Grow succulents on rocks - How to grow succulents in and on rocks in the garden
Garden,  Home,  Inspiration

How To Grow Succulents On Rocks For A Unique, One-Of-A-Kind Garden

Grow Your Own Easy, One-Of-A-Kind Succulent Rock Garden

Who doesn’t love succulents?  Quirky yet eye-catching, these “camels of the plant world” thrive on minimal water, making them easy to grow and care for.  But did you know that you could actually grow your succulents in and on rocks, and they will survive?  Yes, you can!  Just by following some simple rules, you can successfully grow succulents in rocks and rock crevices, under the proper conditions.  In this post, I will show you exactly how to do just that to create a one-of-a-kind garden that will have your friends and neighbors ask, “How did you do that?

Succulents & Rocks Belong Together

With their otherworldly appearance, succulents certainly look like they belong in Mars-like rocky desert landscapes, and that is actually the type of landscape where most of them originated.  Consequently, the pairing of succulents and rocky terrain makes perfect sense.  The low maintenance, water-efficient succulent is at home growing in rock crevices, just like they do in the wild, making it relatively easy for you to grow them on rocks in your own garden.

After all, rocks promote drainage, essential for succulents as they hate to be overly wet.  Growing succulents on rocks also provides plenty of unobstructed sunshine, offering the ideal warm home for a sun-loving succulent.

Read on for all you need to know to create your own out-of-this-world succulent rock garden.

**Note: This post contains affiliate links for which a small commission may be earned if you decide to make a purchase through a link.

How To Grow Succulents On Rocks For A Unique, One-Of-A-Kind Garden - Succulents growing in and around rocks in this succulent rock garden
Succulents growing in rock crevices and around rocks in this succulent rock garden.

How to grow succulents on rocks - Succulents growing in and on rocks in the garden
When designing your succulent rock garden, be sure to select porous rocks with crevices large enough to grow your succulents.

Can Succulents Survive Without Soil?

The short answer is no, succulents cannot survive without a small amount of soil.  Unlike orchids, which are epiphytes, meaning most orchids can grow without soil in the outdoors by attaching themselves to objects, most succulents are not epiphytes.  Therefore, no, succulents, cannot survive without at least some soil.  However, while they do require some soil or potting mix, it’s not in the way most plants do.  You see, in the wild, most succulents grow, and thrive, in environments that are inhospitable to other plant life.  How?  Succulents have unique adaptations that have made them hardy and versatile enough to survive a variety of harsh conditions.

Therefore, your succulent should be able to survive on or in rocks so long as they have just enough soil to cover their roots.  Also, depending on the shape of your rocks (and your weather), keep in mind that by using a small amount of soil, you may be required to periodically replenish it every so often if it is lost.  I have not had to do this, but I imagine this may be more common if you have extreme storms or live in very wind-swept terrain.

Succulents’ Unique Adaptive Abilities Make Them “Camels of The Plant World”

Sure, there are some succulents native to mountainous regions and even rain forests, but most of the familiar succulents we know and grow are native to dry, desert-like places with rough terrain.  These succulents have adapted to survive in extremely dry and arid conditions thanks to their unique ability to store water in their roots, stems and leaves.  With these camel-like abilities to conserve water, they have mastered the ability to weather conditions like drought and heat that would prove uninhabitable for most other plants.

**Click here for “Seven Smart Tips to Save Over $1000 on your Homeowners Insurance Premiums…”

How to Save Money On Your Homeowners Insurance_How I Saved Over $1,000 In This Crazy Market_Storm clouds over beach houses
Paying way too much for your homeowners insurance?  Discover “7 Smart Tips (Plus a Bonus) to Save Big Money on Homeowners Insurance Premiums” plus ways to reduce your risk here…

What Type of Soil Do Succulents Need?

As a result, unlike most plants, succulents growing outdoors do not need to be watered frequently, and they also do not need a highly organic growing medium to survive.  In other words, succulents do not have to be planted in very mineral-rich, nutrient-dense soil to grow like many non-succulent plants do.  Again, that’s not to say that succulents don’t need some soil.  Remember, succulents are not epiphytes, most of which can grow without organic matter.  However, while succulents need some organic matter for nutrients, they will thrive with very small amounts of organic matter in their growing medium contrary to most other greenery we cultivate.

So, Can You Grow Succulents in Rocks & Gravel? Yes! With A Few Conditions

Provided you meet a few requirements and add a minimal amount of soil to the rock, yes, succulents, especially small varieties, can easily grow in rocks.  Mine have been going strong in rocks for months now without any adverse effects.  To keep your succulent happy and healthy living in rocks, just be sure to observe the following important considerations…

Can You Grow Orchids on Trees?

How Much Cold Can a Phalaenopsis Orchid Tolerate_Orchids & Cold Weather_Orchids in trees
Learn how to grow orchids on trees here…

Environment & Climate Conditions – Make Sure You Choose The Right Succulent For The Location

First off, while immensely hardy, consider the environment or climate conditions your “rock” succulents will be exposed to.  Be sure to choose a location for your succulent rock garden that receives adequate sunlight without receiving too much rain.  While it helps to live in a region that is warm if you want an outdoor succulent rock garden since many varieties of succulents thrive in warm or hot weather conditions there are actually a number of cold-hardy succulents available if you live in colder locales…

TIP! Choose Cold-Hardy Succulents If You Live In Cooler Climates

Believe it or not, there’s a bunch of beautiful succulents that don’t just survive but thrive in cooler climates.  Some actually get more beautiful the colder it gets!  Consider the “Spring Beauty” Sepervivum, also known as Hen-and-Chick Plant, which is famous for its grey-green rosettes that turn a gorgeous plum color when the temperatures drop.  Hailing from the high altitude mountains of Southern Europe, these extremely hardy succulents can survive temperatures down to 50 degrees below zero!  Therefore, if these near polar-friendly succulents die, you have absolutely no excuses.

Choose a Sempervivum Hen-and-Chick Calcareum succulent for a cold-tolerant succulent
For a cold-tolerant succulent, try this Sepervivum Hen-and-Chick for under $10… While it can survive freezing temperatures, it likes full sun & cannot tolerate deep shade.  Therefore, keep this beauty outdoors in your rock garden rather than indoors…

Seek Dry Conditions but With Proper Drainage Succulent Rock Gardens Can Even Thrive in Rainier Climates

Since succulents are famously drought-tolerant, you want to err on choosing a location that’s on the drier side.  However, proper drainage can make even rainier locations tolerable.  For example, here in Florida where I grow my succulent rock garden, for part of the year it is notoriously rainy.  However, for about 5 or 6 months, we do have a dry season in which my succulents growing on rocks have absolutely thrived.  But surprisingly, not only have my succulents thrived during the extended dry period, but they have even fared very well during our rainy season.  This is likely due to the excellent drainage offered by the rock surfaces I planted my succulent garden on.  So, remember to check occasionally that your rocks allow water to drain easily without obstructions.

If you happen to live in a very wet region, consider relocating your succulent rock garden to a covered area, such as a lanai or covered porch or patio where it should flourish.

Organically grown succulent starter collection of five plants for under $15
Five fully rooted, live succulent plants delivered to your door for under $15..? Yes! Organically grown, this succulent starter collection will look stylish as part of your home decor or garden. Plus, it comes with the company’s 30 day guarantee of live healthy plant arrival & assurance that you will adore your plants.

Choose Your Succulents with The Amount of Sun Exposure In Mind

The sheer variety of succulents available allows you to choose either those that thrive in full sun or partial sun depending on the amount of sun you receive in your garden.  If you do plan on growing your succulents on a rock in a shady location, be sure to choose succulents that can handle low sunlight, such as a Haworthia aka Zebra Plant, Woodland Stonecrop, or Bear Paws and not a sun-loving Echeveria or Sedum.

How to grow succulents on rocks - here we see how well the succulents on this rock have grown since they were planted
How to grow succulents on rocks – here we see how well the succulents on this rock have grown since they were planted a few months earlier, pictured below…

How To Grow Succulents On Rocks For A Unique, One-Of-A-Kind Garden - Succulents growing in rocks in the garden
A variety of sun-loving succulents growing in rocks in the garden…

Should You Water?

Being drought-tolerant, depending on where you live, when outside and exposed to the elements, your succulent may receive enough water through nature’s own rain and humidity.  However, if you live in a dry place with low humidity or your succulent is covered under a lanai, you will want to occasionally mist your succulents on rocks with a spray water bottle.

Choose Small Succulent Varieties

Now, for the fun part!  Choosing succulents to grow in your rock garden allows you to be creative as you envision the colors and textures you want for your succulent rock garden.  With infinite varieties, you are only limited by your imagination.  But do keep some considerations in mind.

First, your rock size matters.  While succulents are quite slow growing plants, you should only choose varieties that remain relatively small even at maturity for growing on smaller to medium sized rocks.  It may seem obvious but be sure not to select Agave or Aloe for growing in small to medium sized rocks.  Instead, choose small, dainty varieties like Echeveria Minima, Haworthia aka Zebra Plants, Flower Dust Plant, or Baby Jade (Crassula Ovata).

For mid-size succulents, being planted in small places should effectively limit the spread of your succulent’s root system which should keep your plant a more manageable size.  Again, consider the size of the rock you plan to grow on.  If you happen to have larger rocks with larger crevices, you may have more flexibility with the size of succulents you choose.

No Garden? Grow Succulents Indoors in Faux Rocks…

Grow succulents indoors in faux rocks like this realistic looking one
Grow a variety of colorful succulents indoors on faux rocks like this realistic looking “rock” planter here…

Planting & Growing Succulents In & On Rocks – Design Your Succulent Rock Garden

Installing rocks in gardens brings dimension and texture, which provides the perfect backdrop for your plants.

Select Rocks with Crevices

Since succulents grow in the wild in fast-draining sandy soil, growing succulents on rocks helps replicate that swift drainage.  To do this with your rocks, choose rocks large enough to support plant growth, and which are textured with crevices, cracks or holes, such as sandstone, limestone or shale.  Crevices should be just deep enough to add a little bit of soil, but not so deep that they don’t drain properly.  The last thing you want is for your succulents to get waterlogged.

Growing succulents in rocks will promote drainage so long as you choose rocks with crevices than accommodate your plant’s roots but not so big that they overwhelm your small plant and store water.

How Much Soil Do You Need?

Just a very small amount.  Take just enough soil to fill in the narrow crevices of the rock you are using so about an inch or two.  This should be just enough soil to bury the roots of your succulent and provide adequate nutrients.  However, since such a small amount of soil may be occasionally lost due to weather and wind, you may need to periodically top up each crevice with soil to cover the base of the roots.  I haven’t really had to do this as I find even the barest amount of soil seems to suffice but if any of your plants appear to be struggling, you may want to consider it.

Contrast this with the process of potting succulents.  When you plant succulents normally in a pot, you need to use soil, or potting mix, which then needs to be well-drained.  That means you would have to mix in large particles, like pebbles, stones, or gravel, to help improve drainage.  This ensures succulents never get stuck in dreaded overly moist soil.

Growing succulents in rocks with narrow crevices, however, eliminates this concern.  Using such a small amount of soil in crevices just large enough to accommodate your succulent’s roots, should ensure you have just enough moisture.

Echeveria succulents right at home growing out of the crevices of these sedimentary rocks in the garden
Echeveria succulents are right at home growing out of the crevices of these sedimentary rocks in the garden.

Do Your Succulents Growing On Rocks Need Nutrients?

Just as succulents tend to hold on to water, they also tend to hold on to dissolved nutrients.  Over-fertilizing your little succulent could cause it to grow too quickly, which you certainly don’t want when growing on your rocks.  Now, that your succulents are getting just enough moisture with adequate soil, they should survive just fine without fertilizer.  If you ever do want your succulents to receive more nutrients try using a non-fertilizer alternative, like a compost-tea occasionally.  Compost teas provide nutrients while protecting your succulents from soil pests.

Conclusion: Grow Your Succulents On Rocks For A Totally Unique & Inspiring Succulent Rock Garden

Rocks add interest and dimension to any garden.  Combine that with the sheer variety of succulents — and just a little bit of soil — and you can create an eye-catching, one-of-a-kind colorful, textured garden feature.  Hardy and adaptable, succulents are the ideal type of plants to combine with your favorite rocks in your garden.  With their ability to dwell in harsh habitats, as long as they have adequate soil, your succulents should be right at home growing on rocks in unique and colorful arrangements.


Have you ever created your own succulent rock garden?  Share your experience down below!