Turning Servers into Succulents: A Vintage Re-Invention


Eight. That’s how many days there are to go. It’s almost here! Then one thing turns into another. We end and we begin. We change and we grow.  This year, the day falls on a Monday. The exact date – September 23rd.  Then it’s official. The first day of Autumn arrives. How exciting! To celebrate the season, I have a fun new gardening project for all you do-it-yourself-ers out there who like to keep your hands busy in the dirt in the off-season when summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter and the outdoor garden is at rest. It doesn’t require much effort, time or expense but it does call for a little imagination. It will last forever if you want it to and it will make you look at things in your cupboards in a whole new way. Most importantly, it gives new purpose to old items that sometimes get left behind on a shelf or forgotten about in storage.

I’m so excited to introduce the succulent set…


…real plants growing out of old china serving pieces. If you’ve inherited pieces of your family’s china and are not quite sure what to do with them or how to incorporate them into your daily life, or if you just want a planter with a little bit of one-of a-kind personality then designating a vintage sugar bowl or a creamer or a serving dish as your new garden vessel is a fun way to go. Let’s look…

This Japanese Majolica creamer is from the 1940’s. Due to some cracks on the bottom it no longer holds water (or cream!) so it makes an ideal container for varieties of succulents that prefer well draining soil. All it needs is a little water once a week and it’s ready to grow. Keep it in the sink for a few minutes and the water drips out through the cracks, then it is good to go until its next watering seven days later.

Vintage sugar bowls like this one above, made in England, fit perfectly into shelves or small spaces. Your very own unexpected mini garden greenspace place!

This vintage coffeepot from the 1940s lost its lid somewhere along its 75 years of travels. That makes it no longer the most suitable vessel for hot coffee but it certainly makes a pretty container for eye-catching flower power in the form of a petal shaped succulent.

With their long shape and roomy width, gravy boats make great table centerpieces. They can usually accommodate more than a couple of mini plants depending on size. For wedding reception decorations, they offer the symbolism and sentimentality of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

Ideal plants for this type of pairing project, many succulents don’t require a lot of watering and come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. As they grow, the plants can be transferred to larger and larger containers like this one – a two-handled vegetable dish from Salem Pottery’s Commodore pattern which debuted in the 1940’s. Because of its larger size it can accommodate up to seven 2.5″ inch succulents or just a few bigger individuals that have outgrown their smaller holders…


Authentic crazing, staining and chippy details add interesting, quirky personality to your space that you can’t find in modern day planters. They also easily fit on window sills, ledges, mantles and counter top nooks. Choose one that matches your interior aesthetic, or the colors of your kitchen, or reminds you of a good memory and you’ll instantly add a bit of happy energy to your space. Old dishes love to remain useful helpers. Matching the old with the new creates balance and harmony and reminds us that imperfections are the stuff of life. Beautiful! This antique gravy boat below is over 100 years old but still looks as fresh and pretty as ever thanks to its classic shape.

The trio below have no cracks to worry about so they are ideal holders for succulents and cactus that prefer to be spritzed with water, rather than doused, every now and again. Add some some pea gravel to the bottom of each vessel before adding dirt and certain succulents will be happy with just a tiny bit of water every now and again.

Another possibility is to gather them all up and make a hanging wall display with the help of a crate…


That makes an instant collection and an engaging garden that you can cultivate and tend to all year round. Usually all that is required for succulents is bright natural light, a sunny alcove or close proximity to a window.

With all their color choices which range from light gray to soft pink, bright green to dusty blue there is great fun in matching plant to planter and then watching them grow and sprout new additions.

If you need a vintage serving piece to start your garden you can find the ones above in the garden section of the shop. Succulents are available at most garden centers, nurseries, farmers markets or sometimes even the floral section of the grocery store. I recommend getting your planter first, then your succulent second, so that you can determine the appropriate drainage condition, color and shape for plant and planter.

Hope this brings a little fun your way on our second to last Sunday of summer. Cheers to new gardens, old dishes and the joy they both provide:)



6 thoughts on “Turning Servers into Succulents: A Vintage Re-Invention

  1. Gosh, these are lovely! I am no gardener. Alas, I am widely known as a plant killer. It’s true, I can and have, killed cactus! Perhaps I literally love them to death. I had a chiminea for many years but the movers broke it during the long trek to our new home. I didn’t want to haul it away so I kept the large broken pieces. I sat them in a rock bed and planted succulents in them.
    Oddly, they live!
    I thought that succulents needed very little care ( perfect for me and my talent for killing foliage) and that they remained quite small. This is not the experience that I’m having! They have grown like mad! Perhaps it is because it’s been particularly rainy? I have no idea….but, fall is coming and I fear I may have to replant them inside? Again, I don’t know plants. If so, this is such a charming idea, I fear I’d never return them outdoors!


    1. Oh Laura! I love your adventure story through gardening. Not too worry, I had no luck with a cactus once too. That’s the beauty of nature, I think. Its not always controllable or perfect or precise. It sounds like you have a green thumb afterall:) What a pretty way to make use of your chiminea. Succulents can get very big depending on their environment – it sounds like yours have quite the happy spot there. They do love warmer temperatures but some varieties can withstand temps in the 30’s though so perhaps you could research your variety a little bit and then that will help determine their most suitable winter home. Succulents are so fun little creatures though. Four years ago, I bought a 2.5″ inch succulent that was so pitiful looking I feared it wasn’t going to last the week. In such dire need of water, I gave it some ice tea on the car ride home (which was all I had at the moment). Now that plant is so big and has grown so many side shoots it is practically toppling out of a 10″ inch diameter container and needs a bigger home again (its 5th in four years!). So who knows about these succulents – they are marvelous and mysterious in their ways:) I think if you find something that works – that’s great. Stick with it. Or if things start to go a little wayward when in doubt try a little ice tea:) Good luck with your guys. Keep us posted on how things go with them this fall!


  2. Lovely! My daughter and I have been repurposing vintage and thrift shop finds into plant containers for years. We love succulents and have so much fun finding interesting ways to display them. I love the little gravy boats and pitchers!!!
    All the Best,


    1. Oh how fun Gwen! Recently I was watching an episode of the Monty Don gardening show – Big Dreams, Small Spaces . And he assured everybody that ANYTHING could be a container for plants and flowers, which really opened up my eyes to all sorts of possibilities and creative imaginings:) It has been fun realizing that indoor gardening can be just as fulfilling as outdoor gardening! I’m glad you think so too. Cheers to you and your daughter for all your creativity!

      Liked by 1 person

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