Open terrariums planted with diverse varieties of succulents are finding their way into homes, businesses, and office spaces at a rapid rate. Coming in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes, succulent plants create simple, elegant displays that are easy to care for and have additional benefits over traditional, enclosed terrariums.
In botanical terms, a succulent plant is one that has developed leaves and/or stems that are considerably thickened and fleshy, as an adaptation to their environment. Typically found in arid regions, or dry soil conditions, these fleshy parts help to retain soil moisture.
Their adaptation to warm, dry climates makes them a great plant for indoor gardening where temperatures tend to remain high and relative humidities low. They do especially well when grown in terrariums.
A terrarium is in reality, a miniature greenhouse; a glass vessel that contains plants and growing media, creating an ecosystem.
There are two terrarium types: enclosed and open.
Today’s enclosed terrariums are scaled down in size and amped up in sophistication, compared to those of years past. Enclosed terrariums are completely sealed – typically with a removable lid – creating a high humidity environment good for tropical plants. This high humidity environment constantly recycles moisture, supplying plants the water needed to grow.
Open terrariums are different in their design; they are just what their name implies: terrariums with an open top or side that allows moisture to escape. This creates an ecosystem that maintains a lower humidity, working really well for succulents or cacti. The semi-enclosed vessel recycles moisture to a lesser degree.
Benefits of Succulent Terrariums
While there are many benefits to terrarium gardening overall, open succulent terrariums have some unique advantages too.
Succulent terrariums are notably easy to care for. They do require more frequent watering than enclosed systems, but the lower humidity levels also mean they don’t require periodic ventilation or cleaning the inside of the glass because of the high humidity.
Typically, succulent plants are slow growing, so there isn’t a worry about them outgrowing the terrarium quickly. In turn, this slow growth means less pruning you need to do to keep them looking tip-top.
Through their evolutionary adaptation, succulents have developed really shallow root systems — a trait that is favorable when working in terrariums that have a limited depth of growing media. Succulents are perfectly happy with just a small amount of sand or another substrate to anchor into.
Lastly, propagating succulents is simple. Most time you can simply remove a leaf, allow it to dry out and form a scab on the exposed end, and then plant it into a new terrarium. Expanding your terrarium collection is much less expensive when you can propagate from existing plants.
Best Succulent Plants for Terrariums
While many succulents thrive in open terrariums, the following five specimens are the most commonly used plants:
- Cacti – Available in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, cacti add a striking visual component to terrariums. Give them plenty of space and airflow.
- Haworthia – A familiar succulent in open terrariums designed for low-light conditions. Haworthia varieties are incredibly hardy; some are striped with white, some display brilliant jewel-toned colors.
- Aloe vera – Known for its medicinal properties, aloe vera plants can be grown in either type of terrarium. It tolerates full sun if in an open display, and indirect light if in an enclosed.
- Crassula – These thick leaved succulents come in numerous varieties, including the ever-popular jade plant. With oddly shaped leaf patterns they add intrigue to a display.
- Echeveria – Distinguished by their tightly-formed, small rosettes, echeveria varieties come in a array of pastel colors.
Caring for Succulent Terrariums
While the overall care for any terrarium is similar, succulent terrariums do have some slight differences in their needs.
Since the terrarium isn’t fully enclosed, some moisture will be lost to the atmosphere in the room due to evaporation. This makes it necessary to water succulent terrariums more often than their high-humidity, closed counterparts. Using a spray bottle mist the enclosure once every week or two, allowing the soil to completely dry out between waterings.
Although slow growing plants, succulents become leggy over time if they don’t receive enough sunlight. To keep plants looking their best clip off leggy off-shoots using a pair of sterilized, sharp scissors; then try to find a better location with more adequate lighting.
Use a soft-bristled brush to remove soil or debris that has settled onto the succulent plants. This keeps them looking pristine.
Succulent plants are a great specimen to use in open terrariums because of their low-maintenance needs and adaptation to arid environments. With a handful of specimens available in many different colors and shapes – that are known to do well in terrariums – it’s no wonder succulent terrariums are quickly becoming so popular.