How to Make a Succulent Sempervivum (Hens & Chicks) Frame

by Fern on March 25, 2012

in Frugal Container Gardening,How To,Succulents and Cacti

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This past Saturday I did a demonstration at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show on vertical gardening. One of the things I demonstrated was how to make a succulent photo frame. As promised, here are the step-by-step instructions for those of you who weren’t able to make it to the show…

What You’ll Need:

First things first. Don’t be an idiot (like me) and forget your gloves. That is, unless you enjoy scraping your precious little fingers on chicken wire.

Now down to the actual work. You start by stapling a piece of chicken wire that is a little larger than your frame to the inside of the frame. This will make a nice front face for your frame.

Next you make a little sandwich. Not one you’d want to eat, but your sempervivums will enjoy it. Layer sphagnum moss down on the inside of your frame, right on top of the chicken wire you just stapled. Then pack in as much of the cactus potting mix as you can. Layer another bit of sphagnum moss down. The moss is preventing the soil from falling out, but still allows water to drain away. Finally, staple a second pieve of chicken wire (this one should be slightly smaller than your frame) to the back.

Now you’re ready for the fun part. Collect your sempervivum cuttings. Since sempervivums make so many little offsets (the “chicks”), it is easy to just clip a few off (enough to fill your frame) without even taking the mother plant (the “hen”) out of the pot. Be sure to leave a little bit of the umbilical cord on the cutting, as this will help you stick your plant into the frame and keep it there until roots form.

As sempervivums grow, they often create a shaggy layer of dead leaves at their base. Gently pull those off so that you can get the plant flush with the chicken wire/photo frame. The photo on the left is the before and the right is the after.

Using a pen or some other similar shaped object, poke a little hole into the sphagnum moss and put the sempervivum’s umbilical cord into the hole. I found that gently twisting the plant back and forth helped it get situated.

Continue to fill in with more plants until you’ve completed your frame. Let it lay flat for two weeks so that the roots can develop before hanging it upright.


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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

rama March 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I want to try this with Dudleya’s. OR maybe I could try this with strawberries. ooo


Fern March 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I think both would work well, Rama! I even saw salad greens growing in a similar frame while at the San Francisco Garden Show.

Josée March 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm

This is just great! And it does make my mind wondering what else I could plant vertically…! I love your website!


Vera March 28, 2012 at 7:58 am

This is amazing I saw it on pinterest. Thanks for sharing this idea with us…


Keri April 22, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Sorry if this is a dumb question but – How should these plants be cared for before – and after – root development? Moist soil? Full sun? Thanks for your help!


ellen April 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Very nicely described – I think anyone should be able to follow your detailed instructions and come up with a nice end product.


Candy Suter April 24, 2012 at 12:34 am

Wonderful details and instructions! Thank you and sorry about the ouchie on your finger!


kfrn April 24, 2012 at 11:54 am

How often should this be watered? Once its set for two weeks and had time to develop, and you hang it up, then how do you suggest watering?..where does the excess water run to?…are their holes?..i saw something similar to this but making a monogram wreath and thought it would be so cool on our house/porch.


Fern April 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm

There is a slit in the bottom of mine, but the water mostly drains out the back. I almost never give hard and fast “you should water X times per month” advice because it is not universally true. In a humid climate or where rainshowers are frequent, you would probably have to water very infrequently. In a hot, dry climate, more frequently. I live in the later and water mine about once every two weeks this time of year. In summer, if I notice them drying out a little bit, I’ll increase how frequently I water them.

kfrn April 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm

So would you still recommend hanging this on a wall inside? i’m picturing water running down the back of this and down my wall…..haha! Thank you for the quick response btw!

Debra Lee Baldwin April 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

This is so helpful, Fern. I’m showing a similar project in my next book, how to plant a “living picture” kit from Succulent Gardens Nursery. But not everyone can afford to buy a ready-to-plant frame, and I’ll mention alternative methods—and their pros and cons.


MG Frank May 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I seen a similar project where my teacher planted bulbs of Blood lillys that grew through the screen. His reasoning was to stop squirrels from digging them out. Turned out beautiful !


Bria May 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Ouch! I’m sorry for your battle wounds–thanks for suffering through that to share this cool tutorial! I’ve always wanted to make one of these and Rama’s idea for a Dudleya version sounds fun too.


Susan Libertiny September 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I love the little frame. I love these “Plant Pictures”, Thanks for sharing this awesome project.


Oakley October 18, 2012 at 7:02 am

Wow this is a great idea! I have to try this! I just started my balcony garden and this will be the perfect touch to the walls. Thanks for posting!


Cher May 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm

So, I’m thinking the bigger bird suet holders might just work too…without having to cut up chicken wire which I don’t need for anything else in a condo :-) ….and the feeders have hooks on them to hang them from a tree or wall hook…hmmm. Gonna give it a try! Thanks for the idea!


jenkm September 22, 2013 at 6:53 am

Cher, like your thinking. I may try that myself. How did it work?

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