How to Create a Succulent Tide Pool Garden

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

An article I scouted and wrote for Sunset is in all regional editions of the September issue. (Most Southern CA garden articles appear in the Southern CA edition only.) One reason is Brett Gum’s gorgeous photography. These are my own photos here.

The location is a bluff-top home in the Orange County community of Corona del Mar. The designer is Joe Stead, a horticulture teacher at Orange Coast College. The amazing colors in the tide pool-themed garden resulted from a phenomenon called “stressing.” To learn more, see my YouTube video, “How to Stress Your Succulents…and Why You Should”.

To celebrate the Sunset article, I’ve released a new 3-minute YouTube video: “How to Create a Succulent Tide Pool Garden”.

All you need is a wide, shallow pot, coarse potting mix, rocks and perhaps some shells, plus succulents that look like undersea flora and fauna. A surprising number do, like Euphorbia flanaganii above.

This photo, which is labeled in the video, shows possible materials. Plants include tiger jaws (Faucaria tigrina), stacked crassulas, mosaic aloe, Euphorbia obesa, crested Euphorbia lactea and ‘Gollum’ jade.

If you make an undersea succulent garden, please let us know. Thanks for snorkeling by!

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified. 


Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
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The Intercontinental Gardener August 20, 2012, 4:06 am

Looks just wonderful – I need to try here in hot Singapore.

I always wanted to get the Southers CA edition instead of the Pacific NW one when I subscribed to the Sunset while in the US ,but alas, no luck, they couldn’t fix that for me… I just love Californian gardens and nature and your post brings back many fond memories from there, so thanks!

So good to hear, Lisa. Judging from your blog, there are many similarities between Singapore gardens and Southern California’s. Thanks very much for stopping by! — Debra

Margaret (Peggy) Herrman August 20, 2012, 8:53 am

very cool. Wish I could learn/master the art of photography in the garden. My next project. This is lovely and a terrific project. Can’t wait to see the magazine. congratulations. Best Peggy and Orchid Ladies

Hi, Peggy — The most important tip anyone ever gave me about garden photography is that most flowers are shot backlit by the sun. — Debra

Elaine August 20, 2012, 10:28 am

I love to see the similarities between the undersea world and our gardens. Thanks for this creative post, looking forward to your Sunset article!

Thanks, Elaine! Ironic, isn’t it, that dry climate plants look like those that live in water? — Debra

Sheila Schultz August 20, 2012, 10:43 am

Can’t wait to get my hands on the new issue of Sunset Debra. This little taste treat is very enticing, and the photography is spectacular. Funny thing is that a good friend of mine took several of Joe’s classes and they have become good friend’s over the years. Small world…

Joe’s such a nice guy. Truly an asset to Orange Coast College. — Debra

Cathy @ She Paused 4 Thought August 20, 2012, 10:48 am

What fun is that!!!

Thanks, Cathy! — Debra

Bria August 20, 2012, 3:30 pm

That’s gorgeous–I have the perfect Mexican molcajete planter for one! And I’m happy to learn about the RIGHT way to stress my plants. You’re results are much better than mine;-)

I don’t go out of my way to stress my succulents. Generally it just happens, and then I take credit for results caused by indifference and neglect. — Debra

Ambius August 21, 2012, 8:22 am

Your miniature tide pool garden looks lovely, and those first few photos just make me long for a garden by the ocean!

Samantha @Ambius

Hi, Samantha — Do make one. You can sit by the seaside anytime! — Debra

ricki August 21, 2012, 8:10 pm

I must make a note to buy that issue. I don’t know how the photos can get much better than yours.

Well, thank you, Ricki! — Debra

Outlaw August 23, 2012, 10:39 pm

Beautiful! Can’t wait to watch your video on stressing succulents. I pamper mine too much and they always look robust but some of the great colors stressing can cause would be cool!

It’s a phenomenon that happens with other plants, too. Once you’re aware of it, you’ll notice it, especially in foliage. — Debra

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