Make Your Own Terrarium Make Your Own Terrarium

What You'll Need
Glass container
Crushed river gravel, broken pottery
Sand, peat moss, and loam
Watering can

Terrariums are self contained ecosystems that can be as small as a mason jar or as large as a bio-dome. They're also nifty creations that spruce up boring office desks or add just the right touch to lackluster shelves and tables. Regardless of the placement, terrariums are sure to be eye-catching to any passerby. Just like watching fish swim around in an aquarium, we get to watch plants grow from the roots up in a homemade terrarium.

Step 1 - Choose a Container

When choosing the right container for creating your terrarium it's important to remember the A) lighting, B) opening of the container, C) harmony of the plants, D) cleanliness.

Your best bet is to pick a clear glass container such as a fish bowl, goblet, or an old-fashioned candy jar. This allows enough lighting into the terrarium for growth. Do not use cloudy or colored glass. It will filter the light and cause damage to the health of the plants.

Terrariums fall into two categories: open or closed. If open, the terrarium can deal with some direct sunlight. If closed, then they should be faced towards bright light, but not placed directly in the sun. The opening of the container should be wide enough to have room to place soil and plants. Also, be aware that all the plants used should have the same environmental needs such as humidity, water, and lighting. Finally, make sure the glass container is clean. This will prevent bacteria from growing.

Step 2 - Promote Drainage

Since a terrarium is a glass container, it will not have holes to promote drainage. So to protect the roots of the plants, there must be a drainage source placed at the bottom of terrarium. Crushed river gravel, small stones, broken pottery, or moss are excellent materials to use. One to 4 inches of drainage material is suggested (depending on the height of the container).

Step 3 - Choose the Soil

Place charcoal on top of the drainage layer. This will keep the soil nice and fresh. The soil used in the terrarium really just depends on what kind of plants will be used, such as cacti or succulents versus bulbs. Ordinary garden soils should not be used alone because they're too heavy for plants in a terrarium to grow well. A good idea is to have a mixture of sand, peat moss, and loam. Go heavy on the planting medium in order to create a “hole” for the root ball of the plants. Make sure the soil is compact and squash all air pockets.

Step 4 - Choose the Plants

Choose plants that will grow slowly and make sure they have enough room. Plants that thrive well in terrariums are natives such as ferns, wintergreens, and wood betony; seedling trees such as Hemlock, Juniper, and White Pine; and lastly, tropical’s such as African Violets, Strawberry Begonias, and Ivy. Always add the biggest plant first (either at the center or at a corner) and then surround it with the smaller pants.

Creating Unique Terrariums

Some ideas to make your terrarium even more unique are to use light bulbs or mason jars to place small plants in. You could use different sizes of jars or light bulbs ascending in height next to each other for a unique collection. An old glass coffee pot is another suggestion. One conspicuous way to show off your terrarium is to hang it in a window or in a corner of a room. Really have fun with it by placing rocks or figurines inside.

Make Your own Terrarium

Tips On Caring For Terrariums


  • Closed-top terrariums should never be placed above radiators or in direct sunlight.

  • A newly planted terrarium should get a week of rest in the shade. Adjust light accordingly to the plants. Artificial light can be used.

  • Make sure the plant does not have too much or too little light.


  • Closed terrariums should rarely ever need watering.

  • Watering open terrariums really depends on what the plants growing prefer, but the soil should always be moist.

  • Too much watering will cause mold and plant decay. If signs of mold should occur, it could mean A) too much water, B) not enough air circulation or C) certain plants are not doing well in closed terrariums.


  • Always keep the container clean and watch out for signs of algae, which may cover the glass. Keep an eye on dead leaves and blossoms - these will cause fungi within the terrarium.

Creating a terrarium is another way to give an organic touch to your home or office. They're not a lot of fuss and open terrariums boost oxygen in the room. They definitely show off your ability to design using the best source of material: the earth’s plants. Let your gardening and artistic senses collide and just have fun.

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