This instructable guides you through the process of making a sealed succulent plant terrarium with LED light. As succulent plants are hardy and don't require too much water, they will produce a terrarium that requires minimal maintenance provided you create a suitable environment. There's also a variety of interesting succulent plants so with a little imagination and a few supplies you can make a great decorative piece suitable for your windowsill or as a gift. I've created a video that details the build process. Take a look if you're keen. If you enjoyed the video, please consider subscribing to my youtube channel
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Step 1: Gather Supplies
If you do some gardening, you'll have a few of these already. The decorative supplies are optional, it's up to you what you add to your creation however I'll list the assortment I had available when making mine to give an idea of what's suitable. It's worth scouring discount stores for a lot of these items as you can find them at a fraction of the cost you would normally pay making this a cheap project.*Affiliate links provided to suitable products on Amazon.com
Cordless drill able to be adjusted to a slow speed
Glass drill bits (Amazon)
Gloves and safety glasses for when working with glass
Caulking gun (Amazon)
Potting mix (Amazon)
Perlite (optional but recommended) (Amazon)
Shade cloth or other mesh-like material such as fly screen
Pebbles or other suitable drainage material
Horticultural charcoal (Amazon)
Solar garden light
Rooting hormone (if using cuttings) (Amazon)
Aquarium pebbles and stones (Amazon)
Coloured sand (Amazon)
Aquarium statues (Amazon 1,2,3)
River stones (Amazon)
Sphagnum moss (can also be used to separate the layers if you don't have any mesh) (Amazon)
Step 2: Drill Some Glass
Drilling glass takes time and patience. Set the drill to a slow speed and regularly pour water over the area being drilled. Use a small amount of pressure and eventually you will be left with a nice clean hole. You can also completely submerge the piece in water however this isn't always feasible.
Although the terrarium is a sealed unit, some ventilation is nice to have. I drilled a 4mm hole in each corner of the jar and an 8mm hole in the center of the lid to allow for the garden lights LED to pass through. Once you've finished drilling, wash the jar in warm soapy water and remove any labels. Rinse the jar and allow it to dry.
Step 3: Prepare Materials
Wash the pebbles or other suitable drainage material under the tap to remove any excess dust or contaminants. Combine the pebbles with horticultural charcoal to create your mix for the drainage layer. Although I've made terrariums without the charcoal before, it acts as a filter for the water which is important for a sealed unit as much of the water is recycled within the terrarium.
Succulent plants want a soil that drains quickly and doesn't retain much water. To achieve this we combine the potting mix with sand. I used roughly a 1 to 1 ratio. Some perlite was also added however you can get away without it.
Step 4: Create the Layers
You don't want your plants to be sitting in water as they'll rot. To counter this, we create a drainage layer by adding a few centimetres of the drainage mix to allow the water to drain through the soil and into the bottom of the jar. Add the mesh to separate the drainage layer from the soil and pour the soil mix into the jar. Lightly compact the soil and you're ready to start planting.
Step 5: Planting and Decorating
I went for a somewhat fantasy themed look with the vibrantly coloured cactus and aquarium castle statue however it's up to you how you want it to look in the end. When planting, ensure you lightly compact the area around the plant to enable the roots to set and receive nutrients. Avoid planting against the glass as plant roots don't like sunlight. If using cuttings, dip the end in water then rooting hormone before planting to improve it's chances of survival. After you've finished, water them in and leave the lid off for a few days. You would normally water very lightly and adding the lid immediately would make the jar humid.
Step 6: Create the Light
The light is very easy but effective. I got the idea from this excellent instructable
on making a desktop terrarium. The garden light is perfect for the job as it will charge during the day and turn on once there's not adequate light, illuminating the terrarium.
Disassemble the solar light until you've just got the body of the device. Secure this to the lid with some silicone with the LED protruding through the drilled hole. Allow to dry and it's done.
Step 7: Maintenance
You can now sit back and admire your handiwork. Place the terrarium in an area that receives filtered light and lightly water once every few weeks or so. A sunny windowsill makes for a good location however just make sure it receives plenty of light. Leave the lid off for a few days after watering to reduce humidity.
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