Terracotta Faux Succulent

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making faux succulents lately, and it has been the most frustrating project I’ve ever tried.

There are a few tutorials out there for making succulents with felt, paper, pinecones (I love those) and even one with duct tape, but nothing for clay. But there are a lot of tutorials for making roses using cold porcelain clay.

Thinking I could use the rose technique, I made not just one, but three failed batches of home-made cold porcelain clay. The first batch was too dry, the second batch was to lumpy and the third batch was too sticky. Feeling like Goldilocks and the three bears, I tossed it all and went to Michael’s. That tells you how obsessed I was with making faux succulents, because I despise shopping.

Once I got home, I realized I grabbed the terracotta color instead of white. Now understand that I live with 2 dogs and a very insistent cat. It is a sad fact of my life that any time I’m elbow deep in a task, one of them will want to go out, or come in, or be fed, or whatever, and I had failed at this project for three days in a row. Three days of very sticky, messy discouraging failure. Three days of having my hands covered in sticky goo while the cat hung from my window screens to come in.

I was so frustrated I went to bed to watch YouTube videos, and found this one.

At least I had an idea of how to get started now.

Faux Succulent Materials:

Please note, some of the links below are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of these links, you still pay exactly the same price but I make a small commission on the sale.

  • Package of air dry clay – I used Sculpey’s Polyform Model Air (in terracotta)
  • Leaf shaped cutters in two sizes – you can buy a kit for fondant that has multiple leaf shapes, or make them like in the video. There are a good selection to choose from >>here<<
  • Tools for sculpting – I used knitting and crochet needles but there are kits available.
  • Wax paper or plastic wrap
  • rolling-pin
  • a small bowl of water

Making the Faux Succulent

Faux Succulent Leaf Cutters

I made my leaf cutters from an old circle cutter. One is narrower than the other, to get different lengths just trim the cut leaves. My table is very old and stains easily, so I rolled out my clay on waxed paper and cut out a bunch of the larger leaves. I covered the clay I wasn’t using with waxed paper, and anytime I left my project I covered it as well.

Smoothing the faux succulent leaves

I flipped all the cut leaves to the bottom side and used a moistened crochet hook to smooth away the crumbly edges the cutters left.

faux succulent leaves adding texture

I started out using the moistened crochet hook to ‘shape’ the leaves, trying to give them a scooped out look, but I liked this textured effect instead. Water makes the clay slimy and hard to handle. I found it easiest to prepare a bunch of leaves and wait for the slime to disappear before trying to shape and attach them.

You can see the first two layers in place. I used pieces of drinking straw and clay to keep the curves shaped into the leaves. Otherwise the weight of the clay made them sag and flatten out.

I continued adding layers, pinching the tips of the leaves to cup them.

Here it is, finished and ready to dry. After nearly an entire week of failure, I wanted it done so I dried it in the oven set at its lowest temperature – 170.

And there it is, dried.

Paint it or leave it:

After so many fails at this project already, I should have left my faux succulent bare. Instead I tried painting it. Big mistake!

I attempted the Blue Mountain Pottery look but it didn’t work. I wish I had just lightly dry brushed the light turquoise color on the bare clay instead. Next time, I’ll know better!

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Author: The Shade Gardener

Hi there! I'm Vanessa, the Shade Gardener. I live in a tiny little house in Ontario with my 2 grown boys, 2 dogs and a cat, where I do my best to grow plants in a heavily shaded yard and soil like cement. I am passionate about my family, my pets, MCM furniture and cheese. When I'm not in the garden I do a bit of crafting and sewing. Sometimes I build topiary animals from chicken wire for fun.

6 thoughts on “Terracotta Faux Succulent”

  1. I actually think your paint job looks great, what you shared of it with us. So glad you shared this with us, wonderful succulent art 🙂 <3

    1. The Shade Gardener says:

      Thank you! I doesn’t show very well in the picture I used but as it gets to the center where the leaves are pinched tighter, the paint did not go on nicely.

  2. ahappyhomeinholland says:

    Great job! You have inspired me to have a go at making some clay succulents myself 🙂 I love working with air-drying clay, I made some decorative cones a while back which has made me want to have another go and try some new ideas.

    1. The Shade Gardener says:

      I was so ready for something other than knitting and watching the news, I plan to make more this weekend and experiment a bit.

  3. reinventedkb says:

    Well you may have had a rough start but it certainly came out nice in the end!
    Thanks for sharing at Funtastic Friday!

    1. The Shade Gardener says:

      Almost nice in the end – I wish I could take that paint back! But there’s always more clay now that I’ve got an idea of what I’m doing. Thank you for commenting!

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