Life Hacks

DIY Succulent Terrarium: Plants, Supplies and Care

A succulent terrarium is the easiest way to bring living greens indoors. While modern life often inhibits us from maintaining large outdoor garden plots, most people still enjoy container gardening with easy, low maintenance life forms such as cacti or succulents. If you too fall into this category, then an indoor terrarium garden, which essentially takes care of itself, is probably right up your alley. A plant terrarium is a low maintenance garden that groups small plants inside an enclosed or semi-enclosed transparent structure usually made of glass. Terrariums are an easy and creative way to bring nature inside where the plants contained within them can work their magic on indoor air quality and levels of available phytoncides. So, if you don’t have the time or the patience to care for finicky house plants, a succulent terrarium will provide you with everything you need without the hassle of a challenging garden.
Succulent TerrariumImage Credit: Design Project

In This Article:

Terrarium Supplies

DIY Terrarium in 8 Steps

How to Make a Terrarium – The Details

Terrarium Ideas

Terrarium Plants

Terrarium Containers

Terrarium Plant Care

Succulent Terrarium DIY
Image Credit: the Zen Succulent

Terrarium Supplies

  1. Compatible group of cacti or succulent species
  2. Glass terrarium containers or other clear vessel
  3. Cactus soil mix (regular potting soil works fine too)
  4. Small rocks for drainage layer
  5. Pea gravel or sand (optional)
  6. Horticultural charcoal (optional)
  7. Sphagnum moss (optional)

DIY Terrarium Steps

Step 1: Gather your terrarium supplies.

Step 2: Wash your glass terrarium container to rid it of any lurking life forms and prevent bacterial growth.

Step 3: Since your glass terrarium container is unlikely to have a drainage hole, layer the bottom of the container with rocks to allow for drainage and prevent damage to plant roots.

Step 4: Place a thin layer of activated charcoal on top of your rocky drainage layer to help balance moisture and maintain soil quality. Using horticultural charcoal in a plant terrarium also aids with toxin and odor removal. Charcoal absorbs soil, air and water chemicals that can build up and damage plants over time. Charcoal also absorbs odors from sources such as decomposing soil material, mold or mildew. If you opt not to use charcoal, be sure that your rock layer is thick enough for proper drainage.

Step 5: If you choose to use sphagnum moss, you can place it above the charcoal layer to prevent the subsequent soil layer from mixing with the rocks and charcoal below it. Since your plants are likely to develop deep root systems over time, the moss will also aid in preventing them from growing down into your drainage layer.

Step 6: Add your soil. Cactus and succulent soil mix is optimal, but I’ve also used regular potting soil without issue. Be sure to leave enough space to place your plants.

Step 7: Place your terrarium plants in the soil. When planting be sure to leave plenty of room for your plants to grow and expand into their environment. From my experience, succulents grow like weeds, so be prepared for these suckers to blow up pretty quickly.

Step 8: For a desert-like effect, add an optional layer of pea gravel, sand or some other tiny rock above the soil in between your plants.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium in Glass Container

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium – The Details

It’s always nice to have some semblance of a plan in place before starting a DIY craft project, especially one involving glass, dirt, and tiny pebbles. Remember, tiny pebbles shouldn’t go into the garbage disposal. They are very likely to get stuck, particularly in certain types of disposals. Also, don’t forget that if your glass plant terrarium has a drainage hole, watering it over the sink will cause the stuff on the bottom to pour into the garbage disposal, often without you even noticing. If you fail at being careful and run into any disposal issues, the internet suggests turning off the power to your disposal, unplugging it to be extra safe, pulling any debris from the inside, attempting to turn it from the top with an object such as a broom handle and if that doesn’t work, turning it from the bottom with an appropriately sized allen wrench (usually 1/4 inch). Here’s a YouTube video.

To begin planting succulents indoors, I recommend scouring Pinterest and the web for terrarium ideas. Once you know the basics, a DIY terrarium is simple, quick and relatively inexpensive to piece together. If you’re conscious about gathering your terrarium supplies, you can make one in less than and hour for under $20.
Making a Plant Terrarium With Succulents and Glass Terrarium ContainersDIY Terrarium in Glass Container

Succulent Terrarium Ideas

Hand Blown Glass Terrarium with Succulents

Image Credit: Mantra Glass ArtZen Succulent Terrarium DIY

Image Credit: The Zen Succulent

Succulent Terrarium Through the Looking Glass

Image Credit: The Succulent Garden

Hanging Succulent Terrarium

Image Credit: Source Succulents

DIY Terrarium Ideas for Cacti and Succulents

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium

Terrarium Plants

Terrarium plants come in many varieties and pretty much any low maintenance house plant will suffice, but it’s important to select species that can both grow alongside each other and that won’t grow out of bounds of your container. In selecting for plant compatibility opt for species with similar growth habits and environmental needs to assure they can thrive together in an enclosed space.

Succulent Terrarium Plants in Glass Chandelier Container

Succulent terrariums seem to be a common choice as using succulents has several advantages, most notable of which, is that they are a great example of low maintenance gardening. Since water conserving plants, like cacti and succulents, can withstand quite a bit of neglect while still managing to stay on schedule, they make a great and visually appealing, hands-off choice for terrarium plants. Given that their basic needs are met, another hallmark of succulents and cacti is that they can grow rapidly and live for a very long time. Most succulents are blooming succulents which tend to flower around fall, filling indoor spaces with colorful blooms right when everything outside is beginning to die. Lastly, the majority of succulents will spawn roots if you break their limbs off and replant them, so once your succulents get larger, you’ll have an endless supply of succulent babies to fulfill any and all of your DIY terrarium dreams until pretty much the end of days.

Moss terrariums, while slightly finickier, are another simple yet enchanting option. To learn why moss makes an especially appealing house plant choice, check out this article on the health benefits of indoor moss gardens.

Terrarium Containers

Geometric Glass Terrarium Container

Image Credit: Jechory Glass Designs

A glass terrarium container is likely to be your best (if not only) choice, as it will not obstruct light from reaching the plants. The container must have an opening large enough to allow you to pot in it as well as to promote air circulation and prevent humidity from accumulating inside its walls. If you’re planning on using plants that prefer dry climates as opposed to humidity, don’t opt for a fully enclosed terrarium container and vice versa. It should also be deep enough to adequately contain the plant roots. If you have some time on your hands, look for fun, functional glass containers in places like thrift stores or second-hand hardware shops.

Glass Terrarium Container Made from Chandelier for Succulents

For the DIY terrarium project that inspired this blog post, Dennae got creative and opted for a series of different sized glass chandeliers that no one else wanted to buy at the hardware store. Economics worked in her favor because due to an extended period of high supply and non-existent demand for these gold rimmed glass chandeliers, the shop owner gave them to her for a steal! If you find a non-traditional container such as a chandelier, be sure to assess its functionality as a plant terrarium. The chandeliers, for instance, are meant to hold light, rather than liquid, meaning they’re not waterproof. Since the plan was to stuff these with succulents, rather than water plants, we figured extra air between the panes would prove useful in maintaining airflow and preventing too much moisture from accumulating within the soil. All we have to do is water carefully.

Get Terrarium Containers on Amazon

How to Make a Terrarium Using Succulents

Ongoing Terrarium Plant Care

Allow soil mix to dry completely before watering. Since terrariums don’t generally have drainage holes, only water until soil is moist throughout. To prevent rotting, be weary of standing water. Succulents enjoy a good drink, but they don’t like to keep their feet wet, so depending on your climate and terrarium container of choice, you may need to water more frequently in smaller amounts or supplement moisture with a spray water bottle. Although some need more shade than others, most terrarium plants including succulents thrive in natural, indirect sunlight. To promote balanced growth, turn your terrarium regularly so that light strikes it evenly on all sides. Succulents and cacti should be shielded from too much direct sunlight to prevent burning.

Succulent Terrarium in Glass

Succulent Terrarium

Succulents And Terrarium Supplies



Are you thinking about making a plant terrarium or have you already pumped some out? Share your ideas.

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