Did you just participate in one of our garden center terrarium building workshops at Kudos? Awesome! Now you have a beautiful little ecosystem in an old fish tank or glass jug. But how do you make sure the plants you placed inside will last? It isn’t that hard, but you do need some basic information to guarantee success.

Cactus or Succulent? It Matters

The most successful terrariums are built using succulents such as Gasteria, Haworthia, and Rhipsalis, as they enjoy a more humid environment compared to more classic spiny cactus varieties. Since your terrarium traps heat and moisture, true desert plants will be happier in a different type of planter. Mix and match your succulents to give variety to the landscape. At the same time, check that they all have similar light and water requirements. Your “dirt” will be a fine gravel-type mix that allows water to drain away from the roots and the base of the plants.

Sun is Essential, but Not Too Much

Many cactus species love lots of direct sun, but succulents can be a little pickier. Position the terrarium in a sunny room, but not in direct sunlight. They love warm temperatures, but can last for years in the moderate atmosphere that most homes and offices maintain. They will adjust their water intake based on the amount of sun and warmth received. If you see crispy edges on the leaves, they could be getting too much sun.

Only Water When Necessary

Succulents store lots of water in their fleshy leaves and stems, which gives them that plump, well-fed appearance. Because they store so much above ground, their roots really don’t like to sit in damp or wet soil. The first time you water your terrarium, pour in enough to make the soil damp to the touch. You should not see a puddle or see fingerprint in the soil if you press down. Wait until the soil is nearly bone dry or even until you see the leaves start to shrivel before watering again. If your leaves are turning brown or black—a sign of rot—you are watering too much and too often.

Tips for when you water: pinch off the occasional dead leaf and check for pests.

If you just received a terrarium as a gift and are worried about its care—don’t be! Terrarium care is simple if you follow the proper guidelines. If you would like to make a terrarium for your home or as a gift for a friend or family member, check out our next terrarium workshop! It’s a fast and fun afternoon. Come visit us in Hudson, WI to learn more about all our classes.