DIY Desert Terrarium

Add otherworldly flair to your home, desk or office with desert terrariums.


| December 2015



desert terrariums on table

Succulents and cacti require adequate light, but are generally low maintenance in most other gardening respects.


Photo by Ramsay de Give and Maria Lawson

Indoor plants play a large role in the design and feel of a space. And for those without a yard, they’re a way to stay connected to nature. Add simple, stylish indoor plants to your home design with Rooted by Design (Ten Speed Press, 2015) by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give, the owners of Sprout Home gardening stores. Create minimal, otherworldly beauty for any space with these DIY Desert Terrariums.

Modern and minimalist, with an appearance straight out of a science-fiction movie, desert terrariums require a lot of light, an open container, and dry soil in order to thrive. If you want to use a closed container, moisture must be able to escape, so make sure the lid does not seal the opening completely. Desert terrariums use the desert landscape for inspiration and utilize cacti and succulent plants in numerous configurations. The design can be sparse and barren, featuring just one succulent and a bit of tumbleweed, or it can be full and flowerlike, brimming with numerous Echeveria, Sedum, and Sempervivum.

Some succulents look like marine plants and animals, which seems contradictory given their typically waterless living environment. Crassula mucosa looks like long and lean drifts of seaweed. Crassula ‘Moonglow’ twists like coral and has a phosphorescent glow. The flowers, shapes, and colors of these succulents mirror the sometimes otherworldly look of flora from a coral reef. Putting these plants into a terrarium gives you a mini replica of this underwater world.

When planning a desert terrarium, you’ll first want to verify that you have adequate light. You will need full sun from an unobstructed south- or west-facing window. Then, you can then select the plants. Some succulents to consider are Aloe, cacti, Crassula, Echeveria, Fenestraria, Gasteria, Haworthia, Kalanchoe, Lithops, Sedum, Sempervivum, and Senecio. If not given enough light, the plants may start to look long and sparse. However, if you have part sun and are determined to create a desert terrarium, fear not. There are some succulent and succulent-like plants that can tolerate a little less light. These include Aloe, Crassula, Cryptanthus, Haworthia, Rhipsalis, and Sansevieria.

Succulent gardens are strikingly beautiful, low maintenance, and prolific. There’s nothing easier and more gratifying than throwing a Sempervivum into a glass vessel and watching it multiply. We think that everyone should have at least one desert terrarium in their home, and instructions for making one follow. What are you waiting for?

Make Your Own Desert Terrarium

Materials List:
• Glass container (8” to 12” in diameter by 8” to 12” high)
• Rocks for drainage (lava rock or river gravel are recommended)
• Activated charcoal
• Succulent potting mix
• 2” succulents (5 to 7 specimens with different heights and textures, such as cacti, Aloe, Echeveria, Haworthia, and Sedum)
• Sand (optional)
• Decorative material (optional): colored stones, preserved moss, and figurines





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