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succulent terrariumSucculent terrariums are a tricky thing. Pick the wrong plants and they stretch out and turn ugly. Pick the wrong container and, well, same result: ugly. Read on to find out how to easily make your own succulent terrarium that will look great and last for years.
Traditional terrariums and succulent are quite different and we need to think about them in different ways.  From the container selection to plants, this is a different process.

Traditional Terrariums: 

  •  Have an enclosed environment (lids or bottle) that retains moisture. Think of these as their own mini-environment. By not letting any water out, there is the process of evaporation, transpiration and condensation all within this little container. Proper terrariums will not even require additional water to be added.
  • Require charcoal to keep fresh and reduce odors.
  • Include gravel layers provide drainage and water storage.

Succulent Terrariums: 

  • Are best in an open container that loses moisture
  • No charcoal is  necessary
  • Do not want water sitting in the bottom of the container.
succulent terrariumSo, how is building a successful succulent terrarium different?  First of all, you will want a solid fill of soil for your plants. We will use “pockets” of sand and gravel up against the glass for the appearance of layers, but the real trick is to fill the entire thing with soil. This keeps the plants able to access all of the moisture in the container, helping it to dry out and keep from becoming too water logged. The gravel in the bottom of traditional terrariums is acting like a reservoir and that is exactly what we want to avoid! Water will soak up through any soil it is in contact with, but it doesn’t soak up through a layer of gravel.  Also, I recommend only using containers with a wide opening to help increase airflow. The dish that you see here is actually a “trifle bowl” that is supposed to be used for desserts. succulent terrarium


This image to the left shows the steps for creating layers. Make sure to mound up your sand and then press the soil in on top. Slightly pressing the soil in helps keep everything in place. After you’ve added your soil you can come back with more sand or include little gravel or pebble pockets for another visual. Again, we are just putting these little pockets on the side to give the impression of a full layer without the ill effects.
If you are using cuttings then you can fill with layers all the way to the top. Leave the top of the soil at least 1″ from the top of the container.  If you are using potted plants then it is best to fill 2/3 of the way, add the potted plants, and then continue to build in around those.  I always like to add a top dressing at the end to give a very polished effect– think outside the box on this: pebbles, stones, shells, glass, wood, etc.
For succulent terrarium plant selection, make sure to use plants with similar needs, in particular light and water are key.  I like to use plants in odd numbers to make it more visually appealing, but this entirely personal preference!
succulent terrarium

Plants for Succulent Terrariums: 

Haworthia zebrina

Haworthia zebrina

  • Haworthia zebrina, Zebra Haworthia
Generally 3” or less
Raised white stripes look great in dark areas
Clumping habit= new plants grow from base but stay close together
Fairy's Washboard Plant, Haworthia limifolia

Fairy’s Washboard Plant, Haworthia limifolia

  • Haworthia limifolia, Fairy’s Washboard Plant
Usually 4” or less in height
Prolific in pups
Very raised ridges along flattened leaves
Great for dark area
Haworthia retusa

Haworthia retusa

  • Haworthia retusa, “Window Succulent”
2-3” in diameter and height
Transparent areas on leaves lend it the name
Star shaped form
Very plump leaves


  • Gasteria species, 
“Tongue shaped” leaves
Varying textures and banding patterns
Most are 4” or less in height
Very tolerant of low light levels
  • Dwarf Aloes- 
6” or so in size
Best color in brighter light but will tolerate interiors
Clumping habit- easy to pull of pups and propagate
Small size makes them great for succulent craft projects including topiaries.
succulent terrarium

Aloe haworthioides

  • Aloe haworthioides
Very small aloe with soft, tiny white “teeth” that give it a fuzzy appearance.
Likes bright, but filtered light; not direct sun outside.
Honestly, can’t find any good resources on full size of this plant!
succulent terrarium
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