Terrarium Succulent Care: Signs of Over/Underwatering

Plants can die when they're overwatered or underwater. It's important to check your succulents often during the hot summer months and look out for signs that they might need a little help.
A person spraying water to a Open Terrarium.

Creating a succulent terrarium is a great way to bring the beauty of nature indoors. However, it’s important to remember that succulents are very sensitive to water and must be watered appropriately to thrive. While most succulent terrarium ecosystems operate on a fine balance, you must remember that too much or too little water can have dire consequences. Too much water can accelerate mold growth, while too little water can cause your plants to become dry and brittle. Fortunately, some common signs can indicate whether your succulents are being overwatered or underwatered.

So, what are some common signs of overwatering and underwatering in a succulent terrarium? Signs of overwatering include yellowing of leaves that eventually fall off, mushy stems and leaves, foul odor from the soil, soaking wet substrate, mold growth, and plant rot. On the other hand, signs of underwatering include dry and crispy leaves, dry soil, shrinking or shriveled plants, and stunted growth.

This blog post outlines the common signs of overwatering and underwatering succulents in a terrarium to help keep your plants healthy and thriving. Read on to learn more.

How Often Should I Water My Succulent Terrarium?

Before we dive into the signs of overwatering and underwatering in a succulent terrarium, it is crucial to know how often you should water your plants.

Generally, most succulents must be watered about once a week during the active growing season – from spring through fall. They may need to be watered even less frequently during winter.

A person watering the plant in the terrarium.
Monitor your terrarium plants carefully ensuring they are not drying out too quickly.

To avoid overwatering and underwatering your succulents, it’s important to check the soil before watering. Stick your finger into the soil; if it feels dry to touch, it is ready for the water.

Another critical factor determining how often to water your succulent terrarium is the type of plants you have.

Everything depends on the succulent species since some are more tolerant to drought and can go for weeks without water.

Other species, however, may require frequent watering – especially during the summer months.

Note that succulents in terrariums tend to dry out faster than those planted in the ground because they don’t have access to moisture from the ground.

Therefore, monitoring your terrarium plants carefully ensures they are not drying out too quickly.

The proper watering technique involves spraying water to the sides of the plants and on the substrate. Avoid pouring water directly on your succulents because it may cause irreversible damage.

Remember that the time you choose to water your terrarium is also essential. Avoid watering your succulents late in the evening because the lack of sunlight will make it hard for them to dry off quickly, and this can lead to mold growth or root rot.

Signs of an Overwatered Terrarium

Now that you know how often to water your succulent terrarium, let’s talk about the signs of overwatering.

1. Mold Growth

Mold is a fungus that grows in areas with much moisture and plenty of organic material to digest. Mold on its own is not harmful to your plants but more of a nuisance to the beauty of your terrarium.

However, it could indicate bigger problems you must deal with as soon as possible.

If you start noticing signs of mold growth in your terrarium, it could mean you are overwatering your succulents.

The mold growth issue may also arise if you need a proper drainage layer in your terrarium that helps water drain away from your substrate.

A woman brushing the plant in the terrarium.
Mold on its own is not harmful to your plants but more of a nuisance to the beauty of your terrarium.

Ideally, you should address the issue of mold growth as fast as possible before it spreads to other parts of the terrarium and create a bigger mess that will be hard to deal with.

To deal with the issue of mold growth, consider reducing the water levels in your succulent terrarium. Once the water levels stabilize, the mold should start to die on its own.

If it doesn’t work, spray some fungicide around your succulent terrarium to suffocate and kill the mold.

Building your terrarium with a drainage layer that allows it to drain away from the soil is one of the best preventive measures to stop mold growth.

2. Unpleasant Odors

If your succulent terrarium produces an odd smell that you don’t like, it could be a sign that it is being overwatered.

The smell is usually caused by bacteria and fungi growing in the moist soil of a terrarium, which can be very unpleasant.

To eliminate the unpleasant odors from your succulent terrarium, consider reducing the water levels and allowing the soil to dry out.

Add activated charcoal or perlite to your terrarium to help absorb any excess moisture.

Once you have better control over how much you are watering your plants, the smell should reduce significantly.

3. Yellowing Leaves

Yellow leaves are among the most common signs of overwatering in a succulent terrarium. Leaving your plants soaking in water for too long can cause their roots to rot and ultimately lead to their death.

A dry yellow leaf.
Yellow leaves are among the most common signs of overwatering.

If you notice yellowing leaves on your succulent terrarium plants, it’s important to stop watering them and allow the soil to dry out as soon as possible.

You should also move your succulents to a slightly drier environment and ensure you are not placing them too close together, which can cause moisture levels to increase.

4. Plant Rot

Rotting roots and stems is another sign of overwatering. Rotting roots will appear brown or black depending on the extent of the damage.

If you notice any signs of rotting in your succulent terrarium plants, it’s important to stop watering them and let the soil dry out as much as possible.

If the roots are still salvageable, try repotting them in a fresh potting mix and give them some extra light and air circulation to help them heal.

Signs of an Underwatered Succulent Terrarium

Like overwatering, underwatering can also have a detrimental effect on your succulent terrarium. Here are some signs of underwatering that you should look out for:

1. Dry Soil

One of the most obvious signs of an underwatered terrarium is dry soil in the container and around the plants. If you notice that the soil in your terrarium is dry, it’s time to add more water.

Remember that most succulent terrariums house tropical plants that require soil with relatively high water retention but excellent drainage. So, your terrarium soil should never be dry if you want to achieve good results.

The simplest way of testing for soil dryness is dipping your finger into the soil and feeling it.

A nerve plant in a closed terrarium.
If you notice that the soil in your terrarium is dry, it’s time to add more water.

If the soil feels dry to the touch, consider watering your succulents. The primary objective is to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Check the condensation levels against the glass to avoid getting your fingers dirty.

A relatively moist substrate will clearly show beads of condensation around the glass, which means your terrarium is healthy and well-watered.

If there is no condensation or very little moisture, consider adding water to your succulent terrarium immediately.

Alternatively, purchase a moisture meter from a garden center and check the soil moisture levels with it.

This is one of the most accurate and easiest ways of determining whether your succulent terrarium needs watering.

2. Wilting Leaves

Another sign of an underwatered succulent terrarium is wilting leaves. When a plant doesn’t get enough water, the leaves start to sag and look lifeless.

If you notice this happening in your terrarium, it’s time to water your succulents.

The leaves may also become crispy and dry if the plants don’t receive enough moisture in good time. This is particularly common in succulents with large, fleshy leaves, such as Haworthias or Crassulas.

However, it’s important to note that the wilted leaves could also be caused by other factors, such as too much direct sunlight or a lack of nutrients, so you should always check for any additional signs of underwatering before adding more water to your terrarium.

3. No Visible Condensation

It is more than just the soil level that should show condensation. Typically, a closed succulent terrarium with an adequate water cycle should display condensation on the glass.

If you can’t see condensation forming on the upper parts of your terrarium, it is a sign that your succulent plants are not getting enough water.

A two closed terrarium.
A closed succulent terrarium with an adequate water cycle should display condensation on the glass.

Consider adding more water to prevent dehydration and wilting of leaves in your terrarium.

4. Stunted Growth

Finally, underwatered succulent terrariums can also show signs of stunted growth. When plants don’t get enough water, they won’t grow or thrive as well as they should.

If your succulents are not growing at the normal rate, your terrarium probably has an insufficient water supply. Consider adding more water to help them grow and thrive better.

Final Thoughts

With the right level of care and attention, you can easily avoid the issue of overwatering or underwatering in your succulent terrarium. Watch out for the signs we mentioned above, and be sure to address any problems as soon as they arise.

Last update on 2023-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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