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How to Make a Succulent Terrarium

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Combining a bit of plant knowledge with a touch of artistic flair can create a beautiful succulent display in a deep glass container – a terrarium.

Terrariums are miniature gardens established in shapely glass containers. Succulents combine with their shallow roots, intriguing forms, and general hardiness to make them ideal terrarium plants. You can create an eye-catching display by combining tall, shorter, and cascading succulents.

What is a Terrarium?

A terrarium is a fun way to create a stunning display piece of select succulents. The main parts of a terrarium garden consist of a deep glass container (of which there are exciting formats), succulent-friendly potting soil, and complementing succulent species.

You can create a piece of living art by including extras like colorful pebbles, interesting sand layers, and other props.

I think succulents by themselves are unique enough to impress.

Although various succulent species, including cacti, can live and grow in a succulent terrarium, special care is needed when creating your own.

Most succulents thrive naturally in semi-arid regions in full sun, but this is not true for all succulents.

Terrariums are traditionally closed ecosystems able to recycle plant transpiration. This is ideal for humidity-loving tropical plants, but not succulents.

Succulents need airflow and dry air, so an open terrarium format is necessary.

Let’s look at how to create a succulent terrarium. From start to finish, we’ll go over everything you’ll need, the best plants for a succulent terrarium, and how to maintain a healthy terrarium for years to come.

Succulent Terrarium Components

You’ll need a few supplies to start your own DIY succulent garden. The three essential components are:

  • A terrarium
  • Succulent-friendly soil
  • Succulents

Choosing a Terrarium

The type of container you choose and how to create a succulent terrarium is entirely up to you, but here are some valuable guidelines. Some important considerations are:

Open Terrarium

When choosing your terrarium, consider the plants you may want to plant.

Succulent terrariums should never be completely closed up, so pick a terrarium with a sizable opening or several openings.

Suppose you wish to create some height in the background, maybe using a Zebra Haworthia. In that case, your terrarium must provide the space needed.

If you want a hanging terrarium with a cascade of a string of pearls, then the opening should be on the side.

Drainage Holes

The ideal container would include a drainage hole at the bottom because, as said earlier, succulents don’t really like a lot of wetness.

Regrettably, finding a glass terrarium with drainage holes is easier said than done (market opportunity).

Although root rot is significantly less likely in containers with drainage holes, there is a way to work around the challenge by creating a false bottom and paying special watering care.

Terrarium Design

I’ve seen some fantastic succulent terrariums that would make stunning contributions to any interior. If space is a challenge, consider getting a hanging terrarium; if not, a compact greenhouse might be your style.

Simple circular fish bowls work well for a minimalist approach, and cleverly tilting them into an intriguing design is doable.

Succulent-Friendly Soil

The kind of soil you use is likely the most crucial factor when it comes to creating a succulent terrarium. Succulents don’t like much moisture, and standing water can quickly lead to root rot.

Even though you may be able to salvage the situation, it will mean dismantling your terrarium and replacing the soil. Often, the damage is so far gone that the plant is beyond redemption.

A well-draining growing medium is essential if drainage holes are significant. Succulents hate wet feet, so adding some inert aggregates is vital to aid air availability and boost drainage.

Many succulent enthusiasts opt for a medium made entirely of grit instead of potting soil. Surprisingly, many of the best succulent soil amendments originate in the bonsai hobby.

Check out my The Best Bonsai Soil Mix for Bonsai Health.

Turface, pumice, pea gravel, expanded shale, and granite grit are inert materials that help plant roots manage water and air availability.

Their combined qualities result in a medium that retains the right amount of water for your plants while allowing the extra drain.


Naturally, the focal point of your DIY succulent terrarium will be the plants.

Choosing your plants carefully is a good idea because not all succulents demand the same maintenance, and some are considerably easier to cultivate than others.

Consider your terrarium’s lighting requirements when selecting the succulents that will go inside.

While certain plants (Haworthia, Gasteria, and Aloe) like their light to be indirect, many species require as much light as you can provide.

Avoid succulents that require full light is a good idea because a terrarium will heat up significantly in direct sun.

Also, they will stretch in seeking more light, making them look skinny and unattractive rather than decorative.

The way the succulents will appear in the terrarium should also be kept in mind as you choose them. It’s a good idea to plan your layout before you start shopping.

The finest terrariums have plants of various heights, textures, and colors, but avoid using too many varieties lest you end up with an arrangement that looks disorganized.

Optional Design Additions

Let your artistic flair take flight by adding some extras to your succulent terrarium. Although succulents are a lovely addition on their own, you can also add a variety of other items to the terrarium to give it a little extra personality.

Stones would make the most fundamental component of the garden of succulents. Consider some lovely pebbles, crystals, or ornamental rocks.

To make the terrarium feel like a proper little desert, cover the succulent soil with some yellow sand, or explore the realm of fairy gardens, where the goal is to create the impression of a miniature world inside a terrarium.

In Conclusion

Terrariums offer an excellent opportunity to create a décor piece to display your gardening skills and artistic flair.

The biggest challenge is ensuring good drainage, but the plant selection is also essential. Grouping plants with similar cultural needs for light and heat will ensure better success.

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