Terrariums are like mini-ecosystems, so for those of us who love deserts and see beauty in the harsh nature of those environments, recreating these worlds on a miniature scale holds a special sort of appeal.
Better yet, they’re easy to grow, seriously low maintenance and offer great architectural aesthetics for the modern home.
What you’ll need
- A glass vessel with a wide opening
- Activated charcoal
- Succulent soil
- A spoon
- A chopstick
- Fine mist spray bottle
- Decorative stones, sand or figurines
- Various succulents
Selecting the right plants
- Find plants that will fit the dimensions of your container;
- Choose plants that will be good neighbors. Some succulents are thirsty, others prefer more sun or shade;
- Avoid plants where growth is thin and pale colored – this suggests they’ve been kept in poor light conditions.
Let’s get started
Create the first layer by pouring decorative pebbles into your container.
Good drainage is essential for success. Fill no more than one third high.
Using the spoon, create a thin layer of charcoal over the top of the first layer (0.5-1cm).
Begin to spoon the soil into your container. Be more generous with this layer than the first, as your plant needs sufficient soil matter to grow – some succulents actually grow extensive root systems.
Pat it down with your fingers.
Using your chopstick, create indentations in the soil for where you want your plants to go (a long thin tool like a chopstick allows for more control when planting).
Remove the plants from their pots and gently loosen their root systems.
Pop your plants in.If your plants and container are quite small, the tweezers will help you position all the elements.
Use the fat end of your chopstick to tamp down the soil around the base of your plants.
Be sure to keep the succulents away from the sides of your terrarium because they’re liable to burn on a hot day.
Sprinkle a final layer of decorative pebbles or sand, and add some cool figurines for a bit of atmosphere (dinosaurs look ace).
Find a well-lit, sheltered location inside your home.
Be gone, dirty glass – simply shoot water on the inside walls to wash off residual soil.
Common terrarium mistakes
Overwatering – succulents HATE wet feet. If the roots rot it can kill the entire plant. So let the soil dry out between waterings and gently mist around once a week.
Underwatering – while succulents can tolerate long periods without water, they do enjoy an infrequent shower. If you notice leaf shrinkage, mist 2-3 times a week.
Growing succulents in closed terrariums – the environment is far too humid.
Sunburn/Heatburn – remember, the glass in a terrarium will radiate and amplify the sun’s rays onto your little plants. Sure, succulents need light but you’d be surprised how badly a cacti reacts to being cooked. Don’t put them near a heater either. Ensure they get both light and shade in moderate quantities.
Combining succulents with non-desert dwelling plants – standard indoor plants have different nutrient, sun, and water requirements to succulents. I’ve seen many fancy new terrariums, landscaped to look like mini-rainforests that also feature succulents for decoration. Within weeks the succulents are dead and the owner is left wondering what they did wrong. Too little sunlight and too much water/humidity are the likely culprits.