How To Grow Succulent Terrariums


by Laura Noro March 21, 2017

We all know that it is nearly impossible to grow plants and flowers outdoors in the wintertime. Terrariums offer a great way to have  your own miniature garden indoors using low maintenance plants and a glass or plastic container! Succulents have been found to work best in a terrarium since they are a group of plants that hold water in their leaves. Their small scale works well in tiny enclosures, and makes it easy to create a miniature desert landscape in your home. Below are steps on  how to make your own succulent terrarium.

Article Snapshot:

  • Choose an open container for terrarium and choose succulents that  grow at a similar rate and require similar amounts of light and water.
  • Place terrarium in a sunny spot, preferably by a window.
  • Put rocks, charcoal, and growing media into terrarium container.
  • Plant succulents creatively and be sure to pat down the growing media around the plants so they don’t get uprooted easily.
  • Water plants every 4-6 weeks by spraying the growing media and succulents leaves with a spray bottle.
  • Trim tips of plants if they start to touch the glass and be sure to remove any dead vegetation.

Helpful Hints:

  • Brown Leaves - Often indicates dehydration or too much sun
  • Yellowing or Dropping Leaves - Terrarium is getting too much water
  • Extreme Reaching of Plant - Terrarium needs more light

Step 1 - Choose a container - There are 2 types of terrariums, closed and open. A closed terrarium houses tropical plant varieties, such as mosses, orchids, ferns, and air plants, are generally kept within closed terrariums due to the conditions being similar to the humid and sheltered environment of the tropics. Open terrariums are better suited to dry plants such as succulents. For plants adapted to dry climates, open, unsealed terrariums are used to keep the air in the terrarium free from excess moisture. Open terrariums also work well for plants that require more direct sunlight, as closed terrariums can trap too much heat potentially killing any plants inside. Since this tutorial is for a succulent terrarium, an open container is a must. Look for a clear glass or plastic container with a wide opening to help with air circulation.  A small fish tank, fish bowl, apothecary jar, vase or even 2-liter bottle work best. You can even use a piece of driftwood if you feel like getting more creative!

Step 2 - Choose your succulents - First, you want to make sure all the plants can thrive in the same kind of environment. Be sure to consider the mature size of each species and cultivar you place in your terrarium. Succulents are slow-growing and have leaves that tend to be thick and fleshy, but some genus and species have thicker leaves than others. They thrive in dry climates and don’t like a lot of humidity which makes them perfect to use in a terrarium. Try to vary the shape and texture of the plants you choose; this will help create an interesting arrangement. Be sure not to overfill the terrarium so the plants have room to grow. You don't want your plants to outgrow their container.  Choose succulents that grow at a similar rate and require similar amounts of light and water. Try Echeveria, Hawthornia, Crassula, Sempervivum, Jade Plant, and Blue Star Sapphire plants.

Step 3 - Choose where to place terrarium - You want to put your terrarium in a nice, sunny spot, preferably on a table by a window or on a window sill.  It is good to allow the terrarium to receive fresh air from open window when possible but be careful that the outdoor temperature is not below room temperature. Also make sure the sun doesn't reflect through the container glass or it can cook your plants.

Step 4 - Prepare your terrarium - For this step you will need rocks, PittMoss, and charcoal (optional). First, make sure your container is clean, using anti-bacterial soap if necessary. Start with a layer of rocks, about one inch or so, at the bottom of your container. These will help the drainage, so the roots of your plants won’t get water-logged. Choose stones 1/4 of an inch or smaller for drainage. Unless the container the plant will be in has a drainage hole, use activated charcoal pieces, which you can purchase from aquarium supply stores or garden centers. Keep they layer about 1/4 inch thick. The charcoal helps keep your terrarium fresh and discourages mold. Next, put a layer about 2-3 inches thick of growing media on top of the charcoal.

Step 5 - Plant your succulents - When you remove the plants from their little pots, carefully tease the roots apart and remove some of the old soil so they will fit nicely in the terrarium. Arrange them as creatively as you wish and make sure to leave some space for them to breathe and grow. Pat down the growing media around the plants so they don’t get uprooted easily. You can also add decorations like small gnomes, different rocks, pebbles, or pine cones.

Step 6 - Monitor your terrarium - With succulent terrariums you have to make sure you don’t over water them. The glass keeps everything trapped in and acts like a mini greenhouse so it will take longer for all the water to evaporate into ambient air like normal indoor plants. If you are using PittMoss for your growing media, remember that it has an amazing capacity to retain water and the best practice is to keep it on the dryer side. Watering on a schedule should help you know when it is time. You will probably only need to water your succulents once every 4-6 weeks and even then a spray with a water bottle is the best way to go so you are sure not to over-water. Trim tips of plants if they start to touch the glass and be sure to remove any dead vegetation. To discourage rot, its best to remove fallen leaves from the terrarium. Since the terrarium is open, it is more likely to attract bugs. If this occurs, you can buy a low toxic insect spray. A few sprays will bring these under control.

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Happy Gardening!

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Laura Noro
Laura Noro

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