Succulent Quilt




About: I am an exhibit developer at the Exploratorium.

How to make a planted wall using cuttings of succulents contributed by you, your friends and neighbors. This is primarily meant as a group activity. Skills learned include propagating plants from cuttings, basics of drip irrigation, and soil-less gardening methods. The cuttings will root faster when it is warm out so best to do it during the summer months.

This instructable is based on an activities I did for Clone Home, a workshop on plant propagation at Critter Salon in San Francisco, and the Succulent Quilt build at Machine Project in Los Angeles.

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Step 1: Pick a Location

Decide where to put your succulent quilt. It will need lots of sun and a way to be watered. I use a drip system and let the excess water drip down onto plants below. You can also use a recirculating system and catch the drips with a gutter.

A south facing wall is best. Partial sun will work but some plants may not be able to grow as well. You will have to experiment with cuttings from different plants.

Step 2: Choose Your Size

Now that you have chosen a location, you need to choose your size. I recommend 2' by 2' panels. You can add the panels together to cover a larger surface. The 2' square is a great size for a group of people sitting around a table. You can set up multiple tables and have several panels being made simultaneously.

Step 3: Gather and Cut Your Materials

Tools needed are many sharp pairs of scissors and one pair of end nip pliers to cut off the ends of the zip ties. Sharp knives to puncture holes.

All the materials you will need are listed below:

from Lowe's...
plastic trellis, white plastic with smaller spacing (approx 1.5" open squares) 1 piece that is your desired size of panel They will even cut it for you to size at the store!

black landscape cloth (used for weed control) 1 piece that overhangs the final size by 3" all around
dried sphagnum moss 1 bag per two 2' square panels
seed starter soil mix 1 bag
"black zip ties" approx 25 per panel
drip system supplies (installation of drip irrigation is not covered in this instrucable)

from a fabric store...
polyester felt (not wool or cotton as these will rot and fall apart) 2 pieces that overhang the final size by 3" all around

from a hydroponics store or online...
COCOTEK� GROW MAT" Organic Growing Media 1 piece same size as the plastic trellis

Step 4: Assemble Your Panel

Lay down a layer of cardboard or coconut mat to protect the surface of your table.

First, lay down the black landscape cloth. It should be 3" larger than your final size on all sides. You will need to wrap this around your plastic trellis. Don't worry about making it to big, or exact since you can always trim off any excess.

Step 5: Second Layer

Next lay down a piece of felt directly on top of the landscape fabric.

Step 6: Third Layer

Place the coco mat on top of the felt layer. Position it so the felt overhangs evenly on all sides.

Some info on coco mats:
COCOTEK� GROW MAT" manufactured by General Hydroponics

Not only will roots grow under the Mats where moisture remains between flood cycles, but the Mats will also protect these roots from drying out.

Step 7: Fourth Layer

Next, place a pile of dried sphagnum moss on top of the coco mat.

Break up any large chunks.

Step 8: Fifth Layer

Pour out seed starter on top of the sphagnum moss. I estimate that I put about 8 cups of seed starter on my 2' square panel.

Mix the moss and soil together.

Step 9: Sixth Layer

Place the second piece of felt on top of the moss + soil.

Pat it down a bit.

Step 10: Seventh Layer

Place the plastic trellis on top of the felt. Line it up with the edges of the coco mat.

Step 11: Wrap and Zip Tie

Wrap the edges of the landscape fabric and felt around the edges of the trellis. Poke holes through the fabric - but between holes of the plastic trellis - with a knife or scissors. Insert a black zip tie and pull tight. Continue around all edges until it is all wrapped up. Trim off excess fabric with scissors.

Step 12: Install Your Drip Emitters

Drip systems can be a whole other instructable, so I will keep it brief. The panels need to be kept moist while the cuttings are rooting. Once the panel is established the watering schedule can be reduced, but this will take six months or so. The best way to do this is by watering via a timer and drip system.

I use 1/2 Gallon Per Hour (GPH) pressure compensating emitters. I install a string of them along the top of each panel, with about 3 inches between emitters. Therefore each 2' square panel will require 10 emitters, 10 'T' barbs (or 9 'T' barbs and one elbow if the panel is an end piece). Use 1/4" drip tubing to connect all the emitters into a chain.

I stuck my emitters on the inside of the panel, along the top. I did this by poking a hole in the fabric, sticking my drip tubing through it, and then pushing the emitter into the end of the tubing. (Hint: the red plastic barbed end of the emitter is the part that goes into the tubing.) The idea is to have the drip end touching the felt . The felt acts a wick carrying water through out the panel to the roots.

Once the panels are installed, the 1/4" tubing can be hooked into a 1/2" black polyethylene supply line that is either plumbed into the household supply, or attached to a submersible pump. For basic help in installing a drip system, visit your local garden center. Or go the the Urban Farmer Store: This is where I learned all I know about drip irrigation.

Step 13: Thoroughly Water the Panel

After each panel is installed, thoroughly soak the panel with the hose. This is very important because if the panel is dry, the felt will not wick the water and the drip irrigation will not be effective. The drips will simply run out the bottom of the panel.

Step 14: Gather Your Plant Material

I built 4 panels for Machine Project in Los Angeles. I brought along a bunch of succulents to be sure we had enough for our large construction. I visited a local cactus and succulent nursery in Reseda called Cactus Ranch. That place really blew me away, as you can tell from my expression in the picture!

I also put out a call for participants to bring their own cuttings. But unless you are doing this with a cactus and succulent society, you will probably need to supplement like I did.

Plants that are especially easy to root from cuttings are: sedums, kalanchoes, aeoniums, crassulas, basically succulents that have stems.

Plants that are easier to start by planting with root still attached or by a side offset (baby): hens and chicks, asclepids, agaves, aloes, gasterias, haworthias, sanseverias, basically the ones that don't have stems.

If in doubt, try it. If it doesn't work then you've learned something.

Step 15: Instruct Quilters

I have all but one of the panels assembled ahead of time. I demonstrate how the quilt is put together by assembling the final panel together with the quilters.

Next, show them how to take cuttings and insert them into the quilt.

Each cutting will be stuck into a slot that is cut through the black fabric and top felt layer. Use scissors or a knife (assist children) to cut through these layers until you can see the brown coco mat layer. Insert each cutting by slipping it through the slot with the stem or roots pointing down. Use the location of the drip emitters to help people know which end is up.

To take a cutting, simply use sharp scissors and cut off a stem from a plant. If the plant is more of the ball shaped variety (i.e. hens and chicks), separate out a baby. If the plant is in a pot, empty the plant onto the table and pull apart all the separate balls. Shake off some of the soil from the roots and stick the roots into the slit.

It is even better if the cuttings can sit for a day so their ends can dry out. This is especially important if you want to put in any cactus cuttings. I don't do this with quilters because the spines can be a pain. (Hint: To root a piece of cactus, cut it off with a sharp blade, spray it with isopopyl alcohol, and let it sit indoors in the shade for a week. Then shove it into a slit in the fabric and wedge it in well. Use gloves! If it rots, remove it, cut off the bad end and repeat the process. Maybe let it sit a little longer.)

Step 16: Do the Vertical Test

I take each panel and with a helper, hold it upright over the table. Cuttings will fall out and that's ok. Just cut the holes a little larger and stuff them back in. For some of the larger, round cuttings, you may need to cut a very large slot and wedge the hole ball into it.

Step 17: Hang Your Quilt

Now it's time to put your panel outside!

I used wood screws and large fender washers. Don't screw into the plastic trellis because it can crack after a while. It is best to screw between the holes in the trellis. The washer will clamp everything down.

Next, hook your drip system up by extending 1/4" tubing to it from the 1/2" supply line. The supply line is either connected to the household plumbing, or in this case, to a submersible pump in a reservoir. Get a digital timer and set it to come on for 5-10 minutes at a time, several times a day. I like to water twice in the early morning and once in the late afternoon.

If you want to try a recirculating system, get a fountain pump from Lowe's or the Urban Farmer Store. Use a check valve (I love the Hudson Valve which can be purchased from McMaster-Carr) to top off the reservoir automatically so the pump does not run dry. Take care when using a pump that you do not try to pump the water up too high. The higher it has to pump, the lower the flow. Each pump has a head height which is the highest the pump can push water up before it stops flowing.



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    23 Discussions

    Diane Martin

    6 years ago on Step 17

    I found your instructable via the Machine Project. You are concise writer and excellent teacher. Thanks you for all the information and pictures. The quilts look great in your followup picture! di


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I made one!  I followed your excellent instructable and had so much fun!  I made a mini one too (bottom pic) with left over scraps!  I'm not sure if I should fill it in more or just wait & let it root & grow.  I did not install a drip line since it will be outside.  I'll probably still play with it & add some kind of frame or border.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Im not sure what I did wrong but they aren't doining so well~ like the stem aren't reaching the soil so the plants are drying out!  I na
    eed to try again!


    9 years ago on Introduction

     this was named appropriately. 5 stars.


    9 years ago on Step 17

    I really want to try this!  I'd love to know how you design has held up too!  I have been scouring the internet for some decent clear instructions and found there are many different styles & scales of using walls for gardens~ but your instructions are very clear! Thank you so much for sharing!  It seems the term being used for this growing trend is "Vertical Garden".  You can do a photo search on Flickr and see vertical gardens around the world!

    So beautiful!  I wonder if I could work out a way to make one in front of an ugly fence?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    HA when i get 6 of these ill have a "living room" it...........coz its a living wall


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic idea! I will try it this weekend...Thankyou


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Do you think it's possible to have this indoors as long as it got enough sun and something that might catch any excess water from the bottom?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I think it would work, but if it leaked you may have a mess on your hands. But the same goes for fish tanks and water beds indoors too. As long as there is light then you are growing!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This is really cool and a great insctructable. Thank you for taking the time to put it together. I really like the reuse on the air conditioner and the float valve... great idea!!!! I don't live in a warm weather climate, but am looking into doing something similar to this. Could this same build process / trellis design be used for other types of plants - flowering, vegetable, herbs, etc. ?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think it could work but you would have to get add an automatic fertilizing feeder to your drip system since veggies need much more than succulents.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    That's really cool! any chance u could post up some pictures after it has had the opportunity to grow out a little?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Sure, I will add another picture in a few months. Also, I am always adding more cuttings to it as I find them.

    Whoa, that is way cool! I'm going to have to start a tiny one with my cuttings. Maybe I'll frame it too. Thanks so much for the great idea, I'll be linking to this.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I want to do this project at my daughter's school in San Francisco. Thanks so much for this tutorial.