This fun holiday project combines two of my favorite things: living Christmas trees and succulents. There’s a whole lot to love about both. For starters, living Christmas trees are better for the environment, and succulents are super forgiving plants, perfect for those who tend to kill every green thing they touch. What you’ll end up with is a lovely miniature succulent Christmas “tree” that’ll thrive all year round with very little care required.
How to Make a Succulent Christmas Tree
Things You’ll Need
- Chicken wire
- Long nose pliers with cutter
- Protective work gloves
- Sphagnum moss, pre-moistened
- Assorted succulent cuttings of various species/sizes
- Floral greening pins
- Pot with drainage holes (weighted with stones or another heavy material) and saucer
- Mini Christmas tree ornaments (optional)
Soak your sphagnum moss for 20 minutes before using, then squeeze off any extra water.
Step 1: Make a Chicken Wire Topiary Cone Form
If you’ve never worked with chicken wire before, it may take some practice to shape it to your liking. (If you don’t want to go through this step, see the tip below.) Put on gloves to protect your hands from the severed wires, then cut out a symmetrical triangle whose size depend on how tall and broad you want your tree to be. My triangle has a bottom width of 16 inches and a point 14 inches from the base. Of course, as you may recall from geometry class, a 2D triangle linked edge to edge does not make a 3D symmetrical cone; instead, a disc with a wedge cut out (like in Pac-man) does. But making a Pac-Man out of chicken wire is a lot more labor! Instead, I overlapping the edges of my triangle and shaped the cone to achieve the desired symmetrical shape.
To connect one overlapped edge to the other, bend and produce gripping hooks all the way up the edge with pliers.
Don’t want to play with chicken wire? I wouldn’t hold it against you if you didn’t. In that scenario, look for a ready-made sphagnum moss cone form online. Making your own, on the other hand, allows you to personalize the size of your tree.
Step 2: Pack Your Chicken Wire Form With Moss
Take your moistened sphagnum moss and stuff it tightly into your cone. Your succulent clippings should thrive in this medium. Make sure to purchase the long-fibered kind.
Step 3: Put Tree Form Into Your Pot
Insert your shape into your pot, which is now weighted down with stones (or some other material that will give your base stability). When you water your tree, the stones will also aid ensure that the moss drains properly. Choose a pot that is slightly smaller in circle than your cone, so that it fits snugly.
Step 4: Insert Succulent Cuttings Into Form
When taking your cuttings, leave an inch (or two) of stem length to place into your form. To make room for the cutting stem, form a hole and deep pocket in your densely packed moss with a long, thin instrument (a chopstick is ideal, but I used a thin paintbrush handle).
Insert the stem into the pocket and use a greening pin to secure the cutting.
Begin at the bottom of your form and work your way up, using larger cuttings at the bottom and smaller cuttings at the top. We recommend starting with rosette cuttings (e.g., Echeveria, Graptopetalum, Aeonium, Sempervivum) and then filling in smaller holes with Jelly Bean Plants and smaller Jade species (see figure below). These are only ideas, so go creative!
Step 5: Cover Entire Form With Cuttings
Rep Step 4 until your cone form is completely covered with succulent cuttings.
Adorn Your Succulent Xmas Tree (Optional)
A living succulent tree is beautiful on its own, but if you want to make a festive table centerpiece, add a mini Christmas tree topper, red berries (you can use faux berries, but I chose a few chinaberries (from a tree) that I plan to remove once they shrivel), mini ornaments, and/or mini tree lights.
Caring for Your Tree
It is simple to care for your tree. Place it in a sunny location and water it from the top when the moss dries out. However, these resilient plants may survive in dry moss for nearly a week, so don’t worry if you forget to water them. Any plants that get too “leggy” should be pruned, and the trimmed cuttings should be inserted back into the moss. Bring it indoors or put it in a greenhouse to protect it from extreme cold.
Now you can be merry all year round!