1. Sunlight- Succulents need light! I know we all have the perfect spot picked out for our beautiful succulent, and it just looks perfect. But… the perfect spot for your decor may not be the perfect spot for your succulent. South facing windows provide the best light throughout the day. Other windows work as well. Watch your , they will tell you if they are happy. If you see them start to get “leggy” or stringy then move them to a different location with more light. Keep in mind, you can always move your terrarium or pots to the perfect spot when entertaining guests or generally showing off!
If you dream of your succulent sitting at your office cubicle with no light… there are things that you can do. A simple desk lamp with a grow light-bulb (available at all home improvement stores) will do the trick. We have successfully kept succulents happy and healthy (along with orchids and other plants) with this simple setup. We use a $3.00 timer as well to operate the lamp during times we are not in the office.
In the winter time, most succulents will slow down and move towards dormancy. They will adapt to the light of the shorter day. You will also want to slow down the watering during the winter months.
2. Watering- A recent study suggests that up to 90% of succulent homicide involves overwatering (all statistics are completely made up!). Think of succulents as cacti (all cacti are succulents but not all succulents are cacti) naturally found in the desert. They thrive when water is stressed. We recommend that you water generously, then wait until the soil has completely dried out and then water thoroughly again. It does rain in the desert, just not very often! My other rule of thumb is “When in doubt, let them drought!”.
For terrariums noticing dry soil is relatively easy since you see the soil in the container. In potted arrangements it can be more difficult. We use the feel test. After watering, lift up your pot and notice the weight. Use this as a barometer on when your soil is dry. If you are a little unsure, wait a couple days just to be safe!
Your succulents will also tell you when they need water. Rossettes from sempervivums will change shape, and their leaves (petals) will start to dry out, especially the older growth around the bottoms. If it becomes an eyesore, and for good maintenance, you can pull the dried leaves off the plants. Fleshier succulents will start to get a slightly shriveled texture. Some of the larger leaved succulents may even start to fold. The great thing about succulents is they are very forgiving. If you notice a succulent in need of water, don’t overcompensate, just give it what you usually would. It is common for us to feel guilty about our neglect (even though our succulents have already forgiven us) and go overboard… this generally results in succulent death…
If you accidentally over water, make sure you allow as much air flow as possible into your terrarium to get fast evaporation. Also, consider removing your plants and repotting in a cacti soil.
Pest Control- It is common for terrariums to build up some algae and fungus which then results in little black fungus gnats. The remedy that we recommend is simple, safe, and non toxic. Pick up 3% Hydrogen Peroxide from your local drug store. Mix it with water at 2 cups in a gallon of water and use this mixture to water as you typically would. Hydrogen peroxide will attack the fungus and the gnat eggs in your terrarium. Since the gnats have a very short lifespan, you will notice their absence in a couple days. If the problem persists, continue watering with the hydrogen peroxide-water solution until the problem is corrected. They hydrogen peroxide is also great for your succulent roots, it provides extra oxygen to the roots thus providing a win-win for your plants and pest management.