Build Your Own Terrarium

Photo courtesy of: Botany Factory

My current obsession is the terrarium – it’s a beautiful addition to any room in your home, and it provides the same joy you got from your dollhouse or hot wheels toys when you were a kid – anything miniature is just so fun! The terrarium is happening in a big way and it’s a great time to bring some foliage indoors in time for spring. Another great thing about them? You can use any vase or bowl and make one yourself! Plus, lucky for me, who didn’t inherit my mom’s green thumb, faux plants work well for a zero-maintenance version. Here are some tips on making your own (genuine) terrarium, courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

What You Will Need

• A glass container or other clear vessel with a large enough opening for placing plants inside
• Small stones for drainage (gravel, pebbles, broken pottery, or river rocks work well)
• Crushed charcoal
• Sand (different varieties optional)
• Soil
• Plants
• Fun landscaping accessories!
• A funnel and chopsticks (helpful tools for incorporating and maneuvering the different elements into containers with small openings)

Before You Begin

• Whether you choose to have an opened or closed terrarium, keep in mind that all plants should have the same environmental needs (i.e. succulents vs. cacti). If you want to grow sun-loving plants, an open container will work just fine. Plants that thrive in high levels of humidity should be placed in a closed container.
• Be sure you have selected soil appropriate to your desired plants.
• Choose slow-growing plants as to avoid overcrowding.


1. Clean container throughly to prevent bacteria from growing.
2. Begin by placing drainage at the bottom of the container.
3. Add a thin layer of crushed charcoal to help keep the soil fresh.
4. Incorporate different kinds of sand on top of the charcoal for a layered effect.
5. Add soil, making sure to create a hole large enough for the roots of each plant. Remember that creating uneven layers of sand and soil can look great, but pay close attention to the levels around the edges, as this is what you will see from outside the terrarium. Note: Steps 2 thru 4 should equal about one-third the height of your selected container.
6. Place plants into the soil, largest to smallest and lightly pack the soil. Do not overplant. Consider the negative space for other landscaping opportunities like dried flowers, groundcover, moss, geodes and/or small figurines.
7. Landscape! You are the designer.


• Water 1-2 times per week, watering only the live plants and avoiding mosses and dried flowers. For an open terrarium, the soil should always remain barely moist, never bone dry.
• Closed terrariums should almost never need watering.
• Prune back dead foliage or overgrown plants as needed to prevent rotting.
• Terrariums thrive in natural, indirect light. Avoid placing in direct sunlight or other hot areas as you can actually cook the plants or burn foliate that is touching the edges of the vessel.

Plant Recommendations 

• Low-light terrariums: Ferns, mosses, baby’s tears, fittonia peperomia, sanseveria, schefflera
• High-light terrariums (open containers): Cacti, succulents including jade, aloe, borro’s tail, earth stars, echeveria, haworthia, sedum

Have any of you made your own terrarium?

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