These instructions are for a Succulent Terrarium or Garden. The directions are for terrariums, but can easily be modified for a garden (made in an open container).
The last succulent terrarium I tried died quickly. It's no surprise because I had no idea what I was doing (pre google dark ages!). Since then, I’ve learned a few great tips to help with success and have literally made dozens. This particular terrarium is made in an antique pickle jar with lid. I'm gifting it to our daughter for her new home.
What’s fun is that they can be personalized to be whimsical or more organic or anything in between. With the addition of a few items, they turn into something magical. They don’t have to be a fairy garden but they can be. I like the more natural route and add rocks I’ve collected on our trips, pinecones and acorns from our yard, feathers, sticks or even driftwood are great.
If you are creating this with kids, let them pick out some tiny toys like marbles, action figures, figurines, small cars, etc. (FYI, metal toys will rust in a closed terrarium.)
People absolutely love receiving these handmade nature gifts! For gift giving, I’ve wrapped twine around the outside edge of the vessel and attached a hand written instruction card which explains watering and placement (see below).
Once you try one, you will be as hooked as I am!
First gather your materials:
- Glass vessel big enough for 3-4 plants. To be a true terrarium, the top should be sealed or smaller than the base to prevent the moisture from escaping. The moisture keeps the plants hydrated. An open top or even glass bowl works just as well. I find inexpensive vessels at the Dollar Store or Goodwill. If you want a simple succulent garden- any 4" deep bowl will work.
- Large kitchen spoon
- Small to medium rocks or glass pebbles. Enough for 2 inches on the bottom of the vessel. The Dollar Store has the perfect size rocks or pebbles. You can also find rocks in the aquarium section at Walmart. Avoid using driveway gravel as it can be really dirty and have toxic chemicals in it.
- Window screen or small hole mesh screen cut to size of vessel (more details later). I used an old window screen.
- Activated charcoal bits. Found at pet stores or garden centers. I found mine in our fireplace. Do not use charcoal briquettes as they are treated.
- Potting soil. Bagged potting soil is fine. Enough for 3 -4 inches over rocks.
- Moss if desired. I found mine in shady spots in the yard. Also found at florists, Walmart or garden centers.
- I prefer 3-4 different plants that vary in color and shape (tall, spiky, frilly). Make sure if you are creating an enclosed terrarium that you use succulents that like humid environments.
Let's do this!
1. Wash the glass vessel with soap and water. Dry.
2. Carefully pour the rocks or glass pebbles on the bottom of the vessel so it fills the bottom 2 inches.
3. Great new tip! Cut a piece of screen to fit over the rocks and just about touch the edge of the glass. The screen prevents the soil from falling into the rocks which can cause disease and mold. This picture's perspective makes the screen look too big, but it fits perfectly. I used a plate roughly the size of the jar and laid it on the screen, then using a magic marker I drew the circle and cut it out.
4. Another great new tip! Add a few pieces of charcoal. The charcoal helps control the environment by ridding it of toxins, and prevents mold. It helps! Here you can see the screen and how well it fits in the jar.
5. Next pour or scoop enough potting soil to fill 3-4 inches over charcoal. This gives enough dirt for plants to sink their roots.
6. Pull apart pieces of moss in shapes you want and place on the dirt along the inside edges of the vessel. I like to use my spoon here to get the moss in place. Make sure to leave enough space for plants.
7. Water the moss and soil so your plants have a moist environment to go into.
8. I put the tallest succulent in the middle so save that one for last or you will have to work around it to get the others in place.
9. Smaller succulents fit nice around the edges. I group them so they grow up as a cluster of the same plant. Get the succulent ready for planting by gently pulling it up (holding it’s stem) out of the potting soil so it’s roots are visible. Set it aside.
10. Here’s where the spoon really shines! Using the handle end of your spoon, push dirt aside so you have a big enough hole for your succulent. Gently place the succulent in the hole and use the end of the spoon to arrange as needed and cover up the roots with dirt.
11. Continue placing succulents in groups until you have your vessel nicely filled. Add the tall one in the middle. Remember to leave room for growth and room for any additional items.
12. Give the new plantings a little water and add additional items.
Succulents don’t need a lot of water – in fact they will dampen off (rot) and die if they get too wet. If your vessel is open at the top like a bowl, water lightly once a week or every other week (our house is super dry so I water mine lightly once a week). Make sure to let the plants dry out before watering again. If your vessel is closed, you may have to watch it to see if it looks dry. If it gets dry, lightly water or mist. If it looks too wet, crack the top open a bit for more air circulation.
Succulent Terrariums should be placed in a bright location but not in direct sunlight or they may scorch the plants.
Let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to help! I would love to see your photos!