How to Make a Succulent Terrarium
Instructions on how to make a succulent terrarium using an open glass vessel. Includes tips on plants, materials, and a video to show how to plant your terrarium.
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Succulents are beautiful, and hardy outdoor plants, but if you give them the right conditions they can grow inside too. That’s what I found out through a friend who makes succulent terrariums as a side business. Though not a traditional closed terrarium, the plantings you’ll learn to make in this piece are open. That’s to ensure that the the potting mix and plants don’t get too wet. It’s also so that the succulents can grow out through the opening in a beautiful way.
The materials for this project are straightforward but do include a few specialist items. That includes the terrarium vessel but you could use a mason jar or empty food jar instead. It just needs to be clear and with an opening for ventilation. Some of the other materials can be foraged or upcycled. The sand 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.
How to make a Succulent Terrarium
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.
Succulent Terrarium Materials
- Glass terrarium, or any glass container with openings
- Cactus potting mix
- Activated charcoal
- Coarse sand
- Assorted succulents: such as jade plant, hen and chicks, alpines
- Long tweezers for helping place the succulents
- Paint brush for gently brushing the succulents of any excess dirt
- Spray bottle filled with water
- Spoon for scooping and patting the potting mix, sand, charcoal
Step 1: Succulent Cuttings
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.
Succulent Ideas on Lovely Greens
- DIY Sea Glass Succulent Planter
- Plant Succulents in Wooden Containers
- Upcycled Tin Succulent Planter
You can use succulents from your garden in this project, or you can order an assortment of succulents. Pinch off pieces about one to two inches long, or pull small clumps of rosettes. 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 Potting Mix
On top of the sand and charcoal you’ll place a layer of cactus potting mix. You can find it in garden centers or online but it’s possible to create it at home too. 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 the Succulent Cuttings
Now is the creative part! Place your cuttings into the potting mix and arrange them so that the composition suits you. Place the taller pieces at the back and push them in with the end of a spoon or paintbrush. Just so 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.
You’re finished once all of the cuttings are placed in the potting mix. They’ll 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. Each time you water them, ensure the potting mix is damp but not soaking and allow it to dry almost completely before watering again.
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!
This looks very nice. But: you should never plant indoor- and outdoor-succulents together. They have different needs and one of them will eventually die. Sempervivum (hen and chicks) and sedum are outdoor plants that need the weather while crassula (Jade plant) and echeveria like to be in the house.
Never say never when it comes to gardening. These plants grew successfully for a year before I repotted them on. All did very well together, as do all the succulent terrariums that Ashley makes and retails.
My jade has no clue it likes to be in the house. It’s been growing successfully for over a decade outside alongside the hens and chicks and sedum and cacti and lithops and all the rest.
I bought a “garden tile” of sedum plant that I want to use for terrariums. It is already growing in the “tile” base which looks very nursing. These tiles can be cut and used anywhere. I think I won’t need extra soil but will put the layer of sand and charcoal down first. I’d like to know if anyone has tried this type of succulent for a terrarium. Thanks. Am going to test one today and see how it works out over the next few weeks. Also, does anyone know where to get reasonably priced jade plants? I live in the Denver area.
I teach gardening. Master Gardener. Terrariums are closed to allow the plants to create their own environment. I call this an open planting. It is a very attractive.