Creating a living succulent Christmas tree is a fun DIY project that combines gardening with crafting, but you don't need any special skills or even a green thumb to be successful. This is a fun and creative Christmas craft that produces a lovely, low-maintenance version of a living Christmas tree. You can follow the same tutorial using a custom array of store-bought succulents or succulent cuttings to create a succulent tree of any size. However, a typical DIY succulent Christmas tree is the ideal scale for a centerpiece on your holiday table rather than a substitute for a full-size traditional Christmas tree.
Things You'll Need
Ceramic or terra cotta planter
Floral foam or stones
Selection of small succulents or succulent cuttings
Rooting hormone powder (if using cuttings)
Chopstick or similar
Accents such as baubles, bows, silver bells, evergreen sprigs (optional)
Small tree topper (optional)
How to make a living succulent Christmas tree
1. Prepare the planter
Measure the circumference of the top of the planter with a measuring tape. This measurement is the approximate length of the bottom of the chicken wire shape you will need to cut to create your tree form.
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Fill the planter with floral foam or stones and set it aside for now.
2. Cut the chicken wire
Wearing protective work gloves and using a wire cutter, cut an isosceles triangle (one with two sides of equal length) out of chicken wire. The base of the triangle should be slightly greater than the circumference of the planter. The height of the triangle should match your desired height for the finished succulent tree. Don't worry too much about getting exact measurements or perfect cuts, as you will need to make adjustments while forming the cone shape for the tree form.
3. Create a cone-shaped tree form
While still wearing work gloves, roll the chicken wire triangle into a cone shape. Bring the two longer sides of the triangle together and wrap the cut ends of the wire over adjacent wires to join the "seam." Use pliers for this if it's too difficult to do with your fingers.
It will probably be necessary to trim the sides of the triangle with the wire cutters in places to create a nice cone shape. Trim the bottom edge of the cone as needed to create a flat base. Use pliers to fold back the sharp ends of cut wires and bend them toward the inside of the cone.
4. Fill the cone with moss
Soak the sphagnum moss in a sink or bucket full of cold water for about 15 minutes. Then, handful by handful, squeeze the excess water out of the moss and stuff it inside the chicken wire frame. Pack the cone full of moss.
Take care to avoid any sharp wires while stuffing the cone with moss. You might want to keep on your work gloves until you've finished this step.
5. Set the cone inside the planter
Place the moss-filled wire frame inside the planter, bending the lower edges of the chicken wire to secure the cone in place. Insert a few floral pins around the base to help secure the cone.
6. Prepare the succulents
If you are using store-bought succulents, remove them from their containers and carefully shake or brush the excess soil off the roots. If you are using succulent cuttings, optionally dip the stems into water followed by powdered rooting hormone, which will encourage the development of new roots.
It takes approximately 100 miniature succulent plants or cuttings to cover a 14-inch-tall living succulent Christmas tree. Use at least four or five different varieties of succulents and include different shapes for variety. For example, include rosette-shaped succulents, like echeveria; spiky succulents, like aloe; finger-shaped, petal-shaped and branching varieties; and easier-to-handle types of cacti. Opt for different shades of green and consider adding succulents in pink, red and purple shades as accents.
7. Plan the succulent arrangement
Come up with a rough plan for arranging the succulents around the tree. You can create stripes or spirals with matching shapes or colors of succulents or just aim for a balance of different shapes and shades around the tree.
8. Attach the bigger succulents
Starting at the base of the cone, attach the larger succulents from your collection to the tree form. Follow a stripe or spiral pattern if you desire. Poke a chopstick or similar tool into the moss to create an indentation and gently press the stem of the chosen succulent into place. Secure the plant by placing a floral pin over a leaf and into the moss, preferably in a hidden spot. Continue until you've added all the larger succulents.
9. Fill in the gaps
Fill in the spaces between the bigger succulents with smaller ones. Every now and then, step back from the succulent Christmas tree and look at it to make sure the design is balanced and aesthetically pleasing. You can carefully reposition some succulents if desired.
10. Add optional accents
If you wish, add some accents to the living succulent tree. Look through your collection of Christmas tree decorations and select ornaments of an appropriate size. Place them between succulents using more floral pins to hold them in place. Some nice options include:
- Shiny baubles
- Silver bells
- Evergreen sprigs
- Miniature string lights
- A star as a tree topper
How to Maintain a Living Succulent Tree
A living succulent tree is low maintenance, requiring only low, indirect light and a spray of water every 10 to 14 days. If you want to change up your home decor after the festive season has passed, transfer the succulents to a succulent garden, terrarium, succulents box or planters filled with potting mix.
One of the best things about this project is that you can keep it on display well beyond the holiday season as a succulent topiary or transfer the individual succulent plants to a garden or planter to enjoy all year.
Even if you've never tried crafting with succulents before, this is a great Christmas project that results in a beautiful succulent centerpiece. Succulents are ideal for a living tree, as they're so easy to transfer and maintain, and they look delightful all year. Oh, and once you've made a beautiful tree, why not keep going and create a living succulent wreath?