Succulents are popular for their versatility and durability. Many plant lovers keep them in terrariums, but what succulents are the best for that type of potting?
The best succulents for open terrariums will be low-maintenance plants that do not require a lot of water, such as pincushion cacti, agave, and dudleya. Do not place the terrarium in direct sunlight to avoid scorching your succulents, and make sure to water your plants less than usual.
Open terrariums make for perfect decorations for your home. They are small, easy to maintain, and can come in a variety of different designs. With that being said, there are some things to consider when caring for succulent terrariums. This article will describe in detail what a terrarium is, if terrariums are good for succulents and what succulents are the best for that kind of potting.
What Is a Terrarium?
Terrariums are used to pot plants and are usually made of glass. Many people think of them as mini-gardens or mini-greenhouses since they are much smaller than a regular garden but provide the optimal growing conditions for many plants. They can come in a variety of sizes and are usually perfect for decorating your home. Plant lovers use terrariums because they make it easier to care for plants, and they do not take up a lot of space.
Another factor that makes terrariums an attractive choice is that you can decorate the terrarium however you want. You can add so many things to them, such as small figurines, multi-colored rocks, fun little gadgets, etc. You can also use many different shapes of glass containers to make a terrarium, such as glass bottles and fish bowls. There is a lot of creative freedom if you choose to make your own mini-greenhouse.
What Is an Open Terrarium?
Terrariums can be open or closed. Both kinds create very different environments, which is why you have to be careful when using them. Closed terrariums have a very humid environment since it is completely enclosed, leaving no space for air or moisture to escape. On the other hand, open terrariums have an opening, usually at the top of the jar/container.
Mini-gardens that are open create a dry environment since the area is exposed to air currents and to the outside world. The humidity levels of open terrariums will be similar to the levels in your own home.
Are Open Terrariums Good for Succulents?
If you know anything about succulents, you know they thrive in dry conditions. Since open terrariums create more dry environments, it is safe to presume that the two should go together, right? However, succulents also need good drainage. Can open terrariums provide that?
Open Terrariums Are Dry Enough for Succulents
While closed terrariums can get up to 100% humidity, open terrariums create a much drier environment that mimics the climate of your home more than a greenhouse. This is why open terrariums are dry enough for succulents – they allow more airflow and decrease the amount of moisture that the plant absorbs.
Open Terrariums Do Not Have Good Drainage
Something to keep in mind about terrariums is that they do not provide good drainage. Since succulents hold water in their roots and leaves, it would be easy for them to start rotting if they sit in water for too long. Succulents need airflow and at least semi-dry conditions to thrive.
This is where open terrariums could be a problem. Terrariums are usually made of glass, which means they are completely covered on the bottom; there are no drainage holes. This would increase the risk of damage to your succulents. However, something that could help would be a drainage layer.
One more thing that could help is to take a turkey baster and suck up the water at the bottom of the bowl every few weeks.
What Is a Drainage Layer?
A drainage layer is one of the bottom layers in a terrarium. Its purpose is to soak up excess water so the soil will not be overly saturated since this could cause rotting. Drainage layers can be made up of small rocks and pebbles, marbles, or pea gravel.
Even though a drainage layer will help to decrease moisture, the succulents will eventually die. However, if you want to have an open terrarium for your succulents, having a drainage layer will slow down your succulents’ death and help them last for a few months.
If you are looking to purchase pea gravel, the ¼” Granite Mini Pea Gravel is an excellent choice from Amazon.
Terrariums Are Not the Best Environment for Succulents
Up till now, we have covered that while terrariums do create dry environments, they do not have good drainage. This means that terrariums only provide one of the two necessities that succulents need to survive. This is why terrariums will never create the optimal conditions for succulents, and you should not expect your succulent to last forever in that kind of environment.
With that being said, you can still use terrariums for succulents. They can come in very modern and stylish designs that you won’t be able to resist for your home. Remember to create a drainage layer to help the succulent to last longer.
Are Open Terrariums Self-Sufficient?
The reason why terrariums are so appealing is that they seem to be small, self-sustaining ecosystems for your plants, which require less supervision from you. While this is somewhat true, it mostly applies to closed terrariums since they are fully closed and can produce condensation and a sort of rain. On the other hand, open terrariums are more similar to plant pots because they are not fully closed.
Open terrariums create a very easy environment to care for, and succulents planted anywhere, not only in terrariums, do not require lots of attention. So even though you will have to keep an eye on your plant, the open terrariums that hold your succulents are mostly self-sufficient. It is worth noting that your succulent will not thrive and grow in a terrarium; it will simply survive for a while.
Can I Use Closed Terrariums for Succulents?
Closed terrariums are a very attractive choice for many busy plant lovers because they are the most self-sustaining option for household plants. Since they are fully closed containers, it is easy for the plants to create their own little ecosystem.
All things considered, you cannot use a closed terrarium for succulents. As previously mentioned in the article, closed terrariums have very high humidity levels. Succulents thrive in dry conditions and would greatly suffer if they were planted in a closed terrarium! They would most likely rot and die quickly.
How Should I Plant My Succulent in the Terrarium?
If you are interested in planting your succulent in a terrarium, it is good to know what exactly you will need. Let’s take a look.
What Materials You Will Need
- Soil – You will want a soil that is fast draining and does not hold moisture, such as cactus mix soil.
- Gravel – You can use gravel or larger rocks and pebbles. This will be used for the drainage layer.
- Glass container – You can get large or small glass containers depending on how many plants you want to fit in them.
- Decorative rocks and objects – Many people love to decorate their terrarium with decorative rocks and objects. There are many cute figurines and trinkets you can find at the dollar store to use.
Steps for Planting Your Terrarium
In order to have your succulent last as long as it can, you will have to make sure to follow the proper steps when making your terrarium. Let’s take a look.
- Place the rocks at the bottom or whatever you are using for the drainage layer. The drainage layer will have to be pretty thick since the glass jar can hold a lot of water.
- Put a thin layer of soil over the drainage layer.
- Plant each succulent one at a time, dividing them into single-stem plantlets.
- Add whatever decorations you want.
Refer to the link below for a quick DIY video on planting succulents in open terrariums!
What Soil Should I Use in My Terrarium?
There are a number of soils you can use for your succulents that have good drainage. If you do not have adequate soil, there is a high chance that your succulents will rot since they absorb moisture mostly from the air and not from the soil.
Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil – Jacks Gritty Mix #111 – 2 Quarts – Fast Draining – Fight Root Rot – Optimized pH is a great choice from Amazon.
Here are a few popular DIY recipes for succulent soil.
- Martha Stewart recipe: Four parts all-purpose soil mix, five parts perlite, and one part coarse sand.
- Succulent and Sunshine recipe: One part pine bark fines, one part turface, and one part crushed granite.
When looking or making soil for your succulents, make sure it has a large particle size. You should also buy materials that allow for air pockets to encourage airflow. Traditional soil used for normal plants has very fine and dense textures, so when looking for succulent soil, look for the opposite.
Mammillaria (Pincushion Cactus)
The pincushion cactus is a thick plant with spikes all over the surface. There are also small clumps of flowers that give the plant a unique look. The pincushion cactus does well with very little water, which makes it great for a terrarium. You can let the soil dry out after you water it, and make sure to give it as much light as you possibly can.
Victoriae Reginae (Agave)
The victoriae reginae, also more commonly known as the agave plant, has long and thick leaves that are pointed at the ends. This plant also does well with little water, which will make it very easy to care for in a terrarium. This succulent also needs a lot of sunlight, so placing it near a bright window will be the best choice.
Sempervivum Tectorum (Hens & Chicks)
This plant is a very elegant-looking succulent, with small, thick leaves with pointed ends. The ends of the leaves have a faded red color on them, and the leaves slowly turn more inward as they reach the middle of the plant. Hens & Chicks will do well in a terrarium because they love lots of light and they do not need much care.
Senecio Rowleyanus (Strings of Pearls)
This succulent has a very simple and pretty look. It has thin vines with round, small leaves on them. This particular plant would be perfect for adding to terrariums for decorative purposes since it has such an elegant style.
This plant is also very easy to care for and does not require a lot of watering. When placing this succulent, make sure it is exposed to lots of indirect light and not direct sunlight. Many people use this plant for a hanging terrarium since the vines can overflow from the glass.
Haworthia Attenuata (Zebra Haworthia)
The zebra haworthia is a great succulent for your terrarium because of its distinct look. It has thick, sharp leaves with white stripes on them, hence the name “zebra.” This plant, in particular, has more flexibility when figuring out where to place it because it can handle both bright sun and filtered shade.
The haworthia attenuata is also very easy to care for, making them great for your next terrarium. Many people love to use this plant as the main piece in the glass container because of its width and height. Lastly, this plant is very easy to care for and does not need much watering throughout the month.
This particular succulent is an excellent plant for those busy and cannot devote a lot of time to caring for their plants. The dudleya is very hard to kill, which makes it perfect for a terrarium. They do not need lots of water, and they prefer afternoon shade when they are grown inland.
The dudleya is a faded green color with hints of blue, and most of them have thick and sturdy leaves. However, there are over 40 different varieties, so each dudleya will look a bit different. When watering, make sure not to pour the water onto the leaves but into the base of the plant.
Also called ‘the black rose,’ this is a very vibrant and unique-looking succulent for your terrarium. It has long leaves with a round end, almost looking like a long teardrop. The leaves start at a dark purple on the ends and turn into a brighter red and yellow in the middle.
This plant is easy to care for and prefers the bright sun, and loves to be indoors. In the winter months, it even produces small yellow flowers.
The jade plant is very popular for terrariums. Their small body makes them easy to maneuver and decorate with. This succulent is a baby green color and has short, thick round leaves. It definitely has a more softer look than other succulents.
If you put a jade plant in your terrarium, you will have to watch it a bit more than other plants. Even though it does not require lots of water, the plant will start to die without enough water. When the top of the soil starts to dry out, that is when you can water it again. Furthermore, this plant needs full sun in order to thrive, so place this terrarium by a bright window.
The aloe vera succulent is great for counter-top terrariums since you can use the plant for healing properties. The plant has long, thick, sharp leaves with small (almost invisible) thorns on the sides. These plants are usually a dark green to light green color.
Aloe vera is easy to take care of. However, you will have to make sure you have a drainage layer in the terrarium since the plants do not do well in sitting water. They need dry conditions to thrive. Lastly, this succulent loves bright light and does well in south or west-facing windows.
This is another perfect succulent for those who don’t have time to care for plants. This plant thrives on neglect. The succulent can do well in low light conditions and can go weeks without water. The plant has long, wide leaves that are relatively thin. They have a light green/yellow stripe along the sides of each leaf.
When thinking of what plant to use in your next terrarium, you should consider this plant not only because it is easy to care for but also because the plant increases your home’s air quality.
If you want your next terrarium to have a very unique look, the succulent called Roseum will be an excellent option for you. The leaves are very thick and round, and the plant is a faded pink color. This succulent is great for terrariums since it only grows up to 6 inches in height. Make sure to put the terrarium in a place that gets partial shade and water it as you would with any other succulent.
Another bonus of this plant is that it produces small, star-shaped flowers that are a vibrant pink color.
Cotyledon Orbiculata (Pig’s Ear)
This can be a great succulent for a variety of terrarium sizes. You can find smaller sizes of this plant, but they can also grow up to 4 feet tall. It is commonly called the pig’s ear plant because the leaves resemble a pig’s ear; they are wide, round, and thin. The plant is a faded green color with hints of copper on the edges.
The pig’s ear is another plant that is very easy to care for. You will not have to worry about overwatering it since it does well with very little water. It can also survive in both sunny and shaded areas.
Sedum Morganianum (Burro’s Tail)
The Burro’s tail is great for a hanging terrarium. The plant resembles the tail of a burro; it has a long, flexible stem with dozens of small, round leaves stemming from it. The plant is a light green and can grow up to 4 inches in length.
Sedum morganianums are very low maintenance. They can thrive off of little water, dry conditions, and partial shade lighting.
Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana (Flaming Katy)
If you want a particular succulent to liven up your terrarium, the kalanchoe blossfeldiana (also known as ‘flaming katy’) will be the perfect choice. This is a colorful succulent with its vibrant pink flowers and dark green, wide leaves.
The flaming katy should only be used as an indoor plant since it cannot survive the cold. This plant also needs up to 10 hours of sunlight a day, so make sure to place it by a window.
Kalanchoe Tomentosa (Panda Plant)
The kalanchoe tomentosa, also known as the panda plant, are great to put in terrariums with other plants since they are so small. This succulent is commonly known as a panda plant because of its black dots on the leaves. The plant is also covered with a white fuzz, and the leaves are a light green.
Caring for this plant is quite easy. Simply make sure it has access to medium to bright light. The plant also does not need a lot of water. Make sure the soil has a chance to dry out before watering it again.
If you want to plant this succulent in your terrarium, make sure you get a tall sedum and not a creeping sedum. Creeping sedums spread wide through the dirt and take up a lot of space. Tall sedums grow to 1-3 feet tall. Gardeners love to use this plant to add some color to their terrarium. The stonecrop can come in a variety of different colors, including pink, silver, green and blue.
This is another great plant for people who are not great at caring for plants. It is a very easy maintenance plant and does not need a lot of attention. Just make sure to water it when the top layer of dirt dries out.
Aeonium Decorum (Sunburst)
If you are looking for a bright, happy-looking succulent, then you should get the sunburst. This is a wide succulent with tall, thick leaves that slowly curve upwards as it nears the middle of the plant. There are bright yellow/green stripes on the outside of each leaf that gives this plant its unique appearance.
Aeonium’s are relatively easy to care for. They will be fine in any area of the house, but they do like to have their roots constantly wet. However, they will not do well with soggy or clogged roots, so you will have to make sure to have a drainage layer in your terrarium.
Euphorbia Milii (Crown of Thorns)
This succulent, commonly called the ‘crown of thorns,’ is great for terrariums because they do not need a lot of water and can easily adapt to different climates. They also need only a few hours of sunlight each day, so you should place the terrarium in a spot that you can move it around easily.
The ‘crown of thorns’ has a distinct look with its tall form, red thorns, and green and white leaves. This is a great succulent to add to your terrarium with many different succulents.
How Do I Take Care of My Terrarium Succulent?
Caring for succulents in a terrarium is very similar to caring for a potted succulent. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
You Should Water the Succulent Less
Something that is different from regular pots is that terrariums don’t have drainage holes. This means that there will be more moisture and water sitting inside the bowl. Since succulents thrive in dry conditions, the increased moisture could lead to problems. An easy way to deal with this is to simply water the succulent less than you normally would. Keep an eye on how dry the dirt is and water whenever the top layer is dry.
Do Not Place the Terrarium in Direct Sunlight
Since most terrariums are made of glass, you will have to be careful about placing the bowl/container in direct sunlight. This could scorch the succulents and cause them to die quicker. If a succulent likes direct sunlight, put it somewhere where you can easily move it in and out of the sun, so it is not sitting in bright sun for hours on end. Furthermore, you could also keep a fan near the terrarium to increase airflow to keep the bowl cool.
Many succulents can thrive in open terrariums such as agave, pincushion cacti, roseum, and many more. Try to plant succulents that are low maintenance, can thrive in indoor climates, and require low water.
There are a few things to keep in mind when planting succulents in open terrariums. Since there are no drainage holes, you will need to create a drainage layer to make sure the roots don’t start rotting. Furthermore, you will have to carefully place the terrarium since it could scorch the succulents if it is in direct sunlight for over a few hours. Lastly, make sure to water the succulent less than normal since the glass jar will hold more moisture.