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How to Make a DIY Succulent Terrarium - Alternatives to the Glass Bowl

Jane Bertin
By Jane Bertin. Updated: February 25, 2019
How to Make a DIY Succulent Terrarium - Alternatives to the Glass Bowl

Plant terrariums - a miniature ecosystem in a beautiful container - have been popular from the Victorian Age, and it's no surprise. Terrariums make stunning centerpieces, and they create a different environment in a small bubble. Moreover, they are a great craft to make with children and they can be a very good teaching tool about ecology and biology.

However, as beautiful as they are, it's very likely that succulent plants in a glass terrarium will die in a question of months. This is because they require very good drainage systems, which glass containers cannot offer. Here at oneHOWTO we'll teach you how to make a DIY succulent terrarium with alternative ideas to the classic glass bowl so that your small plants stay healthy and beautiful for a long time.

You may also be interested in: How to Decorate your Living Room with Plants

Steps to follow:


What is a terrarium?

Before starting with our instructions on how to make a DIY succulent terrarium, it's very important to know the basics. Terrariums are built to create a separate environment where the conditions for the plants' growth will be better than the open air.

In sealed terrariums, the moisture evaporates but stays within the container, condenses and eventually hydrates the plants and soil again. Since succulents do not need that much moisture - in fact, they are easily killed by excess water - the terrarium must be open.

Before starting a succulent terrarium:

No matter what kind of container you're using - a glass bowl or one of the alternatives we will propose - the basic instructions are the same. It is very important to choose the succulent plants beforehand, paying attention to their specific needs. Do not mix plants that need lots of water and little light with plants that need to get dry while being in full sunlight.

Although all succulent species have their own needs, in general they tend to require good but indirect light and low moisture levels. The climate conditions can change over the year, as long as they are watered accordingly. In darker and colder months they need less water; in fact, they might deactivate and bloom.

It's very important to soak the soil when you water your succulents. However, there should not be so much leftover water that a puddle is created at the bottom. Do not water them again until the roots are completely dry.

To learn more about the different succulent plants you can get for your terrarium, take a look at our article on what succulent plant should you get.

How to Make a DIY Succulent Terrarium - Alternatives to the Glass Bowl - Step 1

How to make a DIY succulent terrarium:

No matter whether you're going to make a terrarium in a glass bowl or not, the most basic instructions are also the same.

You will need

  • An open vessel or container
  • Gloves, especially if you're adding cacti
  • Tweezers
  • A thin stick or chopstick
  • Pebbles, bark shreds, rock shards or pea gravel
  • Soil for succulents
  • Optional: Decorative elements, activated charcoal, moss


  1. Prepare a work area by lining it with newspaper.
  2. Line the container with the pebbles for good drainage. If you want, you can use bark shreds, rock shards or pea gravel instead.
  3. Optional: Add a layer of moss to help the drainage and prevent the soil from slipping down between the pebbles.
  4. Optional: Add a thin layer (half an inch at the most) of activated charcoal, which will help filter the air.
  5. Add a good thick layer of soil for succulents. Never use soil from outside plants, since it might carry insects or fungi and ruin the succulent terrarium before you even start working on it. This layer should be generous enough for the succulents to set roots.
  6. Using the chopstick, create your design for the terrarium. Mark the places where each plant will be.
  7. Remove the succulents, cacti or shoot-offs from their original pots. Be very careful with the roots.
  8. Plant them in the terrarium. Use tweezers if it's difficult to access.
  9. Optional: Decorate with pretty stones, shells or even plastic figurines. It's better to choose a theme first instead of adding decoration as you go.
  10. Water them to settle the soil.

Alternative ideas to the glass bowl terrarium:

While a glass bowl - like a fish bowl or tank - is the most common choice for a succulent terrarium because of its shape and usual wide opening, it is actually not a very good idea. Glass maintains and even increases the humidity inside the terrarium, which is not at all good for succulents - in fact, it might kill them in months.

If you do choose to make a succulent terrarium in a glass bowl, always go for a wide bowl instead of a big one. The opening must be very big in order to let the soil and plants air out. This means that jars and vases, as pretty and popular as they are, are not a good support for succulent terrariums. The same goes for glass dispensers and light bulbs; they make cool presents, but not proper pots.

Other popular glass terrariums include globes - try making DIY feet by gluing caps to the base - or hanging teardrops, which look wonderful with succulents like burro's tail.

However, we recommend other materials. Try making a DIY succulent terrarium with:

  • Metal bowls - especially with holes for drainage.
  • Earthenware bowls - again, with holes for drainage.
  • Old tins or cans.
  • Light bulb - tiny but cute.
  • A vintage typewriter - yes, really.
  • Picture frames - put them up to build a greenhouse.
  • An old birdcage - lets the plants air out while still creating a bubble-like space.

If you don't want to make a terrarium but still want to try a fun DIY craft with succulents, we recommend making a living wall.

How to Make a DIY Succulent Terrarium - Alternatives to the Glass Bowl - Step 3

So these have been our alternative ideas on how to make a DIY succulent terrarium! If you have any more ideas or tips, please share them in the comments section.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Make a DIY Succulent Terrarium - Alternatives to the Glass Bowl, we recommend you visit our Gardening & plants category.

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How to Make a DIY Succulent Terrarium - Alternatives to the Glass Bowl