living succulent wreaths bring nature to your door for months with minimal nurture
by Nitsa Knoll
Wreaths are a beautiful way to decorate your home not only for the holidays, but all year long.
Starting with a base of natural moss, you can create wreaths for every season using leaves, flowers and other gifts foraged from nature. I especially love making them with succulents, because their fleshy leaves retain water, allowing them to live and thrive for months. The entire wreath-making process typically takes less than 30 minutes, costs less than $40 and provides months of natural beauty for your front door during warm summer months. Succulents are dormant in winter and susceptible to frost, so if you live in an area with freezing temperatures, you’ll need to bring the succulents indoors when the weather turns.
Below are my five steps to creating a living wreath with succulents, but you can also follow along with me in this video.
Succulents are widely available in local nurseries or from online purveyors on Etsy and Amazon. I typically order a mixed variety (they run about $60 for 40 live plants), which gives me a range of interesting shapes and sizes to work with. You’ll need 20 or so plants to make a wreath, depending on their size and the diameter of the frame.
There are many types of succulents to choose from, but some are better than others for making wreaths. Sempervivums, also called “hens and chicks,” are ideal because they have thick, sturdy leaves and can tolerate both heat and cold. Echeverias have softer leaves than Sempervivums and sometimes resemble tiny cabbages; many varieties have vibrantly colored leaves. The only succulents I don’t recommend are sedums with trailing or hanging parts, because they can be delicate and difficult to work with.
Prepare the Base
Begin by soaking sphagnum moss in water until it’s thoroughly saturated. Massage it with your fingers to make the moss more flexible, then lay a generous amount on top of your base. Wrap green floral wire around everything to keep it in place. (If you’re using a store-bought living base, skip this step and simply soak the entire thing in water until it’s saturated. See the sidebar for information about base options.)
Attach the Plants
To secure succulents to the base, poke a hole in the moss with your finger for each one, then place the succulent (roots and all) into the gap as if you are planting it in soil. Use metal greening pins to fasten them to the base, then carefully wrap them with floral wire to make sure they are secure. Cluster the plants closely together, alternating different shapes, sizes and colors to create a pleasing, natural look. As the succulents continue to grow a root system, they will better attach themselves to the base.
Apply Finishing Touches
If you have access to some pretty decorative moss, like the pale green usnea that grows on the Jordan Winery trees, tuck some of it into the wreath to give it a more rustic, natural appeal. The moss also helps prop up the succulents and holds them in place. Use greening pins to secure any loose pieces, then wrap the wreath in floral wire to make sure everything stays put. When you’re finished, gently hose off the wreath to remove any soil or debris, and let it dry outside before hanging.
Care and Maintenance
When your wreath begins feeling a little dry, take it outside and submerge it in water for a few seconds, then let it dry. This should give it enough moisture for another month. If it’s cared for properly, your wreath should last up to a year. Because it’s a living thing, the succulents in the arrangement will continue to grow and have “babies.” If the wreath becomes too crowded, you can always deconstruct it and create a second one using the extra plants. For a cooler climate or during winter months, bring succulents indoors to avoid frost or heavy moisture, and place them in a location with natural light. Replant outdoors in the spring.