How to Care for Your Succulent Terrarium

Caring for your 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 terrarium: light, water, and death.

The Right Amount of Light

How to care for indoor succulent terrariumsYou 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.

Buy the Dayspot Grow Light Kit, full-spectrum artificial light for succulentsToo 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.


Grow Light Basics: Artificial Lighting for Succulents & Cacti >
Check out our grow light products >

The Right Amount of Water

What's the right amount of water for succulents?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.

Too little water: Plants look shriveled or the leaves wilt downwards. This happens commonly with younger varieties of super juicy succulents like the donkey tail or the jelly beans (pork and beans).

Juicykits Custom Terrarium Tool Kit for Succulent TerrariumsWhat 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.


3 DIY Tips for Watering Succulents & Terrariums >


Let’s Talk About Death

What to do when succulents die.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.

Plant food formula for succulents and cactiAll 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

How to Assemble a 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 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


20 thoughts on “How to Care for Your Succulent Terrarium

  1. MW says:

    Thank you for this advice. I bought a succulent terrarium at a Whole Foods store and wanted to make sure I don’t kill it. I do wonder what I’ll do when/if the plants grow much, because the terrarium narrows (and then flares out again) at the top. I may have to break it to get the plants out.

    • Bao says:

      Hi MW. The plants will likely stay shorter if you give them lots of light. If some grow tall, you can simply prune off the taller parts to force new stems to grow out horizontally. You’ll probably need some tools that will allow you to get into the terrarium container to do all this – we use a long spoon, tweezers, and even chopsticks and X-acto knives to get into tight places. If you’d like to email us a photo, we could check it out for you. info at :)

  2. maggie pen says:

    I have a giant variety of echeveria. the leaves used to curve upwards, now they curve down. it is in bud with pups started beneath leaves. why are they curving down? it doesn’t look as nice. maggie

    • Bao says:

      Hey Deanna,
      We like to roll a piece of paper towel around a chopstick or paintbrush, then use that to wipe the inside of the glass. It’s more effective for rounded glass if you use a lot of paper so that it’s more puffy. For tricky spots, we use Q-Tips or longer cotton swabs. Hope that helps!

  3. Shabeer says:

    hi Juicykits,

    First of all hats off such an explanatory tips about how to care succulent terrariums. You have explained it very well for giving proper light, water and care for these desert plants.

    I have been doing small gardening for some time, i ve one simple point to add. These plants hates humidity, if you choose a container with very narrow opening, that is going to create a small green house effect inside the pot. This high humidity will kill these catcti plants.

    I have feature blog where i ve collected few inspirations for making glass succulent terrarium to decorate home.

    Would you like to take a look at my article and feedback and suggestions are well appreciated

    here is the link :

    • Bao says:

      Hi Nancy. We recommend replacing plants that grow too large over time. It’s best for them to be in larger containers as they grow. Our terrariums usually stay the same size for at least a year before we move something out or replace a plant.

  4. Samantha Remaley says:

    I hope you will reply to this… I think I accidently over fed a few of my succulents and they are showing signs of chemical burn at the base. Is there anything I can do to save my plants? Also a few of my succulents have tiny round brown spots. Possibly fungi or a pest? But there are no pests on the plants. I’ve had many of my succulents for years and they’ve never done this. I did just move and had to move them which wasnt ideal.. thank you in advance. I love my plants and don’t want to lose them

    • Bao says:

      Hi Samantha,
      It’s possible that what looks like chemical burn could be a fungal infection instead. If it looks like tiny microscopic spots that are dark gray, it may be fungus. You can combat fungus using any mild fungicide from the garden store.

      The little brown spots, if they’re about 1 millimeter in diameter, may be scale insects – they are hard-shell bugs that suck the juices from your plants over time. It’s hard to get rid of them, but we have some tops here on our article “Pests in Your Succulents? Here’s What You Need to Know.” Hope that info helps you! Email us a photo to info (at) if you’d like us to take a look. :)

      • Samantha Remaley says:

        Bao, Thank you so much. You have no idea how much I appreciate your expertise. I truly do. I tried to email you photos but it said “invalid email” so I direct messaged you on your instagram. I hope to hear from you.

        • sandhiya says:

          hi hope you will reply to this…some of my succulents are started dying from bottom leaves..what should i do ? it will be helpful if i share photos with u.

  5. Burt Silver says:

    My wife and I don’t have room for a garden in our small apartment. We love plants though, so we have had the idea to fill a bunch of glass terrariums with plants we love and place them around our apartment. I didn’t think how to water succulents, I thought they didn’t need much. We will have to make sure that we water the soil till it is soaked, and then wait for it to dry before going again. Thanks for the help!

  6. Alexandra Thomson says:

    I set up my terrarium with charcoal and succulent soil that came in my kit. Do I need the charcoal or is it hurting my succulent plants. I leave the door open on my terrarium and I turn the terrarium around every week. I do not water the terrarium directly, I use my sprayer instead. Could you please advise me if I need to use the charcoal. My terrarium does not have a drain.

    • Team Juicy says:

      Hi Alexandra, sorry for late response.
      Charcoal doesn’t hurt succulents. It will help plants to live well. so you can use charcoal.
      For watering, if there is no drain, it is very important to water good enough, however not too much.
      If you water too little, succulents will not get any water. If you water too much, water will sit on bottom of pot, and it will rot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *