Most succulents will grow best in full to partial sun. Place this on a table in your porch or on the patio. It will become a conversation piece the moment your guests lay eyes on it. Choose succulents that are hardy in your area for this style of garden.

You don’t have to go scuba diving to enjoy the wonders of the ocean.


Main materials

The sea turtle and seal figurines are actually porcelain striker Wade figurines from Red Rose Tea tins. You can find these at flea markets and yard sales. You’ll know that’s what you’re holding if the bottom is rough enough to strike a match against it.

A variety of hardy succulents


  • Tumbled glass mulch
  • Sea shells
  • Sea animal figurines
  • Pottery sculpture


A plain terra cotta azalea pot that’s 12 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep.

Potting Soil

Use a mixture of two parts potting soil to one part vermiculite for this succulent dish garden.


The plants in the Garden under the Sea are all succulents hardy to zone 8. This includes some aloes, Sempervivum (hens and chickens), sedum, and other succulents. The exact plant list does not matter if you want to create this look. What does matter are the colors and shapes of the plants you select.
When I purchased plants for this garden, my shopping list looked something like this:

  • One red succulent
  • One trailing sedum
  • Two medium-sized spiky succulents
  • One succulent that looks like brain coral

Select plants that have the same sunlight requirements and that will contrast with one another in terms of form, size, color, and texture. Your Garden under the Sea won’t look the same as this one, but it will have the same feel, and that’s what you’re going for.

Garden under the Sea Step by Step

Fill the container with soil

Fill the container with soil, leaving 2 inches between the soil line and the top of the container. Break apart any plants that you want to use in smaller clumps and in multiple places. Certain succulents aren’t multi-stemmed, and can’t be broken up. Sedum and Sempervivum are always good candidates for splitting, though.

Plant the plants

In this garden, one pot of Sempervivum has been split into several pieces, flanking the large succulent on the right side of the pot. I repeat—repetition is your friend.

Add height with long-stemmed succulents.

I had these ghost plants (Graptopetalum spp.) growing in my garden. They were
getting a little long on the stem and needed to be cut off and replanted in the garden to root closer to the ground, anyway. So I broke off a couple of pieces to stick into the Garden under the Sea to add height. You could just as easily achieve this effect with jade plants that have their lower leaves removed.

Topdress with mulch

Tumbled blue glass symbolizes water around these low-water plants. You can find tumbled glass at craft stores.
Tip: Sprinkling a few pieces of lighter blue glass on top of the darker glass mulch adds more depth to the garden. (Pun intended.)

Add accessories

The sea turtle figurine and ceramic starfish made the final cut. The gigantic painted koi fish did not. It just looked out of scale with the other plants and accessories.

Care and Maintenance

Remove the air plant once a week and run it under water to water it (unless it has rained during the week). Periodically check around the base of the stems of each plant to make sure they aren’t rotting.
If you’ve had a lot of rain, you might want to move this garden under cover for a couple of weeks so that it can dry out a bit.
Water this garden when the leaves of the plants start to look less shiny or shrivel slightly. It’s better to underwater succulents than to overwater them.

Air Plants + Succulents = Good Combination

Air plants and succulents grow well together. Air plants can be easily removed and watered under the sink, and, because they’re not planted in the soil with the other plants, their water habits won’t disrupt the succulents.

Make a hermit crab by placing an air plant inside a conch or snail shell.

I personalized this garden with a replica of my standup paddleboard and paddle “floating” over the Garden under the Sea.
Gardening and paddling—two of my favorite things combined in one little scene.
You can customize with shells you’ve picked up on vacation or plants that look like the coral reefs you’ve snorkeled through. If you have an aquarium, you could paint ceramic figurines that look like your fish.