DIY: Growing Succulents in Corks

Editor’s Note: The below article is part of our ongoing #StayAtHome series, presented to help inform and entertain our readers as we all practice social distancing and take comfort in our homes. Be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and the Foley Food & Wine Society app, to be alerted to new #StayAtHome content when it’s published.

Last week, we received one particular email that really put a smile on all our faces. That email came in from David Giffen, our mid-Atlantic division sales manager for FFW in Maryland. He wanted to share a little DIY project—growing succulents in corks (how cool is that?!)—that his wife Dara and 10-year-old daughter Kaia came up with as they shelter-in-place at their home just outside of Washington DC. 

Dara is a master gardener and marketing/technology consultant, and together with Kaia (who, like all school-age children, along with everyone else, is stuck at home right now because of the COVID-19 outbreak) decided to make the best of their time together with a handful of leftover corks. 

“It’s been a fun time,” Dara tells us, “we’ve been doing lots of crafts and working on essentials like typing, languages and logic problems! Our daughter is a big reader so that helps immensely!”

Spring in Maryland means the outside garden is “just getting going,” says Dara. “We’ve started spring veggies like peas, edamame, runner beans, and various salad greens. We have summer favorites started from seed under lights in the basement. We grow lots of heirloom tomatoes and love trying peppers with great stories (like biquinho, a pepper from brazil whose name means “little beak.” It’s spicy and fruity at the same time!). We also grow hops for David to use in homebrewing beer. And we have chickens and honeybees.”

So, how did they come up with the idea to plant succulents in corks?

 “We have so many corks around! I’ve done some hydroponic gardening and figured I could grow something in them,” says Dara. “Succulents are great because they are efficient at water storage.”

This is Dara and Kaia’s step-by-step process for making DIY succulents in used corks: 

1. Drink FFW wines (adults that is!) and save your corks.

2. Drill a hole in one cork end using a 1/8″ or smaller drill bit. Go all the way through. 

3. From the same end, use a 1/2″ spade bit to widen the hole and drill down about an inch—not all the way through. 

4. Soak sphagnum moss in water for 20 minutes. Using a chopstick, take a small piece and push it into the hole.

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5. Take a leaf or small piece off of a succulent. (I leave a small pot or bowl with sphagnum and throw succulent leaves as they fall off. Over time, they’ll root right up. This gives me rooted pieces to work with. )

6. Set the succulent leaf into the moss. If you have a rooted piece, it’s helpful to wrap the roots in sphagnum and then push it into the cork. 

7. You can glue on a magnet, thread wire through as a hanger or just set somewhere you can admire it.

8. For maintenance, soak weekly in a bowl of water for 15-20 minutes. Succulents prefer bright indirect-direct sun but they are pretty forgiving!

For displaying your planted cork succulents, here are a few suggestions from Dara: 

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“You can make a terrarium with a large glass vessel. In this photo, that is actually my succulent nursery. Succulents are easy to propagate from leaf cuttings. When a leaf falls off, it roots and creates a new plant! I keep a fishbowl with sphagnum moss (and a plastic snake) and, as they fall off, throw pieces in. Then when we have a fun idea, we have lots of plants to use to execute.  We’ve done succulent pumpkins for thanksgiving and wreaths for winter holidays.) You can also run fishing-line through the cork and hang them individually or as a mobile. You can glue magnets to the cork. You could fill a small bowl with them. We have a couple on a tray with our salt and pepper. They’re small so you can set them anywhere!”

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