Issue 64
Hypertufa Planting Plan

Hypertufa troughNow that you’ve made a hypertufa trough what do you grow in it? The answer is, just about anything that will fit. Most often you’ll see alpine plants put together to look like tiny landscapes. But this is not your typical hypertufa trough design. As a matter of fact, the plants in this trough are tropicals that are often grown as houseplants.

To ensure good drainage, I put an inch of pea gravel in the bottom of the trough and then filled it with a soilless potting mix. There are drainage holes in the bottom so water won’t collect. The artillery plant and palm like it on the dry side and the tradescantia doesn’t mind either way. When it comes to watering, a once-a-week soaking is usually plenty. If you’re unsure, poke your finger into the soil. If it’s dry 1/2 inch down, it’s time to water.

The plants themselves are easy to care for and do best in part shade outside or a sunny south-facing window inside.

Although the palm will grow more than 10 feet in perfect conditions, it’s very slow growing. At the other end of the spectrum is the tradescantia. It’s a fast-growing plant. To keep it from growing out of the trough and into your neighbor’s yard, you’ll need to keep it pinched back. Pinching back is easy — just snip the stem off at a leaf node when it gets too long with a pair of scissors or your fingernails. The tiny pink, green and white variegated leaves of artillery plant make it a good filler for any small container.

Even if you choose to discard the plants in fall, your tufa trough will last longer if you bring it inside and store it in your garage or basement when temperatures drop below freezing. This keeps moisture from collecting in all those tiny air pockets that give hypertufa its unusual texture. The moisture will freeze and thaw and eventually form a crack in your tufa trough. By bringing it inside in winter you’ll have a trough for your plants for years to come.

Trough inside dimensions: 6 1/2 x 11 in.

Plant List

Code Plant Name Heat Zones No. to Buy


Artillery plant
Pilea microphylla variegata
12 to 1 2


Tradescantia zebrina pendula
12 to 1 2


Japanese sago palm
Cycas revoluta
12 to 1 1