What are succulent plants?


Succulent plants grow wild in dry, hot, sunny places.  They have evolved to have very thick leaves which can store water and help they survive long periods of drought. There are a wide range of succulent plants available to grow inside in the UK in Terrariums; they include Aloe, Echeveria, Sedum, Crassula and Haworthia, to name a few!  They are all evergreen and so stay green all year – flowering in the spring or summer.  But not all have green leaves you can buy succulents with silver, pink, grey, red or orange leaves.

Aloe, Sedum, Crassula, Echeveria

Aloe, Sedum, Crassula, Echeveria

Caring for Succulent Plants Indoors

To keep your succulents looking good try to mimic a dessert environment in your terrarium – put them somewhere sunny (but not full sun all day) and don’t give them too much water.  You are more likely to kill them by over watering (and causing rot) rather than under watering them.  Only water them when the soil/sand they are in has completely dried out.  Check this with your fingers.  Then add enough water to soak the soil/sand, but not too much so there is excess water sitting in the terrarium.  Use a baster/syringe or small watering can to direct the water at the soil; try not to wet the leaves.  If in doubt give less water or you’ll drown the plants.  After watering let the soil/sand dry out completely again – usually between 7 & 10 days.

Your succulents will grow during the spring and summer and so need regular watering, but in the winter, when they are dormant, you should leave twice as long between waterings (14 – 20 days).

Keep your terrarium clean by removing any dead leaves and cutting off the flowering stalks when they have finished.

Watch out for:

  • Elongated stem growth (insufficient light – so put them in a sunnier spot)
  • Brown or crisp foliage (burnt by too much sun – move them to a less hot & sunny place)
  • Shrivelled leaves (insufficient watering)
  • Rotten roots (too much watering)


These plants are slow growing and should be happy in their terrarium for a few years, but when they out-grow the container you can take them out and replant them into a larger glass or ceramic container.  Remember to use a special ‘Cactus or Succulent’ Compost that has good drainage and add grit or sand on the top to prevent the leaves getting wet (try e-cocoProducts.co.uk).


Collecting or growing new Succulents


If you’d like to make more terrariums or increase your collection of plants you can buy from a great selection at surrealsucculents.co.uk.   Or you can propagate your own plants.  Seeds are available online, but it is very easy to create new plants from the leaves of your succulents.

Select a large, healthy leaf from your plant and remove it from the stem using sharp fingernails or small scissors.  Take care not to damage the stem or leaf.

Lie the leaf on a clean piece of white paper and put it somewhere dry, sunny and warm for at least a week.  This allows the end of the leaf to develop a protective layer over the cut.

Then you should lay the leaf on the surface of a shallow tray of Cactus & Succulent compost which has already been watered.  Put the tray in a warm and sunny place and leave it undisturbed for several weeks.  Just check the compost and add a little more water if the surface is dried out, but make sure you don’t disturbs the leaf.  After a several days the leaf will sent out fine, hair-like roots and then start to grow a new plant out of the end of the leaf.

Leave the new plant to grow and develop without disturbing it and when it is at least 1.5cm in diameter you can lift the old leaf and new plant and put them into a small separate pot of Cactus & Succulent Compost.  When the ‘parent’ leaf shrivels you can remove it from the new plant.

If you find that one of your succulents have become to ‘leggy’ with a long, droopy stem (this can happen to Echeverias that don’t have enough sunlight).  You can refresh the plant but cutting off the long stem, removing the lower leaves and leaving it on white paper for at least a week.  When the hair-like roots start to develop along the stem you can replant the stem into a pot of Cactus & Succulent compost so the rosette of leaves is near the surface of the compost again.

Propagating succulents

Propagating Succulent plants from leaves

Terrarium Workshops

I regularly run Terrarium Workshops around Manchester and Lancashire see here for the current dates or get in touch with me to arrange a private Terrarium party or event for a club or group.