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Succulent Terrarium

Finished Product

This tutorial guides you through the process of making a sealed succulent plant terrarium with LED light. As succulent plants are hardy and don't require too much water, they will produce a terrarium that requires minimal maintenance provided you create a suitable environment. There's also a variety of interesting succulent plants so with a little imagination and a few supplies you can make a great decorative piece suitable for your windowsill or as a gift.

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Tools:

  • Cordless drill able to be adjusted to a slow speed
  • Glass drill bits
  • Gloves and safety glasses for when working with glass
  • Caulking gun
  • Silicone
  • Brush
Tools and Safety Gear

Materials:

  • Glass jar
  • Potting mix
  • White sand
  • Perlite (optional but recommended)
  • Shade cloth or other mesh-like material such as fly screen
  • Pebbles or other suitable drainage material
  • Horticultural charcoal
  • Solar garden light
  • Succulent plants
  • Rooting hormone (if using cuttings)
Gardening Materials

Decorative:

  • Aquarium pebbles and stones
  • Coloured sand
  • Aquarium statues
  • River stones
  • Sphagnum moss (can also be used to separate the layers if you don't have any mesh)

The decorative supplies are optional, it's up to you what you add to your creation however I'll list the assortment I had available when making mine to provide an idea of what's suitable

Decorative Materials

Drilling glass takes time and patience. Set the drill to a slow speed and regularly pour water over the area being drilled. Use a small amount of pressure and eventually you will be left with a nice clean hole. You can also completely submerge the piece in water however this isn't always feasible.

Holes Drilled

Although the terrarium is a sealed unit, some ventilation is nice to have. I drilled a 4mm hole in each corner of the jar and an 8mm hole in the center of the lid to allow for the garden lights LED to pass through. Once you've finished drilling, wash the jar in warm soapy water and remove any labels. Rinse the jar and allow it to dry.

Washed Pebbles

Wash the pebbles or other suitable drainage material under the tap to remove any excess dust or contaminants. Combine the pebbles with horticultural charcoal to create your mix for the drainage layer. Although I've made terrariums without the charcoal before, it acts as a filter for the water which is important for a sealed unit as much of the water is recycled within the terrarium.

Soil

Succulent plants want a soil that drains quickly and doesn't retain much water. To achieve this we combine the potting mix with sand. I used roughly a 1 to 1 ratio. Some perlite was also added however you can get away without it.

Drainage Layer

You don't want your plants to be sitting in water as they'll rot. To counter this, we create a drainage layer by adding a few centimetres of the drainage mix allowing the water to drain through the soil and in to the bottom of the jar. Add the mesh to separate the drainage layer from the soil and pour the soil mix into the jar. Lightly compact the soil and you're ready to start planting.

Drainage and Soil Layers

I went for a somewhat fantasy themed look with the vibrantly coloured cactus and aquarium castle statue however it's up to you how you want it to look in the end. When planting, ensure you lightly compact the area around the plant to enable the roots to set and receive nutrients. Avoid planting against the glass as plant roots don't like sunlight. If using cuttings, dip the end in water then rooting hormone before planting to improve it's chances of survival. After you've finished, water them in and leave the lid off for a few days. You would normally water very lightly and adding the lid immediately would make the jar humid.

Planting Arrangement Side View

The light is very easy but effective. I got the idea from this excellent instructable on making a desktop terrarium. The garden light is perfect for the job as it will charge during the day and turn on once there's not adequate light, illuminating the terrarium.

Planting Arrangement Top View

Disassemble the solar light until you've just got the body of the device. Secure this to the lid with some silicone with the LED protruding through the drilled hole. Allow to dry and it's done.

Solar Night Light

You can now sit back and admire your handiwork. Place the terrarium in an area that receives filtered light and lightly water once every few weeks or so. A sunny windowsill makes for a good location however just make sure it receives plenty of light. Leave the lid off for a few days after watering to reduce humidity.

Three Terrariums

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***UPDATE***

Just thought I'd share an image of one of the gifted terrariums five months down the track. Still ticking along nicely.

Terrarium Check In

Here's a fresh photo of the same terrarium on 23/05/2013.

Succulent Terrarium Progress