Caring for your Juicykits.com terrarium is pretty easy, so don’t screw this up! Succulents are very forgiving and that’s why we love them. But you can trust that we’ve killed our share of succulents when we were starting out, by either watering them too much or giving them too much sun. With experience, we learned that succulents don’t live at the same pace as we do – it takes over a week for them to get hungry whereas it takes us only a few hours. So try not to overcompensate when you notice your plants looking less than perfect.
Why are my succulents dying? Probably too much water. How often should I water my succulents? Whenever the soil gets completely dry – so it depends on where your succulents live. Read on! Succulents are desert plants, so they don’t need much water. In fact, they don’t like to sit in wet soil because their roots are sensitive to the bacteria that develop when there’s moisture. There are basically three things to remember about taking care of the succulents in your Juicykits.com terrarium: light, water, and death.
The Right Amount of Light
You already know that succulents need a lot of light, but how will you know how much light is enough? Your plants will tell you when they need more or less light.
Too little light: Plants will grow tall or they’ll bend in one direction in search of light. That’s called “stretching” or etiolation and it won’t hurt your plant, it just looks kind of funny. Too little light can also cause your plants to become pale and lose their color.
What to do: Move your plant to a brighter part of your space. If your succulents haven’t been in direct sunlight, avoid moving them into direct sun for long periods as they’ll burn. Direct sunlight takes a little “training” by giving the plants more and more light each day so they get used to it. Start with an hour or two each day, then leave them for an hour longer the next day. If you live in a part of the world that is dark often, try giving your plant artificial light with some Grow Lights, but remember to keep the light source no more than 12 inches from the plants.
Too much light: Yes, it’s possible to give your succulents too much light, especially when they’re babies. Most smaller succulents will burn if you leave them in hot, direct sunlight for a long time. The leaves get spotty burn marks or they’ll start to dry out from the outside inward. Sometimes the glass from your terrarium can also refract sunlight, magnifying it into an intensely hot beam. So avoid direct sun!
What to do: If some of the leaves on your succulents burn, don’t fret! They’ll grow more leaves and the old ones will die. Just move your terrarium away from the too-bright area. Don’t give it a bunch of water, that’s a common mistake. You can also try to put a piece of thin fabric, plastic grocery bag, or a paper towel over your terrarium during the really sunny part of the day, but make sure there’s plenty of air flow.
The Right Amount of Water
The “perfect” amount of water is a pretty flexible concept for succulents, but we like to say “more water, less often.” The general rule is to thoroughly water the soil, then wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again. This is because the soil or cactus mix that succulents love drains very quickly. If you dump water into one concentrated spot, it just drains to the bottom without spreading to the rest of your terrarium. This is no good because terrariums, by definition, don’t have an opening for water to drain. For this reason, we recommend watering your succulent terrarium with a low flow of water over a large surface area. You can use a liquor pouring spout like the one that comes as part of our Terrarium Tool Kit to control the flow of water. You can also use one of the DIY watering hacks from our article “3 DIY Tips for Watering Succulents & Terrariums” to make sure you distribute the water over a wide area without getting water spots. Remember, don’t overwater and don’t water too often! You have to keep in mind that changes don’t happen overnight like they do in some house plants. Here’s how to recognize when your plants are trying to tell you something.
What to do: Stay calm. LOL. Don’t give it a ton of water just yet. Dry succulents aren’t so bad as they were made to withstand long periods without water, being desert plants. If your succulents live in a terrarium without any drainage, please be careful about how much water you give your plants. Use one of your low-flow watering spout or one of the methods methods above to water until the soil is moist all over – be patient and go slow so that water doesn’t immediately drain to the bottom. Keep an eye on the plants over the next week and you’ll see them plump up again. Don’t dump a ton of water into your succulents at once, they’ll rot and die. If your succulent lives in a container with a drainage hole, you can water it with a lot of water or even soak the entire pot/planter in water for 5-10 minutes. Then make sure you let the pot or planter drain out afterward.
Too much water: This is the most common mistake that people make with their succulents. When your plants get too much water, the bottom leaves start to die or rot. When they rot, the leaves get all squishy and gross. We don’t like that. Don’t let your plants die a soggy death. Also, “dry” succulent terrariums are not meant to be completely closed, like this insane 53-year-old “wet” terrarium – succulents need to stay pretty dry. Imagine plants in the desert: they are dry most of the time, but enjoy a light mist of water at night and the very occasional rainstorm.
What to do: Just chill. In most cases, just let your terrarium sit without a watering until you see the soil become completely dry. You can tell if the soil is dry when the color gets light and dusty. You can also stick a finger, toothpick, or moisture meter into the soil and test the moisture level, like baking cupcakes. If you’ve already put way too much water into your terrarium and the dirt is soggy or you see water fill up the bottom of the vessel, then you might want to try more desperate measures. Make a trip to the local pharmacy or computer store and buy a large syringe with a long needle, like the ones used to refill ink cartridges. Stick the syringe into the bottom of your vessel and suck out as much water as possible. Now leave your terrarium in a bright place with good air flow, but not in direct sun, and let it dry out. Then start watering your plants again once things have dried – it’s normal that some parts of the plants die, it doesn’t mean the entire plant is dead. They’ll come back with love and time.
Let’s Talk About Death
Get Rid of the Dead Stuff: It’s totally natural for parts of your succulents to die. Some leaves, especially near the bottom will die sometimes as new ones grow from the top. It’s important that you try to remove the dead pieces so they don’t sit around and cause bacteria or rot near the roots. Long tweezers come in handy for this and you can get a really nice pair of tweezers as part of our Terrarium Tool Kit.
A whole plant dies: If an entire plant dies, don’t cry, dry your eye. Be sure you pull that dead plant out promptly. Afterward, you can get replacement plants from our Succulent Threesome or Succulent Six Pack or get single ones at your local garden center. It happens sometimes, don’t be sad. You may also have pests if you see little white fuzzy dots form on your plants. We have a whole post about how to deal with pests called “Pests in Your Succulents? Here’s What You Need to Know.”
All the plants look weak and flimsy: After several months, if you notice your plants looking flimsy and thin, it’s probably because they need more light or more food. Because they’re planted within such a small space, terrarium succulents may use up the nutrients in the soil. We recommend giving them a mild plant food like our Juicykits Plant Food to replenish the soil with goodies. Our plant food formula is gentle on the roots of these small plants, unlike heavy-duty stuff like Miracle Gro, which is made for house and garden plants that need a lot more food and water, as it could cause chemical burns to your succulents’ roots. Feed your plants once a month most of the year and once every two weeks in the summer time, when they’re growing like crazy. Remember this: When you feed your succulents and cacti with plant food, they’ll want to grow faster. And if they have little sunlight, they will grow faster upwards in search of light. If they’re getting plenty of sun from a bright window most of the day, they will remain short and chubby. Our preference is to give plants less food and more sun. This also brings out the color in the leaves – more about that in this post about artificial lighting for succulents.
Other helpful articles on Juicykits.com:
How to Assemble a Juicykits.com Terrarium Kit
3 Tips for Watering Succulents & Terrariums
Pests in Your Succulents? Here’s What You Need to Know
Grow Light Basics: Artificial Lighting for Succulents & Cacti
How To Repot A Succulent In 1 Minute
The Basics of Succulent Bonsai
How to Care for Air Plants
Hopefully this helps you understand how to look after your succulents. If you gave a Juicykits.com terrarium kit to someone as a gift, make sure you send them this article to help them keep their juicies happy. Share the article using the social media links below. Ready to make your own succulent terrarium? Check out our shop for DIY Terrarium Kits.
~ Juicy Team