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Succulent Companion Planting

Published on July 23rd 2020
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Succulents are a staple that many a gardener has come across in one way or another. These superheroes are subjected to wooden stumps, exposed balcony railings, shells or even tin containers to decorate our surroundings. What the odd Instagram photo does not show is what happens to those arrangements a month down the line.
This article will touch on guidelines for beginners and hobbyists select plants to complement one another.
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What is 'companion planting'?

Companion planting refers to the selection of plants based on their ability to support one another and deter pests. It is a concept that is commonplace in vegetable gardens, but less so in the succulent world. So let's consider how selecting the right plant may help your other succulents grow better.
Make use of different heights.
  • Selecting tall succulents will create shaded areas for semi-shade succulent species.
Select succulents with deep and shallow roots.
  • This will limit competition for nutrients and water, whilst making sure water does not pool in an area.
Prune your fast growers.
  • Some species will choke out other plants by growing over them or depriving them of water.
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Roots determine how deep your containers need to be.

Succulent containers for beginners

Roots and water go hand in hand. Choosing plants based on watering needs may sound redundant, but it is key in terms of both container and outdoor gardening.
If you plan on keeping your succulents in containers, try to consider the following:
  • How deep is your container? Sedum or houseleeks will have shallow roots and will rot if planted in deep containers.
  • How long do you want the plants to stay in the container? Small containers may need repotting within a couple of months.
  • Where will you be keeping the container? Indoor containers will require an aerier mix than outdoor containers.
  • Did you leave some space between plants? Tight arrangements look wonderful, but they invite pests and diseases that can kill your plants fairly quickly.
Some examples of arrangements:


Before & After...thoughts? So I was gifted a few species along the way that aren't indigenous & I hate killing plants so this was the solution. A- Echeveria elegans-Mexico B/C- Cotyledon orbiculata (2 color variations) D-Sedum treleasei- Mexico E- Sedum rupestre 'silver'-Europe F- Cotyledon orbiculata var oblong G- Kalanchoe pumila- Madagascar H- Crassula expansa subsp fragilis I- Sempervivum 'red nails'- Europe Note: This is a single season mix as some will need more space than this. The Cotyledon usually forms large shrubs, but in confinement they stay smaller. All alien species are indicated with native range. Feel free to add suggestions😊 #BalconyGarden #cuttings


There is nothing like the cooling greens of foliage in this heat 💚🌿🌳. The trailing Spekboom (Portalucaria afra prostrata) is one of my favourites to add that lush, cool look without the water needs and maintenance. Love the purple💜 stems too! #spekboom #waterwise #smallspacegardening #smallspacegardens #verticalgarden #verticalplanter #balcony #balconygarden #cooling #capetown #summer

An easy step-by-step process is to select deep, intermediate and surface growers that will use your entire container. If you plan on using shallow containers, then starting with seedlings or surface growers will have the best results. Here is a quick reference guide to some commonly available succulents.
Shallow growers:
Shallow to intermediate:
Deep roots:
Remember to leave some room around each plant for adequate airflow and access to check for pests.
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Indoor arrangements will last longer if you select succulents with low light requirements.

Indoor Succulents

Selecting species with similar low-light requirements and watering needs will keep you from overwatering your plants. A common mistake is combining certain cacti and Zebra plants in the same container. They may look appealing, but chances are you will either underwater your Zebra plant or overwater your cacti.
The best results can be obtained by choosing succulents that prefer slightly less light and keeping them close to a window. A good guideline is to place succulents within 30-60cm (1-2 ft) of a window.
Semi-shade succulents for shallow containers:
Tip | Including succulent bulbs will give arrangements a softer texture.
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Selecting different species within a genus, like for example different Haworthia, will make watering easier.

Advanced Companion Planting

Collectors will know that arrangements can be tricky as some species may negatively affect one another. This ability is known as allelopathy, where compounds are released into the soil that inhibits the growth of certain seedlings and/or plants. The easiest way to sidestep this is by planting species from the same areas together.
Here are some tips for succulent collectors:
  • Plant nurse-plants that will recruit other species.
  • Avoid planting pest-prone species together.
  • Prune fast-growing species well ahead of the rainy season to avoid fungal infections.
  • Strip the lower/older leaves off plants to enhance airflow.
Allelopathic species:
If you have found this to be helpful or want to share your knowledge with the community, then please click on that Dig button and leave us a comment.
A close up of a green plant
Lebedouria are great additions to succulent arrangements as they do well indoors and require little water.
Herrera, I., Ferrer-Paris, J.R., Hernández-Rosas, J.I., Nassar, J.M. (2016). Impact of two invasive succulents on native-seedling recruitment in Neotropical arid environments. Journal of Arid Environments, 132, 15-25.
Lambers H., Chapin F.S., Pons, T.L. (2008). Ecological Biochemistry: Allelopathy and Defense Against Herbivores. In: Plant Physiological Ecology. Springer, New York, NY.

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