Saturday, March 11, 2017

Succulent Terrarium

While the gardening world seems to has gone crazy for succulents, I have been very slow to embrace the trend.  Even so, I can see the attraction to these plants. They're easy-to-care-for, which is a bonus for budding green thumbs, who might have the interest, but not a whole lot of time to devote to indoor gardening. They're also pretty with their dusty-blue green hues and attractive sun-burst shapes.

Desperate for even the smallest signs of spring, I visited one of my favourite nurseries last weekend. There were pots of yellow daffodils, tulips and cheerful primroses, but it was the display of potted succulents and terrariums that caught my eye. "That could be a fun little project!" thought I. 

The next thing you knew, I was loading an assortment of the cute little succulents, some potting soil and a wire terrarium into the backseat of my car. 

Here's the materials and supplies you'd need to make your own terrarium:

• An assortment of succulents
• Potting soil with excellent drainage
• Terrarium or shallow dish of your choice
• Soft bristled paint brush
• Decorative pebbles
• Decorative object of your choice 

This is the terrarium I bought ($10 at Terra Nurseries). It comes with a convenient wooden tray that is already lined. The wire framework was black when I bought it, but I thought it would look nicer if it were green. Out came a can of dusty, sage-colored spray paint! (I used multi-surface spray paint that is available at most hardware and paint stores.)

If you can't find a terrarium like this, try using a shallow ceramic bowl, pot or perhaps try one of the low metal trays I have seen at Michaels.

Step 1: Add a base layer of potting soil that is an inch or so deep (the depth will depend on your container). I used a specific potting soil that's created for cactus and succulents. It offers much better drainage than regular potting soil.

These are the succulents I selected for my project. I used two larger plants and four smaller succulents. The smaller plants were just $2.50 each and the two bigger plants were just over $5 each.

The two larger succulents went in first. They were originally potted up with lots of perlite. I tried to keep as much of the perlite as I could figuring it would improve the soil's drainage even more. 

Next, I tucked in the smaller plants. I found a soft bristled paint brush was a handy tool to clean up any potting soil that accidentally got on the surface of my succulents.

Most rocks are free for the taking, so I always feel a bit like I have rocks in my head whenever I buy decorative stones. These pebbles were pretty affordable at the Dollar Store (just $3), so it made me feel a bit more sane when I bought a plastic jar full of buff and grey colored pebbles.

I have to say that the pebbles made a nice top dressing for the terrarium.

The final steps were placing the wooden tray back inside the wire terrarium and adding a decorative object. I used a snail, but you could add a fairy, a gnome or any other object that appeals to you.

I'm rather pleased with the way the whole thing turned out. All together this succulent filled terrarium cost me under $40.

I think the biggest challenge will be not to overwater my succulents. The lined wooden tray has no drainage, so I will have to be really careful not to get carried away when I water. Here are a few pointers I noted on caring for succulents:

Succulents like lots of light (4-6 hours).

• Too much water will cause succulents to rot. Succulents like it when the soil approaches dry before they are watered. In a tray like this or a pot with no drainage, it will take a bit longer for the soil to dry out.

If you have one, use a water meter to check the moisture level of the soil. Another trick is to use weight to determine if your succulents require water. Lift the terrarium in your hands after you water it and make a mental note of how heavy it is. When the soil has dried out, the terrarium will be a lot lighter.

Watch your succulents for signs there is a problem with soil moisture. If your succulent's leaves are mushy, its probably getting too much water. If the leaves are wrinkled or limp, its probably getting too little water.

• Use an organic fertilizer (following the label's directions) during the plant's growing season. 

Now that I have my first terrarium finished, I'm may try my hand at a few more projects using succulents. I may just have become the newest fan of these adorable little plants!


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