how to make a succulent terrarium

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how to make a succulent terrarium

Looking for a rainy day project for plant lovers of all ages? Follow this guide and learn how to make a succulent terrarium. This is a great downtime project for those days when you want to get your hands dirty but you’ve already repotted all of your plants 🤗  These whimsical little worlds make inviting centerpieces for any space, and are beautiful gifts for the plant lovers in your life.

Succulents and cacti are ideal plants for terrariums because they grow slowly and require very little care to thrive. All they need is direct sunlight, a bit of potting soil, and a teensy bit of moisture to survive. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to make a terrarium with succulents, plus some simple guidance to help you keep your succulents happy in your new home.

On the magical side of things… succulent terrariums are like glass fairy gardens for your home! You can add any decorative elements you like to your terrarium, from a special rock to ceramic cups and found objects. The possibilities are truly endless. Let’s get started! 


*You don’t need to buy everything. Peruse your keepsakes or take a nature walk and collect found objects for your terrarium!

how to make a succulent terrarium

succulent terrarium examples

1. choose your terrarium container.

We recommend looking for a container that can open. This is because most succulents and cacti come from hot, arid environments and need good air flow and low humidity levels to thrive. Some ideas you can use to make your terrarium container include geometric shaped containers, glass fish bowls, wine glasses, mason jars (without a lid) and glass orbs with an opening at the top. Comb through your recycling container or check out a thrift store for unique, budget-friendly options (read more below about choosing the perfect terrarium container for your succulents.) Or, if you’re really into it, you can make a terrarium table.

2. clean your terrarium container.

It’s super important that you clean your container with hot water before adding ANYTHING to kill bacteria. Use hot water and soap to thoroughly clean it. If you’ve scavenged for your container, this step will remove any dirt and bacteria that could cause root rot in your plants. Once you’ve washed it, dry it with a cloth.

3. put the drainage rock layer on the bottom of the container.

This layer ensures that your succulents are not overwatered. If you don’t add enough drainage to your terrarium, your succulents might end up soaking their roots in standing water, contracting root rot, and dying. The drainage layer will capture any excess water, if you accidentally overwater your plants. You can choose from different materials depending on the vibe you want for your terrarium. We recommend sand, rocks, gravel, pebbles or bark chips. River rocks and lava rocks look gorgeous inside.

4. separate your rock layers with a filter layer.

You will need to add a filter between the drainage layer and the charcoal layer to keep the smaller charcoal pieces from mixing with the drainage rocks. Whatever you use to filter will keep your layers crisp and your terrarium neat and tidy! You can use any type of material as a filter that is thin and able to pass water. For an invisible layer, try using cheesecloth, gauze, or a coffee filter cut to the size of your terrarium footprint. If you prefer a more organic look with some color, moss is a good choice (this package offers a pretty assortment of moss).

5. add charcoal.

Spread a layer of activated horticultural charcoal across your filter layer. Charcoal prevents bacteria and fungus from growing in your terrarium, improves oxygen levels, and slowly releases nitrogen into the soil layer above. 

6. add your potting soil and plants.

This is the fun part – adding the soil and plants that will be the center of this beautiful plant project! Make sure you are using the right succulent potting soil, and choose succulents and cacti with similar water and soil needs. 

Choosing a variety of succulents will make your design more interesting, but keep in mind that they’re basically sharing a ‘pot’ and will all get the same soil, water, and nutrients.

Before you plant your succulents, make sure they’re healthy. Spray the potting soil lightly to prepare the space for your plants. We recommend tiny varieties of slow-growing plants like jade, zebra, and dwarf aloe. Plant them 1-2 inches deep into the soil, making sure the roots are completely covered.

7. add your flair.

how to decorate succulent terrarium

Let your creativity flow and decorate as much as your heart desires. After you’ve added your soil and plants, you can add a thin layer of decorative rock or stone to seal moisture into the soil and give your terrarium another pretty layer.

You can also use moss to fill in the gaps of your potting soil. For a more natural look, add small pieces of logs and twigs that you gather from nature as a finishing touch and change with the seasons. The possibilities of decorating are endless! If you need some inspiration, check out Pinterest for the latest trends.

PRO TIP: These make great gifts for plant lovers 😉

best terrarium succulents and plants

building a terrarium with succulents

Keep these important things in mind when assembling your DIY terrarium for succulents at home:

how to choose the right DIY terrarium container

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for the right terrarium container. You can easily use an old jam or food jar for your terrarium – just make sure to clean it thoroughly before filling it with rocks. The bigger the container you have, the more space you will have for your plants and your creative elements. Remember to leave space for your succulents to grow! For succulents, it’s better to choose an open terrarium (or one that can open) to prevent excess moisture from accumulating and killing the plants. 

Think of your succulent terrarium as a complete ecosystem. You can make a mini terrarium with a little bit of moss and a single plant, but a slightly larger container will allow you to add elements that interact with each other. Experiment with using different shaped containers, including geometric pyramids, mason jars, etc – and watch how they affect plant growth! If your container comes without a lid, you can always use a thin layer of plastic wrap with a few holes until you find something that fits perfectly.

how to care for your succulent terrarium

You will need a spray bottle to keep the succulents hydrated and moisturized. Keep your plants healthy by watering them once every couple of weeks. If your terrarium is full of succulents, water a bit more often – but make sure the water is draining before going wild.  Succulents have a reserve of water in their leaves, and will draw that water out if it is needed for them to survive. If you see your plants losing leaves or shriveling up – hello! Water more frequently. 

Place your terrarium somewhere with partial to full sunlight, but avoid direct sun that can burn the plants inside and quickly dehydrate them during the day. If you can’t get your succulents next to the window, then pop a grow light for indoors plants in there and give it some safe, consistent light.

beauties hair spray bottle

succulent terrarium kits you can buy

Below are a few full-on kits you can buy online that include most things you need to do this DIY in one package – some of them even include plants! If you prefer to pick your plants out in person though, go to your local nursery. Almost all nurseries offer succulent arrangements and glass containers specifically designed for use as a terrarium.

Cute Farms Terrarium Starter Kit

This starter kit has everything you need to build a magical terrarium creation! You just need to add your own plants and glass container. It includes decorative reindeer moss, forest moss & lichen, potting mix with activated charcoal, plant food plus a build & care guide.

DIY Terrarium Kit for Adults with Plants 

This gorgeous kit comes with an incredible geometric pyramid to house your succulent terrarium. It even comes with live succulents, decorative rocks, reindeer moss and a healing crystal 💎  This geometric pyramid terrarium is sure to add positive, healing energy and increase the feng shui of your home. It is even perfect to give as a gift to someone you love. All plants are sourced from local, organic farms.

Complete Terrarium Kit: Succulent Planter with Soil and Glass Globe

Create your indoor glass fairy garden for your home or office, just by adding the succulents of your choice. Terrariums are a relaxing desk ornament to help reduce stress and increase healing energy. This includes an organic soil mix, perfect for all succulents and cacti.

Mini Glass Geometric Terrarium Container

Each of these glass geometric succulent containers contains unique and beautiful shapes, designed with transparent crystal. The amount of sunlight this terrarium receives can help adjust the amount of moisture & temperature inside of the glass. The best succulents for this terrarium include ferns, moss, cacti, Tillandsia, air plants and more. Happy succulent terrarium making!

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