Weekend project: Make a cactus bowl

One of the joys of cacti and succulents is that you can work with them all year round, whatever the weather. So if it’s too chilly to go outdoors, create an attractive indoor feature instead

This miniature desert landscape in a container, complete with small cacti and stones, can be as creative as your imagination allows. Assembled in a modern container and styled with colour-coordinating sand and stones, this mini landscape also makes an elegant, contemporary, indoor feature for a sunny windowsill. It's also a perfect project to do with children. 


  • large container with cactus compost, or other free-draining compost mix
  • sand (aquarium sand comes in a range of colours)
  • small rocks
  • 5–6 small cacti

Fill your container

Cacti appreciate free-draining conditions so be sure to pick a suitable compost

Use a specialist cactus compost, or mix multipurpose compost with up to 30% perlite or grit. Partially fill the container, leaving a good gap at the top. This means you'll have room for plants and a decorative layer of stones on top that won't fall out.

Position your cacti and succulents

Remove the plants' individual pots and place them in the larger container

Arrange the plants and place them into the compost. Try to combine different colours and textures for maximum impact. Don’t plant them too deeply – allow space for the layer of decorative sand and rocks. If you're having trouble handling the more prickly cacti, use layers of folded cardboard as protection.

Decorate your landscape

Use sand and gravel to make a mini desert landscape

Carefully add the sand, then place stones in small piles, leaving areas of open sand between the plants. Water lightly to remove any stray sand on the cacti and to settle the compost round their roots.


A cactus bowl makes an attractive windowsill feature

Place your cactus bowl on a bright, sunny windowsill. Remember that if your container has no drainage holes the plants will need very little water. If plants start to look shrivelled it's a sign they are thirsty: water in small amounts until they perk up. 

This article is adapted from an item in The Garden magazine.

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