Making a Succulent Terrarium
Why Making a Succulent Terrarium is a Great Idea
If you love having plants in your house or office a succulent terrarium is the choice for you. Terrariums are unusual and lush but do take specific maintenance. If the plants you choose quickly outgrow their environment regular maintaining is essential. The solution to not having your plants outgrow quickly, choose miniature plants. So, it isn’t just a matter of planting your beautiful plants in a container and then enjoying your miniature garden. If the plants grow too large you will quickly find you have a terrarium ‘jungle’ that starts you watching for little miniature monkeys, tiny anacondas and microscopic tropical birds. You will need to purchase little tiny terrarium utensils to trim and maintain your miniature garden. And little, itsy bitsy glass cleaners to keep the inside clean. Even though this may sound intriguing, let’s stick to the simple, easy-care succulent terrariums in this article.
Here are our suggestions.
Choosing the Right Size, Style and Type of Terrarium
Easiest: The larger the terrarium generally it is easier to maintain. If the top is large and open or has a cover that can be removed, this is ideal. A 10-gallon aquarium, or smaller, is ideal. It is easy to reach into and not too heavy to move if you want to relocate it.
A fish bowl, vase or any clear glass container that has a large top opening will do well.
Small glass containers such as a clear glass hanging container work well if you put in only one succulent that remains small. Remember you have to be able to occasionally clean the inside of the glass wall.
Hardest: Any container that has a small opening, such as a water bottle, is attractive and unique but a nightmare. Trimming or cleaning the glass is almost impossible unless you have a tool as flexible as a pipe cleaner to do the job. Stick to the easiest containers.
Tip: Decide where you want to place your terrarium first before you decide on the size or the style of the container. Is your terrarium going on a desk, in a kitchen, office, a table, or a window sill? Where you place the terrarium may limit the options you have for the size and plants.
Best Succulents for a Terrarium
(Each plant listed has a link that has a photo, full description and care instructions.)
- Aeonium Kiwi, Aeonium haworthii
- ‘Topsy Turvy’, Echeveria runyonii
- Panda Plant, Kalanchoe tomentosa
- Coppertone, Sedum nussbaumerianum
- Dwarf Jade Plant, Crassula ovata
- String of Buttons, Crassula perforata
- ‘Golden Toothed Aloe’, Aloe nobilis
Where to Place a Succulent Terrarium
Light is important for any plant and your succulent terrarium is not any different. However, the enclosed terrarium environment creates some challenges. The inside temperature naturally is higher. Light filtering through the glass is more intense.
So, do the following:
Light: Place where it receives indirect sunlight only. If it is inside a room with only unnatural light be sure the light is available at least 12 hours a day.
Heat: Do not place in the direct sun or near a heat source. Heat sources include the direct sun, fireplace, heater, and heat producing appliances. Remember the enclosed environment can become like a sauna if the plants have just been watered.
Caring for the Succulents in Your Terrarium
Soil: A good quality potting soil is appropriate, but it is essential to put in a layer of gravel and a layer of charcoal in the bottom before adding the soil. This creates a filtering drainage area since the water is contained in the container.
Watering: The succulent watering ‘rule of thumb’ applies here too. Water only when you see the soil is completely dry. With a good thick layer of gravel on the bottom and the clear glass of the terrarium, you can see when the soil is dry and the moisture in the gravel absorbed. That is the optimum time to water. Water only enough to see that the soil is completely moistened, but not so much there is a large amount of water collected in the gravel below.
Identifying excessive watering: Water condenses on the glass for an extended of time after watering. If your terrarium has a lid, remove it until the condensation is gone. Condensation sometimes naturally forms during the night and may be seen in the morning after watering. However, it shouldn’t remain for more than a short time in the morning.
Trimming: With most succulents trimming is not necessary. However, if you do need to trim most succulents will easily break off and can be planted another container if you want.
Fertilizing: Since you want your plants to remain small, fertilize them no more than once a year. A good all-purpose houseplant fertilizer will work. I favor a solution of not more than ¼ of the recommended dosage. I prefer Miracle Grow but there are other appropriate choices at garden centers.
Recommended Places for Succulent Terrariums
A terrarium with succulents looks fantastic in offices, school classrooms, as a table centerpiece, on desks, in kitchens, or anywhere else in the home.
Tip: The NASA website, Climate Kids, has a great article with instructions for children to make a terrarium.