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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 as this helps towards producing more videos and projects.

 
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Step 1: Gather Supplies

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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

Tools:
  • 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)
  • Silicone (Amazon)
  • Brush
Materials:
  • Glass jar
  • Potting mix (Amazon)
  • White sand
  • 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
  • Succulent plants
  • Rooting hormone (if using cuttings) (Amazon)
Decorative:
  • 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

More projects and videos at x2Jiggy.com. You can also follow my twitter feed @x2Jiggy.
tjlavelle3 years ago
THIS WILL NOT WORK! SUCCULENTS NEED MOVING AIR TO SURVIVE! It will look good for 1-3 months and then they will shrivel up and die.
x2Jiggy (author)  tjlavelle3 years ago
Feel free to take a look at the post on my blog (http://x2jiggy.com/blog/2011/12/11/succulent-terrarium.html), at the bottom there's a picture of one of the terrariums after 5 months of progress still going strong. It's been about 7 months now and they're still fine, no idea how long they will go but the mileage appears decent.
ilpug3 years ago
Looks great. You should make one that is fully sealed, and see what happens.
Plants require carbon dioxide to grow . Plants to not grow in anaerobic conditions.
Plants require Carbon dioxide in the day and release oxygen. During night, they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Biology 101.
So theoretically, it can be completely sealed as the gases gets balanced through 24hours. But the ones we make cannot be completely sealed as there are bacterias and micobes present which contribute to excess of carbon dioxide being generated over time.
Though I have seen some which contains plants and small hydras in a sealed glass orb. That will take a lot of careful balance and planning...
x2Jiggy (author)  ilpug3 years ago
It could possibly become too humid for the succulents however I've seen others create completely sealed units. Could be alright but it seemed like a good idea to add a bit of ventilation.
ilpug x2Jiggy3 years ago
I didnt think about the succulents and their water limits. I did something like this once in Biology. We basically sealed dirt and plants in a plastic box and left it. That was like a year ago plus and it still is growing.
Considering how well my Moss Terrariums have survived, I think I might have to try one with succulents too!

I love how it looks with the light added - really great touch. Do you think sensitive plants would do well or are they too delicate? Maybe other carnivorous plants?
x2Jiggy (author)  shesparticular3 years ago
Those moss terrariums look great, would like to try one in a hollowed out light globe.

Haven't had much experience with sensitive plants however I had a look at the conditions they prefer. They need a fair bit of water but don't mind high humidity so this setup should work alright with just a standard potting mix. It's not very humid in there with the succulents due to the small watering requirements.

I've made one with some carnivorous plants and a similar setup, they look awesome but require a bit more care than the succulents. These were intended as Christmas presents for the family so they needed to be as maintenance free as possible lol
ChrysN3 years ago
Great looking terrarium, I like that you added a solar light.