'C' for Crafts Crafty (& Handy) Projects

How To Make A Succulent Sea Terrarium

by Andrea

My daughter turned seven last week and requested a mermaid themed pool party. While color schemes, garland and paper pom poms are an important part of a birthday bash, in our home the craft station is usually a large focus as well. My kids love arts and crafts time, and so I wanted to come up with something that would be a hybrid of things that we all loved, with some attention to design. My goal was not to create more clutter for the kids to bring home, but to help them all create something sweet and simple that they would hopefully be able to display at home for awhile. Thus, the succulent sea terrarium craft was born. The kids terrariums came out so pretty that I had to create a few “grown up” versions for myself.

I chose succulents as the focal point in the terrariums because even though they are really dry, desert dwellers, their shape and color also remind me of algae and seaweed you would find in the ocean.  I selected tall, spiny looking succulents for the arrangements, with a few grass-like ground covers as well, to represent algae.  The glass globes were picked up at a local craft store and although they are technically meant to be votive holders, their shape remind me of old glass fishing balls.  In addition you will need some coarse sand and cactus soil.

I wanted the terrariums to have a sandy soil to mimic the bottom of the ocean, however since succulents need some kind of organic rich soil, they most likely would not survive in pure sand.  So I created a sandy bottom with a little crater for some cactus soil to rest in.  We, well mainly my husband, has been growing succulents for over 10 years now.  He likes to claim that he loved succulents before they were cool.  All this to say that we’ve had a lot of experience growing, and sometimes failing at growing succulents.  We started out using regular potting soil, but have found that the more arid cactus soil works much better, allowing good drainage and circulation for the succulents. So once you’ve laid out your sandy bottom and base of cactus soil, you’re ready to start planting.

The nice thing about working with succulents is their shallow root system and how little soil they really require to survive.  If some of your plants are a bit too large for your vessel, you can simply trim off a bit of the root or some of the leaves and stick them right in the soil.  I’ve read that dipping your succulents in a rooting hormone before planting helps encourage growth, but I’ve never used it and have always had great luck.  It’s always an option though in case you’re a little nervous.  Once you’ve got your planting done, gently add in a bit more sand to cover up the cactus soil.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact I think it looks quite nice having a bit of the soil peeking through the sand.

If you wish you can add a little mermaid or two, and some pretty rocks or shells to complete your seascape. The miniature mermaids are actually cocktail drink markers I found online and spray painted them white to be a bit more sophisticated.

The final result is pretty little terrarium that combines my daughter’s love of all things mermaid related, my husband’s love of succulents, and my love of good design.  To care for your succulents, simply add just a touch of water every other day for 2-3 weeks to get them started.  After that, a light watering once a week should do the trick.  In small vessels like this I’ve had my succulents last for at least 9 months, but of course play it by ear and know that you may have to refresh your plantings every once in a while.  Succulents are easy to care for, but they’re not completely maintenance free.  If they do in fact grow you will have to transplant them.

And in case you’re interested, for the kid’s terrariums we used quart size mason jars for the vessels, and I left the mermaids their original color.  We set the table up outside and let them each create their own fantasy mermaid world, and they loved packing their jars with as many shells, stones, and brightly colored mermaids as they could fit.

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  • Holly
    April 25, 2012 at 10:48 am

    This is so awesome! I love that your kids’ stuff is fun but still stylish. :)

  • Jules
    April 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I thought this was such a great idea for a kids party when I read about it on your blog, but I especially love how you’ve made it sophisticated for adults, too.

  • Sandra
    April 25, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Perfect craft for a party – love that you thought about something that wasn’t just more “stuff’ for the kids to drag home and never look at again. Can I come to the next one?

  • Adriana
    April 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Gorgeous! This is definitely a craft project I would want to bring home and display!

  • Caitlin
    April 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

    This is SO Brilliant!

  • Sarah
    April 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Nice! I like the twist of using the beach sand and adding the mermaid =)

    • gbet63
      February 19, 2016 at 11:12 am

      Are you aware that using beach sand is dangerous for the plants because of the salt in beach sand. Use regular sand like from a construction site.

  • Mallory
    April 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    What is that nail polish!?!? I MUST have it!

    • Andrea Howe
      April 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Essie Mint Candy Apple :) I love it sooo much!

      • Christina W.
        April 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        I was just about to ask the same thing!

  • Jennifer
    April 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    ANDREA, that looks beautiful.

    NICOLE, would it be possible to have some kind of icon or something else near the top denoting that certain posts are guest posts? I know it says “by Andrea” but my eye kind of skims over the small pink type. It’s a bit jarring to read a post expecting it to be by you and then hit something that makes it clear it’s not actually you.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Yes, I’m looking into it. I know, the “my daughter turned seven” could be a little, “huh?” ;)

  • Miss B.
    April 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    So posh for a kids party;)

  • Christine Leos
    April 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Andrea, they turned out gorgeous!!

  • Ali
    April 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    So cool! Love the idea! :)

    ~ Ali

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  • HelloDoorSeven
    April 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

    This is something I am going to do as soon as I can! :)

  • Jillian@TheHumbleGourmet
    April 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

    This is the most fantastic craft idea! So fun, but still something that won’t just be trashed once the party is over.

  • Brittany Lauren
    April 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    That’s fantastic — I’ve always wanted to throw a mermaid party :) P.S. Your nailpolish is AWESOME!

    • Andrea Howe
      April 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      thanks Brittany :) It’s by Essie – Mint Candy Apple.

  • jess lonett
    April 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    is turning 26th still acceptable for having a mermaid themed birthday party?

  • Emily @ Piece of Reece
    April 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Very cute!

    Also, I am totally digging the color of your shirt + the color of your nail polish!

  • Amanda
    April 26, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Andrea, where is your ring from? It is gorgeous!

    • Andrea Howe
      April 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Awww, thank you so much! It’s by jewelry designer Kwiat and my husband got it at Nordstrom 3 years ago for our 10 year anniversary. I wear it now in place of my wedding/engagement ring.

  • Holiday Party SOS
    April 27, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Thank you. I am always looking fro Earth Day Projects. This is a really good one.

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  • Leanne
    May 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I bet this was an awesome tutorial but I just couldn’t concentrate on it because I was so distracted by your fabulous nail polish! Then I read through the comments and saw I was not the only one ;)

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  • Ava
    June 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Wow! These are beautiful little terrariums. Thanks for the great tutorial.

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    August 21, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I really love the glass globes! And thanks for sharing all of these! Such an inspiration :)

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  • Aparna
    October 26, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    It’s lovely….and iam going to make it for my daughter very soon

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