How To Build A Dry Terrarium

Here is our step by step guide to building your own desert style terrarium. All the materials you'll need are available to buy individually from our shops, or as a terrarium building set. See our video demonstration with Forest’s resident plant expert, Maddie, below!


You will need:

  • An open top/fronted terrarium
  • A selection of 3 – 5 mini succulents (depending on the size of your terrarium)
  • Cactus compost or other free draining soil
  • Stones/gravel for drainage and decoration (optional)
  • Decorative moss (optional)
  • A dessert spoon and teaspoon



  1. Fill the bottom of your terrarium with small stones or gravel, roughly 1-2cm deep, for drainage.
  2. Aerate your cactus compost and use it to fill your terrarium to about 1-2cm below the top edge/opening.
  3. Take one of your succulents and remove it from it’s pot. Gently loosen the roots and most of the compost in preparation for planting. This will encourage root growth.
  4. Make a whole in the compost where you want your succulent to sit in the terrarium, roughly the same size as the root ball, and gently place the plant it. Cover the roots with compost and use your fingers or a teaspoon to firm the compost around the stem.
  5. Repeat this process with the other two succulents, leaving space between the plants to allow for growth and good air flow. This will help prevent a build up of humidity between the plants, which could lead to rot.
  6. Once the plants are firmly in place, carefully add the decorative stones and moss on top of the compost using a spoon.
  7. Water around the base of each plant to help them settle into their new soil.



Once you’ve finished your dry terrarium, place it in a spot with lots of bright light - preferably direct. Check every couple of weeks to see if the soil has dried out (you should be able to tell through the glass), and once fully dried, water lightly around the base of each plant. Avoid misting your terrarium as a build up of humidity in desert style terrariums can cause your plants to rot.

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