Succulents: Truly Sustainable Cut “Flowers”
Succulents may not seem like the most likely cutting garden plant, but in fact they’re gorgeous in flower arrangements, and especially at the holidays. Those silvery greens and pinks are just perfect at this time of year. And of course, when you’re finished with your succulent cuttings, you can plant them right back in your garden and they’ll take root. A truly sustainable cut flower!
I’m going to teach you an incredibly simple technique to use when you want to incorporate succulents in your bouquets and centerpieces. If you want step-by-step video instructions, there’s a great tutorial here, created by L.A.-based florist Flower Duet. All you really need are a few basic floral supplies, available at craft stores, or of course at the Flower Market down at 6th and Brannan. (Floral Supply Syndicate is open to the public.) Your supplies:
- Thick-gauge floral wire (comes in 18″ lengths)
- Thinner paddle wire
- Floral tape
Of course you’ll also need some succulents of your choice. I used little 2-inch and 4-inch plants from the nursery, but you can just as easily take cuttings from your own garden. Here’s how to prepare them:
Gently remove all soil and the tiny, thread-like roots branching out from the central root. Keep this central root intact. Remove any dead leaves, then wash the plant by swirling it in a basin of clean water, and dab it dry.
Insert a length of thick-gauge wire directly into the plant’s central root, giving it a “stem.” If your succulent and its root are especially sturdy, you may be able to stop right here. As long as you tuck the wire in among other foliage and flowers, all you will see is the succulent rosette.
If your succulent or its root are a bit more flimsy, use a length of paddle wire to secure it. Fold the top third of a piece of paddle wire down over itself, making a loop. Align the loop with the plant’s central root and the thick-gauge wire. Then take the long end of the paddle wire and wind it around the loop, the root, and the thick-gauge wire, binding all three together. (This step is actually simple but hard to describe; check out the Flower Duet’s video tutorial for a demo.)
For a cleaner look, use floral tape to cover the root and wires. Pull the floral tape taut as you work so that it sticks to itself (and make sure it’s kept dry while you’re working).
Now you’re ready to place the succulents in your arrangement, just as you would any other flower. They’ll last a few weeks, at least, and of course you can just remove the wire and plant them in your garden when the other flowers are long gone. The rosettes of these echeveria varieties, with their muted color palette, are stunning mixed with seasonal foliage and some delicate local hydrangea. I just can’t get enough of them!