How to make a Succulent Terrarium
Terrariums are easy to make
I first spotted The Bees Knees succulent terrariums hanging in the window of local Laxey shop, Mother T’s. Multi-textured green leaves spilled out of tear-drop glasses dangling in the sunshine – how lush and beautiful they were! I eventually met the creator, Ashley Bentley, and spoke to her about her pieces of living artwork and what inspires her to make them.
Learn by doing
Ashley first spotted terrariums over a year ago on Pinterest and decided to try making them for herself. The main reason she tried in the first place is that ready-made terrariums she found online seemed so expensive. Since then she’s made dozens for herself and even more for others.
Though she doesn’t consider herself a Green Thumb she says that working with succulents is forgiving and that anyone can do it! Once made, they’re incredibly easy to take care of and will grow for years before needing to be replanted.
How to make a Succulent Terrarium
– Glass terrarium, or any glass container with openings
– Cactus potting mix
– Activated carbon/charcoal
– Sand – beach sand, building sand, Pink sand, Blue sand any non-toxic sand works!
– Assorted Succulents: Jade plant, Hen & Chicks, Alpines
– Long tweezers – for helping place the succulents
– Spoon – for scooping and patting the potting mix, sand, charcoal
– Paint brush – for gently brushing the succulents of any excess dirt
– Spray bottle filled with water
Collecting your Materials
Most of the items you need for this tutorial can be found in many homes and gardens. Instead of the purpose-made glass terrarium you could use a mason jar or empty food jar. It just needs to be clear and with an opening for ventilation. The sand can be taken from a nearby beach, the tweezers and spoon from the bathroom and kitchen, the paint brush from your art supplies, and the succulents from planters outside. If you have an aquarium you might even have the activated charcoal since it will be used in the water filtration system!
Succulents are tough plants that require very little in the way of soil, soil nutrients, or even much water in the winter months. If you spot some growing in a park or other public place you could even be a bit cheeky and nip off a few pieces to take home. They root very easily and the small amounts you take won’t hurt the parent plant. For this project, Ashley used garden centre succulents and wild Alpines she found growing on the stone wall outside her home.
Step 1: Gather your Assorted Succulents
Take about ten to twelve small cuttings of succulents. You’ll want a few that can trail over the edge of your container, a few that can be larger focal points, and others for varying colour and texture. You might think that many succulents will outgrow your terrarium but because of the limited soil they shouldn’t get too large, especially if you trim them as they grow.
Once you have your cuttings, allow them to sit in a cool place out of direct sunlight for a few days. This will allow the broken ends to callus over which is a required step if you want the succulent to form roots. After these few days, you can proceed to step two.
Step 2: Layer the Sand and Charcoal
In the bottom of your glass container, layer about half an inch of sand, pushing it up in the back to form a hill. Over the sand, sprinkle a very fine layer of the charcoal. The sand creates drainage for excess water and the charcoal ensures that mold, moss, and any uninvited micro-organisms do not grow and take over the planter.
Step 3: Layer the Cactus potting mix
I’ve listed this step separately in case you’d like to make your own mix. Cactus potting mix can be purchased online or from a garden centre but it’s possible to create it at home too if you have the materials at hand. It’s a mix of 50% washed cocopeat, 20% 5mm Coco Husk Chips, 20% Perlite, and 10% Horticultural Grit.
Layer about half an inch of this potting mix on top of the sand and charcoal and make sure to mound it up at the back like you did the sand. Spray the potting mix a few times with the spray bottle you filled with ordinary tap water and you’re ready for step four.
Step 4: Plant your Succulent Cuttings
Now is the creative part! Place your cuttings into the potting mix and arrange them so that the composition suits you. Ashley recommends putting taller pieces into the back and pushing them in with the end of a spoon or paintbrush so that the end with the callus is well covered. Next, put any large pieces inside and push them in. It helps to put the trailing pieces in before any of the foreground succulents since it might be difficult to get them in otherwise.
Once all your succulents are in you’re finished! The cuttings may take a few weeks to develop roots so try to keep the terrarium in a bright area where they can form without disturbance. For aftercare, the succulents will generally only need to be sprayed with water once a week or so. Each time you water them, ensure the potting mix is damp but not soaking and allow it to dry almost completely before watering again. For more succulents care, visit this link.
You might also find that over time, the succulents may become a bit leggy since they’ll be trying to find more space to grow. Just cut these leggy pieces off and re-pot them outside or in new terrariums!