How to Make a DIY Terrarium


A terrarium is a great way to bring in some green plants all year long. You will find great satisfaction in arranging tiny plants and creating a landscape to your satisfaction. It is a great DIY project for all ages. A terrarium can be made of any transparent material that is also waterproof and can be easily covered.

You can use a purchased glass container, such as a fish aquarium, if it comes with a top. Many stores also have some unique shaped glass containers that make excellent terrariums. You may also use plastic containers, such as empty large coke containers, or glass candy jars.

"DIY Terrarium"

A DIY Terrarium is easy to make

Wash out the container that you are going to use and let it air dry so that the soil will not stick to the sides of the container. Most terrariums will thrive in indirect light, as sunlight will cook plants that are glassed in.

If you place a terrarium in a dark room, it will need several hours of artificial light. If you have fluorescent lights, use them over your terrarium. They are good light sources and are very economical.

To get a pleasing effect, try to include plants with different forms and textures. Use some that are creeping varieties and some that are bushy. You can also use rocks and pieces of driftwood to make an interesting terrarium topography.

A woodland terrarium might include such things as wintergreen, bearberry, and pipsissewa. A houseplant terrarium could have peperomias, fittonia and baby’s breath. Other types of plants that work well are episcia, small ferns, sedums, mosses, ground pine, and evergreen seedlings.

*Tip- Herbs do NOT do well in terrariums.

Steps to Make a Terrarium

1. Prepare a Base- use a layer of sphagum moss on the bottom of the container. Moss provides air spaces, absorbs water, and even exerts a mild antibiotic effect. Next, scatter a layer of sand or gravel over the moss. These materials improve the drainage of the water within your terrarium.

  • Next, add in a layer of charcoal chips on top of the sand. These will absorb impurities and provide a small supply of air.
  • Add a layer of Sterile commercial potting soil to reduce the possibility of mold forming.
  • The entire base should fill your container up to ¼, one quarter, of its height.

*Tip- make your soil at a slant to provide interest and to look more natural.

"Terrarium made from Aquarium"

Terrarium made from Fish Aquarium

2. Set the plants in place- This step should be done carefully. If your fingers get in the way, or you can’t reach in far enough, use long-handled tweezers or a straightened coat hanger with a loop on one end to maneuver each plant into its spot. An old spoon taped to an old stick makes a good miniature trowel.

  • Once the plants are in position, firm each of them down with a little more potting soil. Tamp the soil around them. Use a cork or thread spool to get into small areas more easily.

3. Watering- Water your plants only lightly and try to avoid too much water in your terrarium. If you have a small container, you can water the plants with an eyedropper or a teaspoon. Check the soil ever so often and water, very lightly accordingly.

" DIY Terrarium made from a Candy Jar"

DIY Terrarium made from a Candy Jar

4. Maintenance- Cover your terrarium with a sheet of glass, a piece of plastic, or clear plastic wrap. Your plants will need some air, so not make the cover completely air tight. Once covered, the terrarium becomes a self-contained system. Moisture that transpires from the leaves will condense on the cover and sides and trickle down to keep the soil moist.

TOO much moisture

  • You should keep your terrarium closed and air tight, but if your glass looks misty, if water pools at the bottom, or if mold begins to form on the soil surface, then the moisture if too high. You should ventilate your container by simply removing the cover for a day to get rid of excess moisture that has accumulated inside your terrarium. After the moisture is released, simply put the cover or top back on your terrarium.

Observe Your Plants

  • If your plants become too rangy or straggly looking, simply pinch them back ever so often so that they will be short and bushy. Keep your spent flowers and dead leaves picked up so that they don’t produce mold. Do Not pull the leaves off. You will have to hold on to the stem and gently pinch the leaf off. You could totally mess up your terrarium if your plant is pulled up out of place.

    "Unique Shaped Terrariums"

    Vary the Shapes of Your Terrarium

Do I Water My Plants?

  • No, once planted and watered, your terrarium should seldom need watering. You should not need to fertilize your plants either. Remember, we want them to stay small and not outgrow the terrarium space.

*Here are some other terrariums below:

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