How to Make a Succulent Terrarium – DIY

Do you love the look of succulents, but don’t love their higher maintenance and watering needs?

You can still enjoy having succulents in your life, without all the fuss, by building a succulent terrarium.

Succulent terrariums consist of soil, rocks, and a special type of succulents, all contained in a small glass or jar enclosure.

They differ from regular succulent gardens, which consist of one or more succulents grown the outdoors since a terrarium requires more maintenance.

Terrariums also require a bit more work: you have to carefully water them, and periodically add new soil.

Succulents are excellent plants to add to a terrarium. They are interesting, unique, and come in various shapes, sizes, and colors.

There is no monotony when succulents are added to a terrarium since the environment becomes very interesting to look at.

Making a terrarium for your succulents is not just fun; it is also very easy. Succulents are easy to grow, maintain, and propagate.

They are much less fragile than other plants and require minimal maintenance. Therefore, if you wish to get into terrariums and other plants in the future, starting with a succulent terrarium is a great idea since you will likely be encouraged enough to continue.

What Is A Terrarium?

Terrariums are enclosed environments, usually in transparent containers, and they can function like small greenhouses.

The container can be glass or plastic, and it can be open or closed. It is essentially a small ecosystem where a variety of plants and some microorganisms flourish, and they use nutrients and resources from each other to survive.

For example, in a normal terrarium, the plants release water vapor that accumulates on the container’s walls and is then re-used by the organisms in the container.

The beauty of a terrarium is that they are mostly self-sufficient and often needs little to no maintenance.

While regular terrariums might be a little inconsistent if treated without proper care and can die out, a succulent terrarium is much more resilient.

This is because most cacti and succulents are very low-maintenance plants and need little attention and fidgeting to be able to sustain themselves.

You can even say that if your terrarium is properly built, you can simply let it go, and it is still very likely to flourish since the cacti need little maintenance, and they will be handling that on their own too.

Is It Easy To Create Your Own Succulent Terrarium?

Since the idea of a terrarium sounds so fascinating, it is only understandable to ask yourself if you can make a self-sustaining and fully-functioning terrarium.

And the answer is yes, it is possible and quite easy to make your own succulent terrarium and be able to maintain it as well.

It would help if you essentially had a container and all the items essential for a terrarium, and you had yourself a personalized eco-system. You can put it up near a window in your room and have a gorgeous, unique piece to decorate your house.

Materials Required For A Succulent Terrarium

Another good news is that you do not need exotic items and irregular things to make your own terrarium. Everything you need to construct a terrarium is easily and readily available. Score this material first, and then begin assembling your little garden:

  • Transparent glass or plastic vessel – The size of this vessel must be according to the size you want to maintain. Remember that a terrarium fills up the entire space in the container, and you should not grow small and sparse plants only in a large container and large, blooming plants in a small container.
  • Rocks – While rocks are optional for many plants, they are mostly recommended for succulents. You should try adding a layer of crushed rocks or gravel at the bottom of the terrarium to help the soil drain properly. If too much moisture accumulates at the base of the terrarium, the roots of the plants can rot, and there is a danger of being over-watered. In this situation, a base layer or rocks helps to keep the moisture optimum.
    Alternatively, you can even add layers of beautiful rocks to the terrarium to enhance its aesthetic appeal. Colorful rocks help in making the terrarium look beautiful.
  • Activated Charcoal – Activated charcoal helps to keep the environment inside the terrarium completely sanitized. The charcoal helps to prevent unnecessary bacteria or fungi from growing inside the terrarium, and it also helps to keep bad odors away.
  • Sphagnum Moss – Moss helps to add a carpeted, green element to the terrarium. Other than that, it also helps to keep the soil separate from the layer of rocks and gravel.
  • Soil Or Potting Mix – Succulents and cacti generally have a different soil or potting mix compared to other plants. While you can easily buy this soil from a local vendor, it is also possible to make your own.
  • Succulents and Cacti – People often opt for smaller succulents, such as miniatures and bonsais, when they are making a terrarium. This is because large plants would overgrow and might suffocate the other plants. The large plants will also require more resources and nutrients than the smaller ones, harming their nutrition. Therefore, you need to be careful about what cacti and succulents you should add to your terrarium.
  • Tweezers And Gloves– You do not want to use your bare hands to set up the terrarium. You intend to fill it with sharp, spiky plants which can easily prick and injure you. Wear gloves and use tweezers with a long beak to place plants and other items inside the terrarium.

How To Make A Terrarium:

First, you need to decide if you want an open or a closed terrarium. Closed terrariums are sealed shut and require very little human interference once the plants begin to thrive in the environment. Open terrariums are also mostly self-sustaining, but they need more care and maintenance by human beings.

Keep in mind that succulents are always kept in an open terrarium. There are ways to manage a closed terrarium with succulents, but most succulents can only thrive in an open environment.

After that, you should get a plastic or glass container that can house your terrarium. You can buy these containers from any shop. However, you can also reuse old bottles, jars, bowls, or vessels to grow your terrarium as well.

After that, follow these steps to set up your terrarium for your succulents:

  1. Start by layering the rocks at the bottom of the terrarium. Add around an inch or two of gravel or crushed stones to this layer. This layer is to help drain the soil above and prevent the roots of the plants from rotting due to over-watering.
  2. You should add your activated charcoal bits above the rock. While this layer is mainly for sanitary purposes, it also helps to improve the drainage situation of the terrarium
  3. Your carpet of moss should come next, and it will help to separate the soil from the rocks.
  4. Add a layer of succulent potting mix to the terrarium. This is the first layer and will be used to ground the plants in place. At this point, your terrarium should begin to look like a layered cake. And none of the layers should be merging with each other; they should be clearly distinguishable.
  5. Begin adding your plants one by one. Make sure you are wearing gloves when handling cacti and succulents since they can be sharp and may prick your skin. Try to increase the variety of succulents you use in terms of color and size to make the terrarium look more appealing.
  6. After the plants have been added, add a handful of dirt again and press it down firmly. This will help to hold your plants in place and keep them well-rooted.
  7. Add a small amount of water to the terrarium and seal it off if you are aiming for a closed one. For an open terrarium, you should remember to add a small quantity of water to the system every few weeks. You can also feel the soil for open terrariums to see if it is dry or wet and water it accordingly. Remember that the watering needs of succulents and cacti depend on the climate as well.

Can All Cacti And Succulents Grow In A Terrarium?

Succulents are easy plants to grow and maintain, and most of them can easily grow in a terrarium.

However, keep in mind that dwarf and bonsai cacti and succulents are better for a terrarium than full-sized plants.

This is because many succulents can grow to be huge, and terrariums cannot contain them.

Adding a large cactus to a terrarium might take over the resources for the rest of the plants and make it difficult for the others to thrive.

Be mindful of what you are growing in a terrarium if you want it to prosper.

Here is a list of succulents that you can add to your terrarium. These plants are beautiful and require little maintenance:

  • Pincushion cactus
  • String of Pearls
  • Paddle Plant
  • Agave
  • Panda Plant
  • Mother of Thousands
  • Jade plant
  • Stone Crop
  • Echeveria
  • Aloe
  • Hens and Chicks
  • Tiger Jaws
  • Haworthia
  • Burrito Plant
  • Zebra plant

You can mix and match these plants as you wish. They contain many different shapes, sizes, and colors.

For example, the String of Pearls is a hanging plant, and the Echeveria has an interesting, geometrical shape.

These plants are also just small enough to fit inside your terrarium, and they can all happily co-exist with each other as well.

How To Care For And Maintain A Terrarium?

Succulent terrariums can not only survive with minimal maintenance, but they can also thrive.

This is because succulents and cacti are plants that are used to growing in harsh climates and conditions and are therefore adapted to scarcity.

You do not have to keep adding soil and consistently introduce nourishment to the garden.

The only two things you should really care about are the water and sunlight.

Remember to add a small amount of water to the terrarium every few weeks. Do not soak the terrarium with water, and do not let water very frequently.

Cacti and other succulents can easily get overwatered, and their roots may also begin to r. Too much water will kill off the terrarium since the plants will be unable to thrive in a wet environment.

Too much water and a humid environment can also make the plant prone to molding. You might catch patches of mold on the succulents, and if you do, it means that they are receiving more water than necessary.

Mold can cause the succulents to rot, and it can also make the plant susceptible to attacks from fungus gnats and other pests.

However, it is very important that you do not forget to water these plants. This is because even cacti and other succulents can be under-watered if they are not taken care of just enough.

You can feel the soil with your hands to see if it is dry. You may increase the watering frequency to around once a week as well if you feel that the weather is too hot and dry.

Other than that, you need to know which of your plants require direct sunlight and which of them require less sunlight. As a rule, most succulents that have purplish leaves and stems require less sunlight compared to succulents that are completely green.

You should also do your research to understand how much light your succulents require. Keep your terrarium in a spot where all the plants you have chosen can easily grow because they have the necessary amounts of sunlight.

Remember that excessive sunlight can scorch and burn parts of the plant.

Therefore, to prevent your succulents from overheating, you can lightly spray the pads and the leaves of the plants with a mist of water to prevent them from getting scorched.

Another issue you might face with your terrarium might be related to pests. Since succulent terrariums are usually open, they can be prone to pest attacks.

These attacks can harm the terrarium if not curbed in time. Try to prevent pests from infiltrating your terrarium at any cost.

To prevent a pest outbreak on the terrarium, remove any dead leaves or rotting areas of the plant that you see.

These places are hubs for pests to breed in, and removing them gives them less space to grow. Keeping your terrarium clean and sanitized is the best way to prevent a pest outbreak.

Other than that, if you do see insects in your terrarium or a white substance on the stems or pads of the plants, you are probably experiencing the beginning of an outbreak.

In this situation, you should lightly spray the infected areas of the terrarium with a mixture of water, rubbing alcohol, and dish soap. This will get rid of the pest in its early stages and prevent a severe outbreak.

If you see any dead leaves or rotting parts of the plants in the terrarium, it would be appropriate to cut them away.

Not only do the dead and rotting parts of the plant affect the plant itself, but they also make it difficult for other plants to propagate in such an environment.

Lastly, do not keep your terrarium in a place where it is prone to be attacked by birds and mice.

Many terrariums can be kept indoors, and that is when they will be most protected from attacks by these large predators.

If you leave the terrarium outside, it might be difficult for you to prevent these attacks.

You do not need to fidget too much with your succulent terrarium to make it prosper. You just need to be vigilant and alert and make sure that you catch any unwanted occurrences.

You should keep manual handling of the terrarium to a minimum unless it is necessary.

Should We Keep The Terrarium Open Or Closed?

It is important to remember that succulents are usually kept in an open terrarium. Open terrariums are airy and allow for water evaporation, which is how succulents can thrive.

On the other hand, closed terrariums function entirely because of humidity. Water in a closed terrarium is constantly being recycled, and this allows normal plants to prosper in a humid environment.

However, succulents want little to no humidity to thrive. If you keep succulents in a closed container, they are very likely to become overwatered and die.

You might even see patches of fungus on your plants. Succulents are not meant to thrive in wet and humid conditions. Therefore, a closed terrarium is not a great idea.

As a rule, you should remember to keep your succulent’s terrarium open.

Open terrariums are also advantageous in other ways since you can immediately get rid of a problem as soon as you see it, such as bugs and infected leaves.

You can also introduce new plants into a terrarium whenever you want to enhance its appeal even further.


Terrariums are a beautiful addition to any home and garden. Succulent terrariums are not only beautiful, but they are also easy to make and maintain.

Watching different succulents with unique shapes and colors come together in a single space can be very fascinating for any plant lover.

Remember always to choose an open container for a succulent terrarium since they cannot prosper in a humid environment.

You have to do a minimal amount of hands-on care for a succulent terrarium, which is why we are sure you can do an excellent job of making and maintaining these terrariums.