This enjoyable vacation project puts together two of my favorite things: live Christmas trees and succulents. There is a lot to love about both of them. 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 will end up with is a beautiful mini “tree” that will grow with very little care required throughout the year.
How to make a mini succulent living Christmas tree.
Things You’ll Need:
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)
Tip: To pre-moisten your sphagnum moss, soak it for 20 minutes then wring of excess water.
Step 1: Make a Chicken Wire Topiary Cone Form
If you have never previously worked with chicken wire, it may take you a while to get the hang of shaping it to your will. (Check the tip below if you don’t want to bother with this step.)
Put on your gloves to protect your hands against cutting wires, then cut out a symmetrical triangle — the size of which depends on how tall and wide your tree is. My triangle was at the bottom 16-inch wide, and the point was 14-inch from the base.
Of course, if you recall from the class of geometry, an edge-to-edge 2D triangle does not form a symmetrical 3D cone — a disk with a cut-out wedge (like Pacman) will do that. And pulling out a piece of chicken wire in the shape of a Pac-man is much more work! Then, I overlapped the edges of my triangle and twisted the cone to get the shape I desired.
To join one overlapped edge to the other, use pliers to bend and create gripping hooks all the way up the edge. Forming a cone with chicken wire using long nose pliers. A cone made from chicken wire for a succulent christmas tree.
Tip: Wouldn’t you like to mess with chicken wire? If you didn’t, I wouldn’t blame you. In that scenario, a ready-made sphagnum moss cone shop online. Creating your own helps you to customize your tree’s size, however.
Step 2: Pack Your Chicken Wire Form With Moss
Take your pre-moistened sphagnum moss and put it in your cone densely. In this medium, your succulent clippings will gladly take root. Buy the long-fibered variety for sure.
Step 3: Put Tree Form Into Your Pot
Now drop your form into your bowl, weighed down with stones (or some other material that gives strength to your base). The stones will also help ensure that when you water your flower, your moss is properly drained. Choose a pot with a slightly smaller diameter than your cone to fit snugly.
Step 4: Insert Succulent Cuttings Into Form
Make sure you leave an inch (or so) long stem to bring into your shape when you take your cuttings. Using a long, thin object (a chopstick is fine, but I used a thin paintbrush handle) creates a hole and deep pocket in your densely packed moose to make room for the cutting stem.
Tip: Start from the bottom of your form up, using the larger cuttings at the base and smaller cuttings at the top. We suggest beginning with any rosette cuttings (e.g. Echeveria, Graptopetalum, Aeonium, Sempervivum) then filling in smaller holes with Jelly Bean Plants (see image below) and smaller Jade species. These are simply suggestions, so be creative!
Step 5: Cover Entire Form With Cuttings
Simply repeat Step 4 until your cone form is covered with succulent cuttings.
Inserting cuttings into succulent Christmas tree. Adorn Your Tree (Optional)
A living succulent tree is gorgeous without additional adornment, but if you want to create a festive table centerpiece, you might want to “Christmas” it up a bit with a mini Christmas tree topper, red berries (you can use faux berries, but I picked a few chinaberries (from a tree) that I plan to remove once they shrivel), mini ornaments, and/or mini tree lights.
Mini succulent living Christmas tree in terracotta pot on tabletop.
Caring for your tree is easy. Place it in a sunny area and water it from the top whenever the moss becomes dry. However, these hardy plants can last for about a week in dry moss, so don’t fret if you forget to water.
Prune any plants that get too “leggy” and simply add the shortened cuttings back into the moss. By taking it indoors or placing it in a greenhouse, shield it from very cold weather.
Now you can be merry all year round!