Pick your container. Do you want it closed or open? If you love your succulents, go with open. They need air circulation and less humidity, or they will rot. If you love that sealed-off, secret world of closed terrariums, choose plants that can survive in higher humidity. Also, consider the location of your garden when picking your container. Near the heat registers? Near a west-facing window or an east one? Succulents love the direct sun; ferns love indirect light.
Gather your materials: You need a potting mix (unless you’re doing air plants), sand, charcoal, moss, colorful rocks, plants, and any additional fun items you want to add.
Sand, colorful rocks, and moss are for aesthetics. The sand and rocks can be layered first to add interest or to the top of the design. These layers can be like lasagna. Layer as deeply as you want, with as many layers as you wish, for interest. Then layer in the charcoal. Charcoal is used for two things: Purification and reservoir. Purification is for the smell. The reservoir will hold the water. Charcoal is a necessity. The third layer is the potting mix, but before adding it, place a coffee filter between the charcoal and the mix. This avoids the inevitable trickling down of the soil into the bottom layers. The brown recycled coffee filters are great for this.
4. Pick your plants and plant! The choices are insane with plants; there are so many. For enclosed terrariums, use ferns that like high humidity and add pileas, strawberry begonias, peperomia, fittonia, and others. Choose hens, chicks, tiny jades, echeverias, and more for succulents.
5. Add moss, pebbles, or sand to cover. Then get fun. Add gnomes like the above, twigs, and sticks, and form a pathway with small flat stones. Get creative and make the enclosure enjoyable.
6. Watering: Enclosed terrarium rarely, if ever, need watering. If condensation increases on the glass, it’s best to remove the lid and let it air out for a few days. It is likely too wet. For your succulent terrariums, less is best with watering. The soil should dry out completely between watering. The idea is that terrariums are self-sustaining. After the initial work, it’s pure enjoyment.
7. Location. For succulents, pick a sunny window. They prefer more direct sun. Please remember that the glass doubles the heat, and even succulents can fry. A bright, indirect light (east-facing) window is best for your enclosed terrariums.
We have all the supplies you need and all the help. So get creative. Winter doesn’t have to be plant-free. Enjoy!
Written by Cinthia Milner, a landscape consultant and blog writer for B.B. Barns Garden Center.
BB Barns Garden Center serves North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.