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How to create a succulent chair

Last year Liz made this stunning chair planted with succulents. It’s easier than it looks. Here’s how to do it.

First, choose your chair, or stool, or sofa. The frame needs to be sturdy enough to take the weight of wet compost and plants. Make a sling underneath the seat for support and to contain the compost. Here we have used some old wire mesh fixed to the chair frame with wire. Chicken wire is ideal. Because of the final weight it must be securely fixed to the frame. If you were really lucky you might find a hanging basket that exactly fits into your seat. Next you need something to hold the compost in. You could use a ready-made basket liner cut to size, but here we have used a layer of moss which looks attractive and largely disguises the wire mesh.

Compost comes next. Succulents require a very free-draining growing medium. Ordinary multi-purpose compost mixed with perlite or grit would be suitable. Perlite would be the better choice as it is light. Use one part perlite to two parts compost. We have used Melcourt Sylvagrow on its own as it is so free-draining. Only partly fill the chair at this point as the plants will come with their own rootballs of compost.

Now for the plants. It is important to recognise that not all succulents are hardy, but assuming your chair is going to be for a seasonal summer display it would be fine to use a mix of hardy and non-hardy plants. Try to choose a variety of colours and textures. Some flat, rosettes or spiky forms will all add interest, as will something to trail over the edge. Place them in the chair and arrange until you are happy with the effect. Then take them out of the pot and fill in between them with compost. Having the plants slightly higher in the centre gives a pleasing ‘cushion’ effect. We have used some spare succulents which have overwintered in the greenhouse. Before planting, all the dead outer leaves are removed which instantly improves their appearance and gives them a longer stalk to plant. Once they are planted give the whole thing a good water. After that fill in any holes and sunken areas with more compost. A spoon is helpful to get into the small gaps. You can disguise any ugly bits of frame or wire with moss until the plants grow to cover the edges and fill the seat.

Of course, you do not need to plant your chair with succulents at all. You could use traditional bedding plants, with some trained up and over the back of the chair. In this case omit the perlite from the compost and add some slow-release plant food. These plants would need more compost and water so make the compost container bigger if you can. You could plant the seat with plain lawn grass, or turf, but if you do that make sure it is strong enough to take weight - somebody is bound to sit on it. And finally, the plants should knit together quite quickly and conceal the compost, but if you choose you could top dress the seat with grit or shell. Again, a spoon would be helpful to get into the spaces.