Grow: Miniature Gardens

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10 Mar 2019

Create a shell garden with Jo from the Plant Artisan.

Words: Jo Aquilina and Linda Ross


Succulents don’t need a lot of root space as they store most of their water and nutrients in their leaves. This means gardners can get creative about where they create succulent gardens. When crafting a miniature shell garden consider texture and composition - the more variety of leaf texture you can add, the more interesting your creation will be. Here’s how to do it:  


1. As there are no drainage holes in seashells, place a layer of small-diameter gravel in the base of the shell. Don’t be tempted to use sand for this step, as it compacts easily and can lead to root rot. Alternatively drill up to three holes into the shell. Fill the shell to just below the top with Osmocote Professional Cacti & Succulents Mix.  


2. Arrange an assortment of succulents into the shell, placing the largest feature first and then positioning the smallest ones for contrasting texture and leaf shape. Use a skewer to create small planting holes that you can place the base of the succulent into.  


3. Cover any visible potting mix with decorative pebbles, then lightly water or spray. Don’t soak the mix.  




Echeveria – rosette-forming succulents in a variety of colours. 

Stonecrop – flat-lying sedums perfect for trailing out from the edge of containers, try ‘Gold Mound’ for colour contrast. 

Donkeytails, Sedum morganianum -  trailing stems thick with succulent little leaves. 

Spanish moss - Tillandsia usenoides is an air plant, which gets its nutrients and moisture from the air, and is a great filler in a shell garden.  

Also - Cotyldedon, Crassula, Sempervivum, Graptopetalum, Kalanchoe and Senecio. 



Succulents require more water in early spring when the plant is growing and less during the summer and winter. They enter a dormant period during the winter and will only need to be watered about once a month. During spring they may need watering as much as once a week. Let the soil dry out completely between waterings, whatever the time of year. Place the shell garden in as much light as possible.  


Find Jo from the Plant Artisan at Stall 97 at Collectors' Plant Fair, April 6-7 2019, Hawkesbury Race Club, Clarendon. Buy tickets at


Story first published in Garden Clinic Magazine Autumn Issue 53.