How to Make Your Own Terrarium

Terrariums – those striking little ecosystems inside glass containers – have become one of the hottest and fastest growing gardening trends. These ‘gardens under glass’ are perfect for constructing your own unique world and are one of the most cost-effective, creative and simplest ways to brighten up any dull looking space.

When to Consider a Terrarium

  • Perfect for those with a serious case of black thumb, anyone with demanding jobs and busy schedules, or simply someone that wants to brighten up a space without too much hassle, terrariums are suitable for almost every occasion.
  • These booming creations are hardy – so they’re ideal for environments without much light and don’t need to be watered as regularly as other plants.
  • Terrariums also make great centrepieces for interior decorating, to place on wedding tables or in reception areas or for the office. Because there’s no limitations for how creative the designs can be, terrariums can be mixed and matched to seamlessly fit in or enhance any setting. 

Want to build your own mossy serenity?

Here’s a foolproof guide to planting your own terrarium:

1. Gather the Materials

Before creating your own DIY terrarium, make sure you have access to all the right materials. You’ll need:

  • A glass container with a wide opening is best.
  • Miniature plants.
  • Activated charcoal (from pet shops or nurseries).
  • Decorative pebbles, gravel, stones or sand.
  • Potting mix or succulent soil (with a small amount of sand is ideal).
  • Sheet moss or sphagnum moss.
  • Decorative figurines.
  • A spoon or hand spade.
  • A spray bottle.

2. Choose the Home

For the beginner terrarium maker, a deep glass container with a wider opening is best. This is to allow enough room to create and manoeuvre while planting. You can use anything as the vessel from a mason jar, fishbowl and glass canister or get more creative with a light bulb, spice jar, wine bottle, glass jug or hanging lantern.

Closed containers hold more humidity which will craft that jungle-like atmosphere, whilst open containers are best for cactus and succulent gardens. Whatever you choose to use as the terrarium’s home, make sure it’s made from clear, smooth glass so you can clearly see the garden inside.

3. Create Layers

Clean your chosen vessel inside and out with a paper towel or cloth and glass cleaner. Do this before you start planting! The first layer is all about drainage and should consist of pebbles, gravel or stone. About 2-4 cm is good as this will allow for proper water drainage to ensure the roots of your plants don’t rot.

Layer two is for hygiene and will be a thin, even layer of activated charcoal. This layer helps to keep things fresh within the container by releasing a carbon into the soil once its watered. It’s important you don’t overdo this later – just use enough to cover the stones or pebbles.

Layer three is to prevent soil settling at the bottom of the glass vessel. Use the sheet or sphagnum moss to create a barrier between the charcoal and soil. For the final layer (the growing medium), add fresh healthy soil (preferably with a little bit of sand in it). Potting mix or succulent soil is best, but check with your local nursery what is the ultimate soil option for the plants you choose for the terrarium. Add moisture to the soil without saturating it and use the soil to get creative by adding hills, valleys or anything else your glass container jungle needs. Squish the soil down as much as possible to eliminate air pockets.

4. Add Greens: Selecting the Right Plants and Succulents

The most common plants for terrariums are air plants, succulents, cacti and houseplants. Air plants are great for providing an impressive range of colours and styles and work best in humid environments. Air plants thrive on bright, indirect sunlight and vary in hardiness according to what species you choose. Most air plants need to be dried out before they should be watered again.

Succulents are great for terrariums because they are super hardy. Cacti is one of the most popular species to plant and are designed to be able to go weeks without water. Make sure you get creative when positioning your plants in the terrarium to build your own inspiring jungle!

5. Give Your Terrarium Some Swagger

This is the fun part! Get your creative juices flowing and use accessories and figurines to give your terrarium some unique swagger. Use things like old toys, crystals, shells, shiny glass or metal objects, coloured sand, rock layers and colourful stones to create your own little world. There is no wrong way to make a terrarium; but considering where you want it to go (or, if it’s a gift, who you want it to go to) will help determine its design.

6. Know What Your Plants Need

Terrariums don’t require much more than the occasional watering and trimming. You can monitor its water needs by how dry the soil is, just keep in mind not to water unless the soil is completely dried out. Avoid placing your terrarium in direct sunlight as this will scorch the plants and if any parts of the plants dry out or wilt, remove immediately to keep the rest of the plants healthy.