Create Living Art with a Succulent Vertical Garden

Reader Contribution by Kara Holzmiller and Build. Sow. Grow.
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Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Liven up your walls with something that has vibrant colors, unique textures, and grows over time. Create your own vertical succulent garden – Living Art – as a lovely focal point for your home.

Assembling your own vertical garden only requires a few basic construction and gardening skills. There are countless options for wood and dimensions. It all depends on what is available and/or your personal taste.

Photo by Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Materials Needed

Planter Box:

*In this example, we used scrap 3/4-inch thick pieces of cedar for the planter box, and 3/4-inch thick reclaimed barnwood for the picture frame. We recommend using 3/4-inch to reduce the weight of the piece.

  • 3/4-inch thick piece of wood or 3/4-inch thick plywood for the back of the planter box (The length and width determines the size of your garden box.)
  • 3/4-inch thick wood cut to correct lengths for the sides of of the box. (We used rough cedar ripped to 3/4-inch by 3 inches)

Cedar has a natural ability to handle moisture without warping or molding. Unless you are using cedar, we recommend treating the planter box wood with a non-toxic wood sealant of your desired color to prevent moisture absorption.

Picture Frame:

  • 3/4-inch thick reclaimed barnwood for the picture frame (the width depends on your desired look); OR re-purpose a wooden picture frame


  • Fasteners: 1-1/2-inchscrews and 1-1/2-inch-to-2-inch finishing nails

Soil Mix:

Other Materials

  • Window Screen or Hardware Cloth
  • Succulents – Size and amount dependent on the size of your art piece and your own personal design – have fun!!
  • Tools – Standard home gardening and construction tools


Step 1 – Cut the back to your desired dimensions. Safety first! Cut the cedar sides to fit the back. Note: Our widths extend 3/4-inch on each side beyond the width of the base in order to cover and be screwed into the edges of the box’s length pieces.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 2 – Assemble the planting box with 1-1/2 inch screws.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 3 – Cut the picture frame pieces at 45 degree angles to match the size of the box. You need the inside of the picture frame to be the same size as the soil box. Assemble the picture frame with finish nails.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 4 Gather the sand, potting soil and pea pebbles and mix together in a bucket. Succulents and cactus prefer a soil medium that is partially sand or grit, and a bit of peat moss.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

We used a ratio of 2 parts potting soil to 1 part sand to 1 part pebbles to 1 small handful of moss (torn up into small pieces).

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 5 – Cut the screen to cover the entire soil box.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 6 – Fill the box with the soil mixture. Tightly staple the screen over the top of the box.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 7 – Determine your plant layout and use a box cutter to begin making cross slits barely big enough to plant each succulent.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 8 – While lifting the screen flaps up, push the plant into the soil. Fold the screen back down over the base of the plant to help secure it.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 9 – Continue cutting the window screen and planting the succulents. Once finished with the planting, add moss to cover the open areas.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 10 – Carefully place the picture frame on top of the soil box and use finish nails to attach. Make sure the plants are not pinched between the frame and the box. It may help to have another set of hands.

Photo by Kara Holzmiller 

Step 11 – Lightly water and admire your new living art piece. We recommend letting your piece sit flat for a couple weeks to allow the roots to establish.

If you wish to hang your piece we recommend picture hanging hardware for heavy art. Contact your local hardware store for advice on what would work best for you.

Kara Holzmiller is the founder of Build.Sow.Grow., a company built on her desire to design and build the most healthy, low impact, efficient living spaces and the production of nutritious food grown locally through all seasons. For the last two years, she has also been a builder, project manager, designer and office manager of SmithWorks Natural Homes, a green building company in Crested Butte, CO. Find Kara on her website. Read all of Kara’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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