Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Christmas FO: Succulent Orbs Tutorial (Great Budget Gift)

I always struggle with what to give friends for Christmas that I will be able to afford - a limited budget + a large family really doesn't leave much available for friends that you want to acknowledge. This gift was months in the making, but I am really pleased with how it turned out so I figured I would share so others can do the same thing for fun and thoughtful gifts on a budget :)
This all began with my love of succulents. I love succulent gardening and I have amassed a decent little collection that I've been able to keep alive quite some time. Once I learned how to sprout succulents myself, I went totally nuts. I was walking through the garden center of Lowes or Home Depot one day and noticed all these dropped succulent leaves on the ground, then I saw a pile get swept up and thrown away by an employee. It was so sad! All those little potential plants just thrown out. I decided right then to save these cast off leaves from their fate and take them home to sprout my own plants. This obviously takes much longer to have a good sized plant, but it's worth the wait just for the personal pride you get from growing them 100% yourself :)

Next we add to the equation my love of Chinese ebay stores. I like to find a random store and just look through its random contents to see what I can find. That's how I came across these orbs. I originally bought a few for myself because I thought I would put little knitted scenes in them (which never happened), but eventually I had the idea to use them as planters for my little succulent sprouts. Succulents grow easily but very slowly (most of them), so these orbs are an ideal little terrarium when the plants are small. To make it even better, these orbs were something like $1.25 USD each, shipping and everything.

I don't know exactly when the two ideas combined into a gift, but I found myself ordering 12 of the glass orbs back in September to make sure I would have them in time for Christmas (shipping can take up to a month sometimes - the one draw back). Around the same time I started hunting for sproutable succulent leaves again and I started a whole tray full (all you do is spread some dirt on a plate, stick the leaves just barely in the dirt, and then keep it moist but not sopping and you will have roots in a week or so). I waited until early December to transport the best looking sprouts into their new digs, hoping they would be bigger this way. About a week before I was giving them out, I set out all my supplies and put them together.

Supplies you'll need:
  • Fish tank rocks - I grabbed a bag of white aquarium rock at Walmart for $4.50 and that turned out to be way too much. I've also seen these rocks for sale at the Dollar Tree in the floral section and these would have more than enough rocks for 12 orbs. I rinsed my rocks out just to make sure nothing would contaminate the plants.
  • Good potting mix - I like to use Miracle Grow Moisture Control, but really even moss or sand should work. Just use what you have on hand or in your yard.
  • Sprouted succulent leaves - find pieces that have dropped off larger plants - you can find them at any garden center or even around landscaping as these can easily detach.
  • Glass orbs - I recommend buying direct from China through ebay like this. You can find these orbs from US stores and sellers, but they are easily $5 or more each. Plan ahead and get them from the source. 
  • Hanging cord - I went with some green jute I had on hand, but any sturdy cord will work.
  • Baker's twine - if you want to make pretty bows to make them more gift-y, this is a simple way to do it. You can really use any type of ribbon that you prefer as well.
How to assemble:
1. Spoon a thin layer of aquarium rock in the bottom of each orb. This helps in water drainage as well as giving the planter some weight so it won't swing in the wind as badly.
2. Spoon a thin layer of potting soil over the rock layer - I try to get my dirt in an even layer up to the bottom of the opening in the front of each orb. This gives the plants enough soil to grow on for a good amount of time.
3. Carefully unearth your succulent sprouts and re-pot them in the orbs. I try to make sure the roots are covered with a thin layer of soil, but even if they stick out a bit it's ok. If you can't bury your roots, just keep your orb out of direct sun. Give each plant a little bit of water - I like to use a small spray bottle and angle it into the soil, but you can also carefully pour water in. Be very careful to not water too much - if the plant is floating, you should pour some out.
4. Measure out cord and give each orb a hanger - I tied an overhand knot and cut off the excess. Make sure to keep in mind how much you want the orbs to dangle and make them consistent.

5. Add bows out of baker's twine or ribbon of your choice at the hanging loop.
Et voilĂ ! Adorable hanging terrariums that only cost about $1.50 each :) I liked these so much I made a few for myself to keep :) I hung them on the hooks of a metal candle holder I've had since high school and they just look so cute! You can be a little experimental with these - add a painted rock with a message or use multiple succulent sprouts to give a bit more depth and interest. Write Merry Christmas on a small piece of paper, glue it to half a toothpick, and insert your sign next to your sprout. If you're good at hand lettering, white your recipient's name on the outside. Lots of fun options, and all of them make these even more personal. I made these for all the members of the singing groups I am in, and they were a big hit.
I continue making these periodically because you never know when you will need a quick, yet cute and personal gift. I have several of these around my house and they are really fun. They add just a nice touch to a window or on a plant hanger. I think they would look really neat strung up like a garland too. So many possibilities!

* None of these links are affiliate at all, I just wanted to share the deal :)

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