Terrariums are a beautiful accent to any indoor space and the best part is that they are very easy to make and care for, even for those of us without a green thumb.
First you will need to gather your supplies.
- Gravel, rocks, stones, etc.
- Activated charcoal
- Potting soil
- spaghnum moss
- live moss
- tools: tweezers, chopsticks, funnel
Terrariums can be made with almost any container you want as it provides the basic necessities your plants need. To get inspiration, check out our gallery of unique terrarium containers.
For this tutorial we’ll be using an interesting glass container that had a former life as a fish bowl. Glass containers are the most popular terrarium setting because they are beautiful, easy to find, easy to clean and well suited to house your plants. You can use something simple like a recycled mason jar or fish bowl, or you can look for something interesting like an apothecary jar or even a lightbulb! Just be aware that if you choose a container with a small opening (too small to put your hand through) you will need a long pair of tweezers, a steady hand and patience.
When selecting plants for your terrarium, look for plant species that tolerate lower light conditions, prefer a humid environment, grow slowly and stay small. That might sound like a tall order but there are lots of common houseplants that are very well suited for terrarium life.
Here is a short list of common terrarium plants you will likely find at your local garden center:
Many of these plants have numerous varieties (there are over 1,000 different types of peperomia plants and over 12,000 species of ferns!) so you can get quite a varied look even within the same species. To see more terrarium friendly species browse our gallery of terrarium plants.
You can also find terrarium plants in your own yard. Look under trees or in shady areas and you can probably locate some moss which makes a great groundcover for your terrarium. When bringing in plants from outside just remember that they may also bring in some hitchhikers so it’s best to quarantine your plants for a couple weeks.
When selecting the plants for your terrarium, keep the size of your container in mind. Know how big your plants are expected to grow and try to get smaller plants than the maximum size your terrarium can hold. Also make sure that all of your plants need the same growing conditions; succulent and orchids both make wonderful terrarium plants but require different soil and water conditions than the plants listed above.
At the bottom of your terrarium you will need a layer of drainage material such as aquarium gravel, small river stones or even clay pellets that are designed to absorb water.
This is an important ingredient because it will help prevent odors. You can find activated charcoal at a garden center or in the aquarium section of a pet store and can usually get a bag for a few dollars.
Here opinions vary–some say you should use soil-less potting mix; some swear by coir, a coconut husk material; some recommend a mix of sand and soil–but I’ve never had a problem just using regular potting mix from the garden center. I would avoid any potting soil that contains extra fertilizer or plant food as we are trying to encourage our plants to stay small.
Now that you have gathered your supplies, you’re ready for Step 2:
Making Your Terrarium