Succulents are definitely one of the planet’s most incredible plants, particularly since they are open to fun. In other words, they can survive nearly any circumstances, making it even more fun for us to experiment and turn them into pretty little flower paradises.
For this project, you’ll need some basic things.
- Glass terrarium, or any glass container with openings
- Cactus potting mix
- Activated carbon/charcoal
- Sand – beach sand, building sand, pink sand, blue sand, or any non-toxic sand works!
- Assorted Succulents: Jade plant, Hen & Chicks, Alpines
- Long tweezers – for helping place the succulents
- Spoon – for scooping and patting the potting mix, sand, charcoal
- Paintbrush – for gently brushing the succulents of any excess dirt
- Spray bottle filled with water
Collecting your Materials
Most of the items you need for this tutorial can be found in many homes and gardens. Instead of the purpose-made glass terrarium, you could use a mason jar or empty food jar. It just needs to be clear and with an opening for ventilation. The sand can be taken from a nearby beach, the tweezers and spoon from the bathroom and kitchen, the paintbrush from your art supplies, and the succulents from planters outside. If you have an aquarium you might even have the activated charcoal since it will be used in the water filtration system!
Succulents are tough plants that require very little in the way of soil, soil nutrients, or even much water in the winter months. If you spot some growing in a park or other public place you could even be a bit cheeky and nip off a few pieces to take home. They root very easily and the small amounts you take won’t hurt the parent plant.
Step 1: Gather your Assorted Succulents
Take about ten to twelve small cuttings of succulents. You’ll want a few that can trail over the edge of your container, a few that can be larger focal points, and others for varying color and texture. You might think that many succulents will outgrow your terrarium but because of the limited soil, they shouldn’t get too large, especially if you trim them as they grow.
Once you have your cuttings, let them stay out of direct sunlight in a cool place for a couple of days. This will bring callus to the broken ends, which is a necessary step if you want roots to form the succulent. You will proceed to step two after those few days.
Step 2: Layer the Sand and Charcoal
In the bottom of your glass container, layer about half an inch of sand, pushing it up in the back to form a hill. Over the sand, sprinkle a very fine layer of the charcoal. The sand creates drainage for excess water and the charcoal ensures that mold, moss, and any uninvited micro-organisms do not grow and take over the planter.
Step 3: Layer the Cactus potting mix
I’ve listed this step separately because it’s really crucial to have a good potting mix. Cactus potting mix can be purchased online (here’s one of good quality) or from a garden center. It’s possible to create it at home too if you have the materials at hand. It’s a mix of 50% washed cocopeat, 20% 5mm Coco Husk Chips, 20% Perlite, and 10% Horticultural Grit.
Layer about half an inch of this potting mix on top of the sand and charcoal and make sure to mound it up at the back like you did the sand. Spray the potting mix a few times with the spray bottle you filled with ordinary tap water and you’re ready for step four.
Step 4: Plant your Succulent Cuttings
Now is the creative part! Place your cuttings into the potting mix and arrange them so that the composition suits you. We recommend putting taller pieces into the back and pushing them in with the end of a spoon or paintbrush so that the end with the callus is well covered. Next, put any large pieces inside and push them in. It helps to put the trailing pieces in before any of the foreground succulents since it might be difficult to get them in otherwise.
Once all your succulents are in you’re finished! The cuttings may take a few weeks to develop roots so try to keep the terrarium in a bright area where they can form without disturbance. For aftercare, the succulents will generally only need to be sprayed with water once a week or so. Each time you water them, ensure the potting mix is damp but not soaking and allow it to dry almost completely before watering again.