Plant a Hypertufa for Small-Scale Gardening

Today’s edition of Workshop Wednesday will appeal to those who like small-scale gardening.  Alpine plants, succulents and other low-growing plants grow well in trough planters. Here’s how to plant a hypertufa container garden.

I’ve always enjoyed planting container rock gardens, so I was delighted to find a table of hypertufa trough planters at the recent Denver master gardeners’ plant sale.

I’ve loved the look of hypertufa planters ever since my in-laws made a batch years ago, but I haven’t worked up the gumption to tackle the process to make my own.

Hypertufa planters look like they’re made of stone or rock, but they’re a light-weight container made from cement mixed with other materials like vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and sand.

If you’d like to make your own hypertufa trough planter, there are good tips included in a recent Denver Post article on using alpine plants to create container rock gardens or miniature xeriscapes.

The planter is a nice rectangular shape, 21″ x 14″ by 5″ deep. I liked the shape of this one, but there were smaller squares and round planters, too.

For the potting soil, I mixed together a standard potting soil with a special succulent potting soil to provide good drainage.

I placed the trough on two large bricks, also to help keep the roots dry and filled the hypertufa with the soil mix. Then I added the plants I purchased at the plant sale.

I looked for plants with a low-growing habit, that were adaptable to a variety of light conditions from shade to full sun, and those that preferred low-water conditions. I choose the following (back row from left to right) :

  • Echeveria ‘Pearl Von Nurnberg’, a low-growing succulent with beautiful pink and purple highlights.
  • Sempervivum, ‘Red Rubin’, Hens and Chicks, an easy-to-grow plant that produces offshoots with low-water needs.
  • An unidentified sedum I’ve had for years,transplanted from another container rock garden.

(front row, left to right)

  • Delosperma, Ice Plant, a succulent ground cover for borders and rock gardens.
  • Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’  also clipped from another container.
  • Sempervivum Calcareum, Hens and Chicks
  • Duchesnea indica, Mock Strawberry, a ground cover with low water requirements.

I arranged the plants in the hypertufa with some of the spreading ground covers in front with the hopes they’d creep over the edge of the container.

After planting, I added rocks in several sizes and a plastic frog for fun. Then I watered it thoroughly. Because these plants have low-water requirements, I’ll wait for the soil to dry between waterings.

This fall, before the weather turns cold, I plan on digging up the Echeveria, potting it and taking it inside for winter. With luck, I’ll be able to replant it in my hypertufa next spring.


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I hope you do a later post when your plants have filled in a bit – this is going to look great!

Don’t forget you can also age the hypertufa with sheep manure and buttermilk (don’t drink it!)to encourage moss to grow.

Thanks for the suggestion for aging the hypertufa–I’d heard about this before, but forgot all about it. I’ll be sure to post pictures of the hypertufa at the end of the season.

Thanks for the reminder about this stuff. I read about it years ago, and had since forgotten I wanted to try making some.

Jodi, I love the look of those planters and will look for them at the garden centers. I’m intrigued with the thought of growing low-water plants in a pot covered with (to my mind) moisture loving moss.
I also hope you do a later post so we can see how your planter is doing.

I wonder if settlers made their own trough planters?? If so, it would be a fun project for kids at the Plains Center.

What a wonderful post! I’d really like to have a few hypertufa containers, filled like this, around my garden!

Somewhere I read that you can also put moss, buttermilk & yogurt together in a blender first, then apply it to the containers.

Thanks for stopping by–hypertufa’s are fun to plant and I try a different planting combination every year. You’re right about coating the outside of the containers to grow moss. If you try it, let us know how it goes.

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