Garden Guide: Cactus Terrarium Tips

April 28, 2017

We’ll admit it—we have a cacti crush. Despite their prickly exterior, we can’t help but fall for their rustic charm and low-maintenance, easy-going ways. Before digging in, we asked our green-thumbed friends at Terrain for some cactus care know-how. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just beginning to get your hands dirty, this desert terrarium project makes a sharp addition to any garden.

Pick Your Plants
Pop quiz: What’s the difference between a cactus and a succulent? All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti (thanks, Terrain!). They can be used interchangeably because they mostly require the same things, and they both make for great terrarium plants. Due to their shallow roots and sparse need for water, they’re easy to plant and easy to care for, and most stay small and compact. In other words, you can’t go wrong!

Choose Your Vessel
Ideally, you want an open terrarium with no lid. Cacti and succulents need plenty of air circulation; if left too wet or enclosed with high humidity, they can easily rot.

Gather Your Supplies
To create a desert terrarium, you’ll need…
– Grit-sized stone or gravel to create the bottom-most drainage layer
– Activated charcoal to top the drainage layer
– Sandy or rocky soil mix to plant the cacti and succulents
– Assorted stones for dressing the top of the soil and assorted decor: bare wood, natural materials, trinkets, etc.

Lighten Up
Most succulents and cacti (apart from some Haworthia and Gasteria species) require bright indirect, if not direct, sunlight to thrive. Your succulent is not getting enough light if it appears to be elongating or abnormally stretching, if new leaves seem small or if the often-vibrant color is pale approaching translucent.

Water Mindfully
Succulents and cacti thrive in arid, dry climates. Since terrariums don’t have drainage holes, you’ll need to be particularly careful when it comes to watering, as plants sitting in wet soil will rot. Let your soil dry out completely between watering, and water lightly and carefully. Touch the soil to test its dampness and examine the leaves of your succulents—if they look like they’re puckering, they either need water or have too much water.  If the soil is dry and your plant is puckering, give some water; if the soil is damp and your plant is puckering, abstain from watering.

Ready to dig in? Visit the Terrain Garden Pop-Up Shop!