DIY Succulent Frame

Inspiration.

As only the best cat ladies, chronic crafters, and aspiring introverts can, I recently found myself catapulting down the quicksand-lined rabbit hole Pinterest becomes when paired with a Saturday night and wine.

My newest aspiration was to tackle the enviable framed succulent wall art with which any desert-chic enthusiast worth her salt drought-parched sand should be acquainted by now.

There are lots of other posts (like this one) circulating the web with great step-by-step process photos.   I drew inspiration by looking at several different approaches, which I recommend if you plan to engage in your own succulent project.

In addition to outlining the process, one of my goals in this post is to provide money-saving ideas and general tips born from my struggles in the trenches to help others proceed more smoothly :).


Materials.

Essential:

  • Photo frame (just the front) or materials to make your own
  • Shadow box/open-faced box that fits behind the photo frame
  • Chicken wire/mesh/hardware cloth: I’d recommend ___ size
  • Shears/wire cutters
  • Photo hanging supplies
  • Craft glue
  • Staple gun (+staples)
  • Selection of succulent cuttings, moss, and any other fillers you choose

Optional:

  • Paint
  • Ribbon
  • Glue gun

Penny-pinching tips:

  • Instead of investing in a shadow box, consider getting a cheaper, unfinished version at a craft/hobby store. I actually found the most cost-effective option to be a craft chest.  Unscrewing the hinges and clasps is quick and easy, then voila – you have two shadow boxes for the price of one. I purchased mine at Michael’s, but there are similar ones at Joann’s and any other craft store. 

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  • Rather than discarding chicken wire scraps, you can use them for other crafts like these mason jar flower lids.
  • If you live in an arid climate, you can forage for succulents rather than spend money buying them at a store.  If you need to purchase them, avoid buying ones that are pre-arranged in decorative containers, as those tend to be pricier

Process.

Step 1: Using shears, cut the wire mesh slightly wider than the opening of your photo frame.

  • If you don’t have a pair of heavy-duty shears, it is definitely worth it to invest in one for this project (especially if you plan to use chicken wire for other crafts). I started off using a pair of industrial scissors, and ended up only dulling the blades, hurting my hand, and wasting a lot of time. 
  • Consider wearing heavy gloves when handling the mesh, or at least operating with caution as your cuttings will have very sharp edges.  This is probably a good time to mention that this project (at least the first part) is not a good one for kids – though they might enjoy helping to fill the frame at the end!

Step 2: Use a staple gun to attach the mesh cutting to the side of the frame that will not be exposed.

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  • Make sure your frame is a material you are able to staple-gun. I loved this silver frame – even more so since I purchased it on sale – but realized once I was home that it was entirely made of metal.  If this happens to you, the situation isn’t hopeless – I simply glued it on top of a wooden frame I could staple the mesh on, but that adds an extra step.
***If you want to paint any part of your frame or shadow box, do so now or before you begin Step 1***

Step 3: Attach your picture hangers to the back of the shadow box.  I used these metal “teeth,” but you can also use wire or hooks.

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  • Make sure your method of hanging is appropriate for the final weight of your project.  When you pack the shadow box with dirt and add your succulents, you’ll add at least a pound or two depending on the size of your frame. 
  • If you don’t want to hang your frame, you can also place it on a shelf to lean against the wall

Step 4: Tightly pack your shadow box with slightly damp dirt.

Step 5: Glue the mesh-filled frame on top of your shadow box.

  • I originally planned to use a glue gun to attach the frame to the shadow box, but I discovered I wasn’t able glue fast enough before some of it started drying. I ended up using craft glue, which worked fine.  
  • After gluing the frame on top of the shadow box, I noticed several areas of space (Depending how you staple it, the chicken wire might prevent the frame and box from sealing perfectly). I added more glue around the edges of the “seam” to make sure there weren’t any cracks where dirt could fall out once I hung the frame on the wall.

Step 6: After glue dries, arrange the succulent cuttings, moss, and other fillings inside the wire mesh.  These were my results with 4×6 and 8×10 frames:

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  • After filling my frame with succulents, I realized the edges were pretty messy with a variety of dried glues.  I created a more polished look by gluing ribbon around the edges.  Even if your process reveals a cleaner final product than mine, you might want to dress the sides of your new-and-improved succulent frame with decorative fabric, ribbons, additional paint, or other decorations of your choice.

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Ideas.

The primary “work” in this process resides in the first few steps.  If you prepare a series of frames up to Step 6, selecting succulents and filling the frames makes a really fun activity for a wine night, birthday party – really any gathering!  The best part – you have a group activity and party favor all in one.

These also make great gifts – they’re personal, creative, and very easy to care for.  Depending on your climate, you’ll simply spray the succulents with water every few days (drier climates will need more spritzing, humid climates can handle less).


Do you have experience making succulent frames? What other suggestions would you add?

As always, thanks for reading.

-JW

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