Terrarium Talk with Haley

Perhaps you have noticed that Stash likes plants. Okay, so maybe we love plants, or even obsess over them, talk to them, and play them only the illest beats while we are in the shop. It's just our way of saying, "Thank you for staying alive and providing us with oxygen to breathe."

Both Haley and Anela have been dabbling in terrarium and container gardening for years, so Haley wanted to share some information about her process and what she's learned. Let's have her start from the beginning...

One of Haley's terrariums, a 3-year-old succulent terrarium. Succulents need different care than other types of plants (read more below).

One of Haley's terrariums, a 3-year-old succulent terrarium. Succulents need different care than other types of plants (read more below).




The first step is to get all of your supplies out on a surface that you don't mind getting a little dirty. I usually prefer to work outside, but in the winter, indoor gardening can provide some relief from cabin fever. You can always lay out newspaper to assist with clean up. My supplies, from left to right, are: sphagnum moss, horticultural charcoal, potting soil, pebbles, a container, plants, and water.

I get a lot of my supplies from local garden stores and nurseries. My favorites are Davis Florist in Harrisburg, Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse in Mechanicsburg, and Terrain outside of Philadelphia. At the PA Farm Show's farmer's market there are some sweet ladies that sell beautiful succulents, and one of my favorite native plant nurseries, Perennial Gardens, has a stand there, too. They are open Tuesdays and Fridays starting in May. You can also order these supplies online.


Choose the right container for your terrarium. I try to find many of my containers at thrift stores and yard sales. Really any bowl shape can become a terrarium, so get creative. This particular container is from Target, because I just couldn't resist the geometry. It isn't water safe, meaning it will leak, but I don't mind giving it a good soak in the sink and letting it drain. If you are using a sealed container with a lid, allow the plants some time to adjust to their new ecosystem. Remove the lid when you see excess condensation, and allow the plant to breathe. Eventually it will adjust to a proper humidity and rarely need watered. Succulents do not do well in a closed terrarium unless there is drainage.


If you are using a container without drainage, charcoal is a must. It helps absorb and remove sulfur and other waste the plants will eliminate after watering. It holds those contaminants away from the roots so that rot and salt burn do not occur. You can add a few layers of pebbles with the charcoal in between to create a nice barrier for your soil.


There are two types of terrariums I make: Succulents and Non-Succulents. They call for, comparatively, sun vs. partial-sun and dry vs. moist soil. The terrarium I am creating uses plants that enjoy moisture and bright yet indirect sunlight. With this moisture loving terrarium, having the drainage will not hinder these plants, but I will need to water and mist it more often. Succulent terrariums without drainage are very easy to over water. While they can still thrive and last for years, you should only water when the soil is totally dried out.

Start small with plants that have small root systems. I have also been successful in propagating some of the plants in my older terrariums, and it keeps them from growing too large and taking over. You can always search online for the best way to propagate your specific plant.


Add a base of soil, at least two inches. Remove your little buddies from their containers and give the roots a few pinches over the container to loosen the root ball and release some excess soil. Arrange the plants inside the terrarium. If you are making a cactus terrarium, use those gloves! Consider the way the plants will grow when positioning them. Will they grow tall? Are they vine-like? Will they creep into one another?

After composing your plants, carefully add another layer of soil to totally cover the the roots.


Cover your plants with decorative pebbles or sand if it is a succulent. If it is moisture-loving like this one, you can use some sphagnum moss and/or pebbles. The moss enjoys ample misting to keep its green shade. As long as the plants weren't overly watered prior to repotting, give your terrarium a nice bath. Just enough to moisten the soil if there is no drainage.  I love to include tiny found trinkets in my terrariums. Many are totems from my childhood, crystals and special stones,  or any sort of animal figurine I can find to create a tiny fantasy world.


You can usually tell if your terrarium is going to make it with in the first few weeks. Sometimes damage has been done to a plant before it even got to you. Beware of overly soaked succulents from bigger stores like Home Depot and Lowes -- sometimes those little dudes never had a chance! As you care for your terrarium, take into account the direction of your window light. Plants love south-facing windows. Use your finger or a stick to check the soil's moisture level before watering. After a year you can begin to add small amounts of liquid fertilizer when watering during the warm seasons. Always remember to send positive vibes and intentions to your new friends.

all photos by    Haley Harned

all photos by Haley Harned