Apartment living can be a wonderful thing. It offers the independence of your own space without some tedious tasks like mowing the lawn, taking care of your exterior, or repairing and replacing appliances that stop working. But there can be some downsides. One downside is the fact that apartment living can make enjoying a garden a challenge.

Gardening has been proven to increase happiness levels and overall mood on a regular basis. So how can you make a garden and satisfy your green thumb when you live in an apartment without a green outdoor space? Potted plants and herbs can be great, but these can require a great deal of maintenance and care—as well as time. This can be difficult when you’re living a fast-paced lifestyle that involves full-time work, a busy social life, and maybe even studying.

The solution? Making a succulent garden. At McKinley Apartments we’ve put together a guide on how to make a succulent garden and how this easy-to-make, small, and easily maintained slice of nature can really perk up your home and provide you with a laid-back opportunity to do some gardening from the comfort of your apartment. By the end you’ll have everything you need to know about how to make a succulent garden!

Why Succulents?

Succulents and having a succulent garden have become a major trends recently, and for good reason. They’re beautiful, come in a wide variety of shapes, types, colors, and sizes, and best of all—they’re easy to keep alive. That makes succulent the perfect apartment plants for just about anyone. And with all the variety they bring, you can customize your own personal garden to your exact taste and personality.

What exactly is a succulent garden

Making a succulent garden is like creating a tiny little ecosystem in a single container. How big or small you’d like it to be is completely up to you, but the best part about it is that it can be easily moved and maintained whenever necessary. If you set up your succulent garden right and care for it correctly, it can bring color and life to your apartment no matter how urban the surrounding area might be.

Now let’s get started!

How Do You Start a Succulent Garden?

Your Supplies List

how to make a succulent garden

Before we get gardening, you’ll need the right supplies. Here are the basics of what you’ll need.

Small Hand Shovel

We’re talking very small. But you’ll need something to adjust your soil placement and make space for your succulents to plant.

Container for Your Garden

The kind and size of container you choose is up to you when creating a succulent garden. But something with a flat bottom is best, mostly because it will allow water to settle evenly and you can place it on any surface without worries about it tipping. If you really want to have excellent drainage, you can choose a container with holes and then place it in a gardening tray where the water can drain out. But this isn’t absolutely necessary, and it will require you to empty out the tray from time to time.


If you don’t want to get your hands mucky with wet soil, some gardening gloves can help.

Your Succulents

This is the fun part. You can head to your local garden or outdoor store and pick the perfect succulents for you. We recommend getting a bit of variety, but what you choose is completely up to your personal tastes.


Unfortunately, just any old soil won’t do when it comes to your succulents. There are specific soil types that are meant for succulents and cactus plants. This soil is designed for maximum drainage since too much water can hurt succulents and other desert-style plants. Fortunately, this soil is easy to find at your local garden store. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, just ask an associate.

Drainage Rocks

We’ll get into this more in the next section, but you’ll want some small rocks for the bottom of your succulent garden to allow for drainage.

Decorative Top Layer

Rocks, sand, or a combination of both—choose what you want the top layer of your succulent garden to look like for maximum beauty.

Preparing Your Garden

Now it’s time to start putting together your garden. We’ll take you through the process step-by-step.

how to make an outdoor succulent garden


Most people ask the question: “Can you plant succulents in just rocks?” The answer is yes! The bottom layer of your succulent garden will be comprised of the small rocks you chose for drainage. We recommend at least a couple of inches for that first layer. This is important for allowing water to drain through the soil without completely saturating it. Succulents don’t do well in over-saturated soil.

Remember that smaller rocks are better, as this will allow for smaller gaps and let water seep through slowly rather than falling directly to the bottom. Spread out a nice, even layer and add more rocks as you see fit. If your garden container is made of glass or transparent plastic, be sure to choose visually appealing rocks as they will be visible through the side of your garden.


Next up, it’s time for soil. If you’ve chosen the right soil for your garden, all you need to do is spread a nice even layer along the top of your drainage rocks. Remember not to pack it down too tightly, as over-compressed soil can cause problems with saturation and drainage, and also may make it difficult for the plants’ roots to spread.

When it comes to how deep to make your soil layer, the good news is that succulents don’t need very deep soil to thrive. Just make sure you give them enough room for their roots to take hold. If the bottom of your succulents is right up against your drainage rock layer, the roots won’t be able to take hold or absorb nutrients from the soil as well.

Placing your Succulents

Succulents do pretty well when placed in close proximity, so don’t be too stressed about spacing them out. In fact, your garden will look best if there aren’t big gaps in-between plants and their leaves can blend together in one big canvas of greenery and color.

Use your hand shovel to scoop out little holes in your soil, pop your succulent planters in (after removing them from their plastic containers, of course), and then spread soil back in and around the area.

Top Layer

Finally, it’s time to add your attractive top layer. This doesn’t need to be thick at all, just enough to provide some aesthetic charm to the base of your succulents.

And with that, you’re done! You’ve created your succulent garden.

Caring for Your Garden

While succulents are pretty hardy, they do have some needs. They do best with lots of sunlight, so if you’re going to have them indoors it’s best to keep them somewhere that gets a high amount of direct sun.

As far as watering, you shouldn’t be hitting them with water every day. Only when the soil becomes completely dry do succulents need some water. When you do water them, make sure not to completely drown the soil. Remember—these plants are accustomed to desert environments.

Reviving Sick Plants

If you start to see some brown creeping into your succulents, don’t panic. There’s a straightforward system for learning what they need. If your succulents are beginning to brown from the bottom up, they’re getting too dry and need water on a more regular basis.

If your succulents are browning from the top down, it’s likely that they’re not receiving quite enough sunlight. Try moving them to a more sun-drenched location in the apartment for a while.

And there you have it! Everything you need to know about how to make a succulent garden. You now know how to prep, create, and care for your own personal little succulent garden from the comfort of your own apartment. You’ll be amazed at how even a small patch of greenery in your rental can make you feel more relaxed, at ease, and at home.

Still looking for an apartment to call your own (and fill with plants)? Get started on your apartment search today!

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