Succulent Terrarium Layers |Everything You Need To Know|

The succulent terrarium is one of the most popular plant-based home décor trends of the past few years. But do you know about the succulent terrarium layers? In this article I am going to describe those layers one by one. 

Succulent Terrarium Layers

The initial craze was centered on small plant-only terrariums; more advanced plant lovers have been experimenting with larger plant-only habitats inside sealed glass containers.

This style of plant-only terrarium has grown in popularity because it allows owners to grow a wide variety of plants and still maintain the clean look of a traditional indoor plant.

The succulent terrarium has also been inspiring new plant-based home décor trends, like the “mini” succulent terrarium, which are smaller plant-only habitats that can be displayed on a table or shelf.

Can succulents grow in a closed terrarium?

Succulents would be great picks for terrariums. That is simply because they are small and due to the various varieties they have.

Besides, their easy maintenance is another reason, why you can grow succulents in a closed terrarium.

So, from this guide I am going to cover how to make a succulent terrarium, the order of layers you need to put in a terrarium, the best succulents and the best soil mix  you can use for the terrariums.

To start off a succulent terrarium, 

  1. First select a terrarium  container
  2. Clean the container
  3. Select the drainage layer in the bottom and then lay it
  4. Adding a filter to separate them
  5. Add a charcoal layer
  6. Add succulent soil mix and then add plants
  7. Finally consider decorating them

You have two options to select when building a terrarium. In fact you can create either an  open terrarium or a closed terrarium. 

Closed terrarium will consist of a  lid on it and it keeps moisture within the terrarium. Succulents are such great tropical plants which thrive well with high humidity levels and with moistness. However, that does not mean that you should grow them in soggy soil.

To elaborate further on the open terrariums, it would work well for succulents and cacti, which evaporate the moisture faster. You may consider growing the air plants  in open terrariums.

If you end up growing the air plants in a closed terrarium, it will create root rot in the pots. Literally depending on the types of succulents, you need to think whether you need an open terrarium or a closed terrarium.  

Succulent terrarium layers

Drainage layer – This acts as the draining layer and this is what stores the excess moisture. This will reduce the risk that your succulents have when you grow them in a container which does not have drainage holes.

Moss layer – Moss layer absorbs excess moisture, and it is more like a barrier between the two-soil layer and the drainage layer.

Charcoal layer – charcoal layer could be quite effective in absorbing the toxins which will directly impact on the plant’s health and on the odors which would build up in the terrariums.

Soil layer – Soil layer would be more like the base for your plants. Selecting the right soil mix has a greater impact on the plant’s health.

Decorative soil layer – This is a layer which you could use more than one. In fact, you can use decorative material to make this layer. You may use sand, decorative sand, decorative stone or shells for this purpose.  If you are someone who is very specific about enhancing the aesthetic value of the terrarium, this layer would be quite crucial.

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Plant layer – These are  plant types which you select for the terrarium. As mentioned in the above, you need to change the plants depending on the terrarium type you wish to have.

Ornamental layer – This layer will act as an add-on layer for the decorations of the terrariums.

Having said that you do not have to apply all the aforesaid layers. They have their own duty where they have to perform in the terrarium, and you can adjust them depending on your wish.

Having said that, out of all these layers, the drainage layer, soil layer and the plant layer are three indispensable layers of the terrariums. You can add the rest of the other layer as you desire.

Succulent Terrarium Layers

What order do you layer a terrarium?

You can add the layers in the terrarium starting from the ground up with a gravel layer. Next you can add the moss layer, soil layer and the decorative layer respectively. Terrariums want easy maintenance. They are useful for interior deco’s as well. Terrariums are DIY friendly.  

This information is about the different layers that a terrarium has and the functions of each layer. If we dig deep into this, terrarium has four main layers such as the gravel layer, moss layer, soil layer and the decorative layer.

Gravel Layer – This is crucial to enhance the drainage  in your terrarium. This is what drains the excess moisture away from the terrarium soil layer. If you expose them to an abundance of water, it will make the plants more vulnerable to rot. Hence it is quite important that you add this layer.

Moss Layer – Moss layer would be more like a barrier between the soil layer and the gravel layer. 

Next you can add the soil layer where it will provide the nutrients for the plants in your terrarium. I suggest you use the right fertilizer type also. You need to change the fertilizer type depending on the plant species you use for the terrariums.

When you establish these three layers, you can plant the succulents you want. However, when  you plant them, make sure that you planted them firmly.

It is very vital since only then they will not topple up. Unless chances are that they will topple and ruin the entire set up. As mentioned in the above, decorative layers would be useful for people who love the aesthetic beauty of the terrariums.  

Besides, it would safeguard the plants by covering the exposed roots from the direct sunlight. Moreover, it will be useful as yet another supportive layer for your succulents in the terrarium.

How do you assemble a succulent terrarium?

Despite the fact that succulents would be perfect fits for terrariums, chances are that condensation  may build up in the terrarium and make the little plants rot.

It would be better if  you could line the container base with gravel or with rocks. You may use a charcoal layer on top of this. Charcoal layers should be about one inch in size.

The absorption  of odors and toxins in the water  would take place due to the charcoal layer in the terrarium. Next you can add the sphagnum moss layer and top it with pre moistened cactus soil. After that you can dig the holes in the soil layer whilst using a dowel or stick.

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Next, fill more soil around the plants once you planted them.  Ensure that you grow them in adequate space so that they can have a proper air circulation.

I suggest you use a popsicle stick or a small stake to keep the plants upright for the first two weeks. Next you can design the terrarium depending on your wish.

If you wish to add a beach theme, you can add some seashells. On the other hand, if you wish to add a desert look, you can be tactful in adding some rocks to the terrariums.  

The more the layers you add, the more natural it will look. There are some succulent enthusiasts who add ceramic figures also to enhance the sense of whimsy.

However, what you need to keep in your mind is that whatever the layers you add , they should be washed properly so that they will not add any disease to the terrariums.

Succulent Terrarium Layers

What type of soil should be used for succulents?

For best results, you can go ahead with a succulent potting mix. The soil type you use should be light in weight. Besides, it needs to have excellent drainage  also. Moreover, it should have proper aeration too. 

Moreover, ensure the plants you are using are healthy. Before you use them, you need to take off the dead leaves. Moreover, remove the older soil around the roots.

You can spray with some water in the soil as well as the plant’s root ball. I suggest you start the terrariums with a smaller and slow growing set of succulents at first.

If your plants are taller, you can trim them off a bit. You may consider trimming the plant’s roots also if they are too long. 

However, ensure that the tools you are using for this purpose are all disinfected so that it will not create any infections in the specimen.

You can use either fire or rubbing alcohol to disinfect the tools. You can plant the plants in the soil and then add on soil to make them established. Avoid putting in too much soil once you plant them, but cover the root ball with soil though. 

Best succulents for closed terrariums

  • Jade plant (Crassula ovata).
  • Tiger Jaws, or Faucaria Tigrina
  • Hens and chicks (Sempervivum).
  • Aloe Vera, or medicine plant
  • Kalanchoe tomentosa, or Chocolate Soldier.

How to care for closed terrarium

You should first place the terrariums  where they can gain bright sunlight. However, refrain from exposing them in areas where they will gain direct sunlight as it will scorch the plants.

Moreover, it would be even better if you can place a fan or a blower near the specimen so that the aeration around the plants would be benefitted from that.

It will further avoid the plants from damping off. If you are into succulent gardening, you might know how unhealthy it is to expose the plants to waterlogged conditions. It would even kill the plants.

You do not need to water the terrariums quite often either. Instead let their soil become dry and only after that you may resume watering them.

Taking care of a succulent terrarium is quite similar to cultivating the succulents in the containers. If you are using tap water, you need to keep them in the water can for about one day so that minerals can evaporate. Alternatively, you may use purified water also.

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As you may understand, taking care of a succulent terrarium is very much similar to the way you need to look after the potted succulents.

These plants do not depend a lot on  fertilizers. Having said that, once a year fertilizing them would be beneficial for the terrariums to flourish. If you manage to look after the terrarium well, it will tend to look more and more attractive.  

How long do succulent terrariums last?

If you manage to look after the terrariums well, they will thrive for a long time. It could even be indefinite. However, there are records to show succulent terrariums have lasted for about 53 years. Chances are that they may even live longer than it.

Succulent Terrarium Layers

How often should I water my succulent terrarium?

It is not necessary to water the succulent terrariums  frequently. That is because they have water conserved in their cells which they can use when they do not get any water.

Having said that, you need to water them depending on the seasons. You will see how the succulents become fresh and firm when you water them moderately.

On the other hand, if you under water them, you will see how the plants start to look wrinkled and shriveled when they lack sufficient water. Further they will lose their firmness also. 

You can water the plants once every week during summer. In winter watering the plants once every   three weeks would be enough. Moreover, succulents need deep watering. Besides, you need to let their soil wither between two watering sessions.

How much sun does a succulent terrarium need?

You can start off exposing the terrarium for about one to two hours of sunlight on each  day. Next you can leave them exposed for more sunlight on the following day.

If you find it difficult to provide sufficient sunlight, you can consider placing artificial lights to supplement the light. However, when you place artificial lights, such as grow lights, you need to keep them at least 12 inches away from the plants.

Furthermore, if you use moss for your succulent terrariums, they need bright filtered sunlight as well. That will allow them to conduct photosynthesis and make nutrients on their own. However, do not grow them in a hot sunny spot as it will make the plants scorched.

Do you need activated charcoal for succulent terrarium?

You need to add a charcoal layer as it will purify the terrarium and further prevent any fungal growth occurring too. Moreover, it will remove the odor in the terrarium as well. It will give a sense of freshness to the succulent terrarium. 

Do succulents grow well in a terrarium?

Succulents grow well in terrariums due to the aforementioned factors which were explained right at the beginning of the article. However, if there is condensation in the terrarium it will kill the plants.  However, if you manage to look after them, they can thrive indefinitely. 


I hope you learn about succulent terrarium layers in this article. It is easy to grow succulents in pots and if you try a bit harder you can grow succulents in terrariums without a lot of trouble.

This article will lead you to understand what layers your terrarium needs and how to assemble them. Happy to help and happy gardening.

Credit to : Moody Blooms

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About author

I’m Dr. Chamika, As a hobby love talking about plants and showing you that taking care of indoor plants. My website is knowledge I’ve learned over the years and continue to learn about growing succulents. If you’re a succulent lover, then you have come to the correct place.