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Design a Modern Living Succulent Terrarium

Succulent terrariums are a subtle interior design feature that will leave your guests searching for all the tiny living details within the glass display. It seems like everyone is jumping on the trend and collecting the low-maintenance plants that add a little boho-desert aesthetic to any space. The glass terrarium takes the succulent game up a notch, adding a modern greenhouse effect to the traditional succulent display. Designing and assembling them is a fun and easy activity but there are a few tips and tricks you should know about before diving right in.

Our version of this DIY will show you how easy it is to assemble these mini terrariums at home using an affordable combination of supplies from any superstore and the dollar store; while the end result is worthy of your plant inspo board, we promise!

Small coloured stones and sea glass pieces add the final details. Photo by @kyleneloucks

Supply List

  1. Medium to large glass display bowl or vase 
  2. Cactus soil/potting mix
  3. Black or white river stone 
  4. Lava stones
  5. Coloured pebbles and/or sea glass
  6. Preserved Mixed Moss 
  7. Optional plant stand or plant hanger
  8. Assorted mini succulents 
  9. Unique personal pieces (i.e., crystals, stones or sand, figurines, pebbles)
Supplies for assembly of small succulent terrarium. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Once you’ve secured all of your supplies, it’s time to prepare your terrarium for the succulents you purchased.

Step 1

Rinse decorative rocks and stones before using. Photo by: @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Rinse and dry the pebbles with water before adding them to the glass plant vase. Most pebbles are coated in a light rock dust which can cloud the clean glass. Rinsing the pebbles in a strainer and laying them across a towel to dry before placing them in the glass will avoid this problem. 

Step 2

Succulent plants in glass jars
Small succulents in large glass vases. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Select the glass jar or vase you would like to use for your terrarium. Make sure there is lots of space for your decorations and your plants to be added.

PROTIP: don’t overcrowd your terrarium! While they are beautiful to look at, they are not suitable for multiple plants to live a healthy, happy life. Pick two or three small succulents that you really love so they have lots of space to grow.

Step 3

Decorative red and pink stones in glass terrarium
Cleaned decorative stones create the first layer. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Place the cleaned and dried decorative stones in the bottom of the vase about 1.5-2″ high.

Step 4

Layer of moss on top of first rock layer. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Place and flatten the first layer of preserved moss. Try and stick to one colour of moss and be sure it’s touching the glass all the way around the vase. Remember, it will flatten down with the weight of the next rock layer so don’t be afraid to add a little bit more moss.

Step 5

Layer of white river stones. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Place a layer of coloured river stones on top of the moss, we chose white. Ensure the rocks touch the glass all the way around and measure about 1″ in depth.

Step 6

Decorative stones and lava rocks in glass vase
Layer of smaller lava rocks. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Place and spread an even layer of smaller lava rocks or pebbles. The smaller size of the stones at this stage helps ensure the soil won’t slip between the gaps and fall through to the decorative stone layers.

Step 7

Preserved moss and decorative rocks display
Preserved moss layer. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Choose a coloured preserved moss and place on top of the lava rocks layer. Be sure the moss is touching the glass all the way around and remember the weight of the soil will compact the moss. About 1.5″ is a good amount for this size glass vase.

PROTIP: the moss acts as a final barrier between the soil and your decorations – in this situation more moss is better! Be sure its pressed, compact and covering the entire stone layer before you add the soil.

Step 8

Cactus soil in glass terrarium
Final layer of cactus soil. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Using a spoon or ladle, place your cactus soil in the middle of your moss layer and gently spread it towards the outer edges of the glass. Fill the remaining space of your vase with the soil, pressing it gently to compact the soil as you add it. Leave at least a few inches of glass visible near the top.

Step 9

Assorted succulents in glass terrarium display
Planted assorted succulents. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Plant your succulents – always follow proper planting practices to give your new additions some extra love and a good chance at survival in their new home.

PROTIP: when planting cacti, use a set of tongs to gently move the cactus around without any prickle related incidents!

Step 10

Decorative succulent terrarium display
Decorative details finish the terrarium. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

To finish your terrarium, use some of the decorative stones and lava rocks to scatter around the succulents. Place decorative crystals, sea glass and/or coloured stones around the plants where you think they look best. Lastly, use small pieces of the preserved moss to fill in some of the gaps on the surface soil. After you’re happy with the look, your terrarium is finished and it’s ready to display!

Small coloured stones and sea glass pieces add the final details. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Assembling this live miniature succulent garden is pretty straightforward even if you don’t have a green thumb outside. The terrariums can be used as a chic decor piece for your office, given as a personal gift, or used as a hanging decorative feature in any home space. Arguably the best part about succulents is that they’re super low maintenance and put up a decent fight when you accidentally try and kill them. We placed our version of this project in a wooden plant stand and displayed it near a bright window to enjoy the natural light. 

A finished modern living succulent terrarium in a wooden plant stand. Photo by @kyleneloucks on Instagram.

Now that your living terrarium is complete it’s ready to be shown off to us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram!

Kylene Loucks

I write for decoist.

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