I have this massive overgrown fairy garden planter that I had been meaning to attend to but kept putting off. You see, this planter is huge. I purchased it online from Home Depot without seeing the actual product. At that time, I was looking for a planter that was big enough to plant a succulent fairy garden. Since this was going to be my first fairy garden project, I didn’t want to spend too much and opted for a basic plastic planter. I considered this somewhat of an experimental project. I figured a 24-inch round planter would be big enough. Well, this thing was not only big enough, it was massive (and delivered for free by the way)! The planter itself is very lightweight since it is made of plastic. But after putting soil, rocks, plants, etc., the whole thing weighed a ton for someone small like me. Also, I have a tiny outdoor patio that does not really have a lot of room, and bringing this planter indoors was not an option.  


Materials I used for this project:

Cactus potting mix


Garden gloves

Small spade or shovel

Marbles and beads

Small rocks

Having a huge planter can pose a problem for small plants because of the amount of soil you need to put into it. The more soil you have, the more moisture the soil can hold and this can be problematic for cacti and succulents. One thing I did right was to layer the bottom of the pot with rocks. This helped improve the drainage and prevent root rot. I also used a fast draining soil for this planter.

From my online receipt records, I had purchased this planter in May of 2016. I think I started on this fairy garden project the end of June 2016. Here is a picture of the fairy garden a year after it was planted. This picture was taken in April of 2017.

You see from this picture that the plants are doing well but a little on the dry side. The plants’ brown spots are from sunburn. In fact, I have lost a baby echeveria plant from drought and underwatering a few months after first being planted in this planter. Yes, you can lose succulents from underwatering, not just overwatering.  I just pulled out the dried up plant and replanted some more plants that you see here now. Since this was my first fairy garden project, I obviously did not think through what plants would go well with each other. These plants have different watering and sunlight needs. The small cactus underneath needs more sunlight and less water than the other plants here. And the color scheme is a bit one dimensional. It would be nice to see more colors here.

Here’s a picture of the planter another year after, taken in April of 2018. These Crassula Tetragona (Mini Pine Trees) have grown robustly and are actually blocking the sunlight from hitting the smaller plants behind it. I was also worried about this little cactus underneath. I was afraid it would suffer from not having enough sun as these Crassula Tetragona continue to grow. So I finally rolled up my sleeves and set to work.

First, I have a confession to make–I do not like bugs. For someone who loves to garden, this can be problematic. Another reason why I put off this project for so long was because I was afraid of what I would find underneath. You see, the plants look healthy on the surface, but what if there’s a problem in the soil, or worse, what if there are bugs hiding underneath all this. Upon closer inspection, I was very happy and relieved  to see that the plants are healthy and bug free. Here’s how they look from different angles.

The only major problem I saw was that the plants behind the crassula tetragona were stretched out or etiolated. These Sedeveria Jet Beads are really reaching out for more sun.

Another plant that suffered are the Crassula Perforata (String of Buttons). They have turned black and rotted away, probably from too much water at first then from sunburn. Sadly they cannot be saved so I pulled it out. Sometimes in an arrangement like this, you will naturally lose one or two plants, and none if you’re lucky.

Another problem I’m glad I caught was the surface of the soil in the front portion was starting to form white mold. I suspect this was from all the rain we’ve been getting here in California. After a long drought, rain came unexpectedly. I rarely water this planter and mostly rely on rain water throughout the winter season until now, springtime, because we have been getting a lot of unpredictable rain lately. While this white mold is harmless, it can pose a problem later on when left unattended. I feel even better knowing that I tackled this planter now while the plants are still healthy.

What I did first was pull out the dead plants, and also the fairy garden figurines and trinkets to keep them out of the way.

To get the cactus out, I carefully dug around it with a small garden spade making sure to get as much of the roots as possible. I carefully pulled the cactus out with gloves on once it was loose enough. This mammillaria cactus also appears slightly etiolated but healthy for the most part. The roots appear healthy too. I sprinkled cinnamon powder on the roots for good measure. Cinnamon powder is a known antifungal agent and used as a natural rooting hormone. After seeing white mold on the surface of the soil, I didn’t want to take any chances. I then repotted this cactus in its own pot. That way it can get the sunlight it needs and I don’t have to worry about overwatering it in its own pot. Please click on “Upcycled Tin Can” to see where I planted this cactus.

The next thing I needed to do was to remove this overgrown crassula tetragona (mini pine trees). This was a bit more challenging to do because it was bigger and more root bound. After some digging around and careful pulling and prying, I was able to pull the whole thing out without damaging the plant, the roots, and the plants behind it.  See how big and healthy this plant is. Its root system looks really good and healthy too. Can you believe this whole thing here grew out of a few stem cuttings? Click on My Stem Cutting Success Stories” to see where these cuttings actually came from. I will replant this into another pot later on.

So now I am left with this open space that I wanted. This gives these sedeveria jet beads the sun exposure they badly needed. For now, the plants behind look very good and healthy so I don’t feel the need to disturb them or make any changes in the back. I also like how they look so I’m leaving them alone.  Now I have a chance to do something different and creative in this open area.

I filled the area with cactus potting mix and some perlite. Again I sprinkled the area with cinnamon powder for good measure.

I decided to add low-growing plants here. I learned from my past mistake not to put any plants that will grow tall in this area to avoid the same problem of blocking the smaller plants behind of sunlight. I decided to use the plants from this small pot I recently purchased for USD $2.50. What drew me to purchase this little pot were these little green sedums. I mistakenly thought they were Sedum Japonicum, which I have always wanted. After a little research, I think these are actually Sedum Lineare (Needle Stonecrop). These make good groundcover and spread out as they grow.

Another plant I will use are these Sedum Rubrotinctum (Jelly Beans). I have a few of these plants in different planters and know they are easy going plants and easy to grow and propagate. They also sprawl out instead of upwards which make them a good choice here. Some of the little  jelly bean leaves have fallen out and some are already rooting and growing new plants. I just stick them back in the soil and let them do their thing. For more success stories on propagating Sedum Rubrotinctum (Jelly Bean plants), click on “Growing my Succulent Collection“.

I removed the plants from the pot and separated them. I planted each plant in the newly added cactus mix and perlite. I threw in the fallen leaves on top of the soil. They will root on their own and form new plants.

The plant that I did not use from this small pot is the Mother of Millions. It might be too early to tell what kind it is. I will be able to identify it better as it gets bigger but from the looks of it I think It’s Kalanchoe Delagoensis (Chandelier Plant or Mother of Millions). This Mother of Millions plant I will keep away from other plants and planters. I have heard and read about these plants and know that they are considered weeds and invasive in some areas. I still think they are intriguing and beautiful plants. This is going to be my first experience with this plant and I am repotting it on its own, keeping it away from other plants and away from the ground as they can easily take over an area. Click on “Mother of Millions” to see what I did with this plant.

I decided to add a little pond using blue beads and  marbles in an old plastic container I recycled, and put some rocks around it. This will add a fun feature to this fairy garden. Next, I placed the figurines and trinkets where I wanted.

Here is my newly revamped succulent fairy garden

Please click on my resource page for recommendations on pots, potting benches and gardening tools.