Create your own one-of-a-kind indoor rock garden. All it takes are a few easy-to-find items and you'll enjoy a little desert landscape for your home that's almost maintenance-free.
Many garden centers and nurseries stock small cacti and other succulents, pebbles and decorative rocks, and terra cotta containers.
The only difficult thing about making your rock garden may be deciding what to put in it. Just a bit of advice before we get started: keep it simple. Crowding too many plants in one small dish doesn't allow any of them to stand out. Three to five small succulents and cacti for a 10-inch bowl is plenty. Less is more really applies here.
Container. Shallow bonsai pots work wonderfully. Or, use a simple terra cotta dish. Terra cotta is porous, allowing the potting medium to dry out between waterings. If your dish doesn't have drainage holes, pour 1 in (2.5 cm) of small rocks as the bottom layer to help drainage.
Sandy medium. Use a potting mixture that drains well. Mix 2 parts all-purpose potting mix and 1 part coarse sand for a fast-draining medium. Or, get a ready-to-use cactus potting mix.
Plants. You can choose any combination of succulents for your indoor rock garden, just remember that cacti need watering less often than other succulents. A variety of cactus house plants look good together. Repeating plant shapes helps to create continuity in the group -- use a couple barrel-shaped cacti or 2 or 3 rosette-shaped echeveria for a balanced display.
Rocks. Decorate the surface of the garden with pebbles or small stone chips. A few larger rocks will help fill in gaps between the plants and give your garden a finished look.
Never pour water directly on succulents because they easily rot. Water the potting mix.
Remember to always use room-temperature water when watering your plants.
Give your plants plenty of light. Most succulents need at least 6 hours of indirect sun every day. Put your garden near a sunny window. If your succulents get light from only one side, turn the dish once in a while so that all plants get the light they need for even growth. Another good option for sun-loving indoor succulent gardens is artificial lighting.
Water carefully. Overwatering kills more cactus and other succulents than anything else. Succulents efficiently store water so they need watering less often than most people believe. Give them a good drink then allow the potting mix to dry out before watering again.
Overwatering is the most common reason for succulents to fail.
Cut back on watering in winter when growth has slowed, but do not allow soil to dry out completely.
All cactus plants are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
Cacti are distinguishable from other succulents because they have aeroles -- the raised or sunken place where spines or flowers emerge.
Coryphantha andreae (pictured above) typically will not flower until it is several years old. Yes, it's slow, but worth the wait. This cactus produces big, daisy-like flowers in spring and summer.
Echeveria elegans (pictured above) is an easy-to-grow succulent. It has a beautiful rosette form with tall spikes of bell-shaped blooms appearing in summer.
Lithops species (pictured above) is an unusual succulent that looks like a rock. After 2-3 years, you can expect it to bloom. Plant a few together for a captivating display -- they'll blend right in with the rocks!