Tuesday, December 10, 2013

DIY Terrariums // The Makings of The Best Day Ever

This is a post about the best Saturday I've ever had, and everything I learned on said Saturday about making cacti and succulent terrariums. 
First, let me state that John knows me so well and I am so grateful to have him to indulge my plant-craziness, and sometimes even share it with me. Second, HE IS JUST THE BEST. On Saturday, we went plant shopping to make terrariums, something I've wanted to do for a long time. For my Christmakkuh gift, he helped me pick out and then bought me some of the beautiful plants and containers we used. And this book, which is beautiful and has great ideas and instructions. I highly recommend it.
The first thing we did was pluck off some of the leaves and bulbs from my stock of succulents to dry out and replant in a few weeks. The goal is to grow our own succulents, so we can make more terrariums without breaking the bank. It's called propagation, and you can read more about it here. It may take a while for them to grow, but we'll see. No rush ;)
Then we got down and dirty. We planned everything out before hand, but nothing too specific because sometimes it's just best to do it, you know?

What you'll need:
- Cactus potting mix (Home Depot)
- Small rocks or pebbles (Home Depot)
- Activated charcoal (local pet store chain, in the fish aquarium section)
- Assorted cacti and succulents (Home Depot and local nurseries)
- Decorations (we used small circles of wood from our trip to Brunswick and some of the bigger pebbles)
- A knife or scissors (for cutting/sizing the plants)
- A variety of open glass containers (Goodwill)

Some things to keep in mind:
- If you don't want to use pebbles, sheet moss is a great (and pretty) alternative. You can use both pebbles and moss, but it's not necessary. It all comes down to personal preference.
- The activated charcoal is necessary because it helps with drainage, since there are no holes in the bottoms of your terrarium containers like there are in typical pots.
- I like to support local nurseries as much as I can, but sometimes you can't beat the great prices and awesome variety of plants at Home Depot. Just sayin'
- Make sure the plants you buy won't get too big and outgrow your terrarium. Look for plants about 2-4in. in height.
- You may have to pull apart the plants to get the sizes you want. Use your best judgement, and don't be afraid to take risks. Terrariums aren't permanent fixtures and they can be added to as time goes on. If a plant in your terrarium dies, no big deal. You can replace it :)
- Be wary of over or under watering, and remember, it's a relatively closed system. It'll take longer for the terrarium to dry out, and cacti and succulents like to be dry.
- You can make closed terrariums. They're very common. BUT, not with cacti or succulents because, again, they like to be dry.
- Do research before you start collecting materials or making terrariums. This wiki was really helpful to me, as well as some other random websites, and the book linked above.

Now, what to do:
- Wash the glass containers, inside and out.
- Line the bottom of your container with activated charcoal. Just a thin layer! I suggest pouring it into a cup before pouring into the glass.
- Add a thin layer of pebbles/stones, or just start with potting soil (either works)
- Add a thick layer of pebbles/stones, both for drainage and for show. Make sure the layer is thick enough that when you put soil on top of it you can still see the layer of pebbles if you look at the side of the glass.
- Add soil; make sure it's enough that your plants will be sturdy and have enough room to root in.
- Dig a little hole with your fingers for the plants, then put the plants in and add soil until the plant is secure. Pack it in there as well as you can. I recommend using two contrasting plants in the terrariums. Assortments of moss look nice, too!
- Water the plants, then add more soil if necessary.
- Put "decorations" around your plants. In this case, by "decorations" I just mean things that aren't alive, like the wood and stones in mine.
- Admire your handiwork! You did a great job, I'm sure. Ha.
I got a little excited and made four terrariums, the fourth being a bit of an after thought but no less loved! It was sooo fun. And they make such great gifts!
It seems like a lot of work, but if you're into this kind of thing you should totally try it. I'm considering making a bunch more and selling them, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I'm thankful for days like this and a boyfriend who made it all possible.

John, thanks for taking some photos for me! I love you.

Hope you all enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or comments/corrections, email me or leave a comment on this post. I'm eager for feedback.

Happy planting :)


  1. Terrariums are so cool, if I wasn't moving soon I'd be making some for sure. I just found your blog and it's awesome :) :)

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment! Good luck in your move. Make a terrarium once you get there ;)


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