How To Make A Succulent Terrarium

You’ve seen them on Instagram, Etsy, and in the windows of boutique plant shops. A succulent terrarium can be as small as a necklace pendant or as large as an upcycled fish tank. Similar to putting together a hanging basket or a flower arrangement, terrariums are an art project in their own right, making them a fun afternoon activity that can be given away as a thoughtful gift.

Plants For Your Terrarium

The plants you choose will depend on the type of container you’re using. For a traditional covered terrarium, you’ll want plants that enjoy warm, humid conditions. For an open container (like a fishbowl of vase), you can choose plants that don’t need or want humidity.

Most ferns, living moss, and begonias prefer a more humid environment. Succulents and cacti are better suited for open containers as they prefer drier conditions.

Here are some of our favorite plants for terrariums:

Plants For Covered Terrariums

  • Ferns
  • Begonias
  • Pothos
  • Friendship plans—also known as ‘Moon Valley’
  • Pink Polka Dot
  • African violets
  • Live moss
  • Nerve plant
  • Aquamarine

Plants For Open Terrariums

Soil, Water, And Sun Requirements

The soil you need will depend on the plants you want to use. For instance, ferns and begonias do well with regular, moist potting soil, while succulents and cacti will do better with drier soil that is similar to their natural environment.

Plants in a covered terrarium won’t require as much supplemental water since the humidity provides that. Plants in an open container will require more water as they will dry out faster. Choose plants that will do well in those environments.

However, be careful not to overwater succulents and cacti, I cannot tell you how many plants I’ve killed because I was a little too persistent.

How To Make A Succulent Terrarium

For my terrarium, I went with an open-container design, for two reasons. First, I bought my container at the thrift store, and with the limited options, there wasn’t a covered container available. Second, I wanted to use some succulents that I had on hand, and a covered container wouldn’t cut it. So a succulent terrarium it is!

Supplies Needed


  1. Clean the containers you’ll be using.
  2. Add a 1 to 2-inch layer of drainage rocks. This will prevent your soil from getting wet and soggy. And succulents hate nothing more than wet feet.

    drainage rocks in terrarium
    Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  3. Add a 1-inch layer of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal isn’t entirely necessary, but it does aid in drainage and supports healthy soil.

    charcoal added to terrarium
    Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  4. Add a 2 to 3-inch layer of soil, depending on how deep your plant’s roots are. At this point, three-quarters of the container should be filled. You’ll want to make sure that you’ll have enough space to water your plants.

    adding soil to terrarium
    Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  5. Carefully remove your succulents from their previous container. Break up the root system, allowing the roots to untangle and separate from one another.

    repotting the succulent
    This was before I broke up the roots a bit. Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  6. Dig out a large hole to accommodate your plant’s root system.
  7. Place the plants into the hole and cover the roots in soil. Pack the soil around the roots to ensure that none of them are exposed.

    succulents planted
    Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  8. Repeat with the rest of your plants, making sure to leave enough space between each so the roots aren’t crowded. More space is better than less space, and you don’t want your succulents crowding up against the walls of the container.
  9. Water your plants, now. Trust me, it’s easier than waiting until all the decorations are already added.
  10. Add your decorations. I chose dried moss, decorative rocks, and a cute little gnome.

    completed terrarium
    Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  11. Post your terrarium to #terrarium on Instagram. Because if you don’t Instagram it, did it even happen? 😉

Caring for Your Terrarium

The amount of maintenance your terrarium needs depends on the plants that you choose to add. Generally, a succulent terrarium won’t need a ton of attention, as long as it has ample sunlight. If you don’t have a lot of direct light in your home, I would highly recommend one of these nifty plant lights.

Our apartment only has north-facing windows, and our patio only gets about three hours of direct sunlight. In my experience, succulents need a whole lot more than that. I’ve got about 10 dead succulents to attest to that.

The plant lights have made it possible for us to maintain plants that love sun, and it’s been a fun experiment! Ramblings aside, give your succulent terrarium lots of light and only water it once every month. The soil needs to completely dry out before you give it more water.

Terrarium Ideas

Are you interested in making a terrarium but are struggling to find some created inspiration? Check out these terrarium ideas to get started.

Desertscape Terrarium

Desktop Forrest Terrarium

Lightbulb Terrarium

Geodesic Terrarium

Zen Terrarium

Uma mostra do que vem por aí! Uma nova coleção "Zen" com peças exclusivas 😍😀🌿🍃 #terrarium #meditacao #minimundo #arteviva #minijardim

A post shared by Terrariando (@terrariando) on

Terrarium in a Bottle

Mossy Terrarium

Rustic Terrarium

Cactus Terrarium

Beachy Airplant Terrarium

Glass Soccer Ball Terrarium

An old favourite 🌏 . . . #design #terrarium #homedecor #decor #botanical

A post shared by Nightshade (@nightshade_studio) on

Jurrasic Park Terrarium

Angled Terrarium


Written by Leigha Staffenhagen

Leigha Staffenhagen is our managing editor. When she isn’t writing and editing for Insteading, she’s reading, going to Mariners games, practicing yoga, tap dancing, weeding in her grandma's garden beds, and attempting to grow her own apartment garden.

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