The Absolute Beginners’ Guide to Making Your Own Terrarium

If you have a natural skill for gardening but you don’t have enough space to actually do it, you could consider making a terrarium instead. A terrarium offers great benefits. It can humidify air during winter, improve your indoor air quality, give your creativity an outlet and reduce anxiety. Terrariums are easy to create and maintain. They can even turn into a family project.

This is a guest post by Melissa Lobo from Project Female, more information on the author can be found at the end of the article.

What You’ll Need For Your Terrarium

  • A clear glass container: It could be anything you like – a mason jar, a rare beauty from an antique store; lidded or open. However, the taller your container, the better. An old coffee pot also makes a great container.
  • Miniature rocks: You could use bagged pea gravel or expanded shale that you can find in plant nurseries.
  • Activated charcoal: You can find it at box stores or nurseries.
  • Peat or sphagnum moss: This can also be found at nurseries and box stores.
  • Potting soil: Consider using high-quality soil that is specially intended for plant containers.
  • A miniature spade
  • A mist bottle
  • Plants: Choose your plants on the basis of your container – open or closed? For an open container, succulents can basically survive anything, so they’re an easy choice for beginners. On the other hand, a closed container needs moisture-resistant plants like small palms, ferns or orchids.

Now You’re Ready To Set Up Your Terrarium

Step 1: Prepare Your Container

Clean the container thoroughly, inside and out, and remove any price tags. This is to ensure that there are no chemicals or substances that can hinder the healthy growth of your plants.

Step 2: Add The Rocks And Pebbles

After preparing the container, place the pebbles and the rocks inside. This  will serve as drainage. Water can settle under the rocks and pebbles, thereby preventing flooding. The thickness of the pebbles and rocks will be dependent on your container size. The ideal depth should be half an inch to two inches.

Step 3: Place The Activated Charcoal Inside The Container

Expect this part of the process to be a bit messy. Activated charcoal comes in the form of shards or minute granules. Remember that you only need a small amount, just enough to cover the pebbles and rocks. What it actually does is improve the environmental condition of your terrarium, eliminating odor, fungi and bacteria.

Step 4: Add The Soil

Bear in mind that the type of soil you use in a terrarium depends upon your plants. For instance, if you are using tropical plants, soil from tropical areas is best to use. The depth of the soil should be enough for your plants to take root

Step 5: Do Some Planting!

Take out the plants from their pots and make sure that you’re not damaging the roots. Be gentle while you’re doing this. If the roots are too long, you could probably trim them. Position the roots inside the container using a pencil, brush end, spoon or your fingers. Put more soil on the top and compress the soil around the plant base. Continue to add more plants in the container, but do not place plants near the edges as far as possible. This is to prevent the leaves from touching the sides as the plants grow.

Step 6: Accessorize Your Terrarium

After the plants are positioned inside the jar, you may add some accessories to your terrarium. These accessories can include moss blanket, figurines, unused toys, metal objects, stones, sticks, and rocks. Use accessories to make your own little world in there.

Step 7: Find A Place For Your Terrarium

After you’re done creating your little garden, it is now time to find the perfect spot for your terrarium. This is a bit challenging, since you need to ensure that the plants receive a good amount of indirect sunlight. For the plants to grow optimally, it is best to choose a location that is near a window that faces the east. Morning light is enough for most plants. Moreover, plant metabolism is more active in the morning. On the other hand, spots near windows that face the north offer poor light, so avoid putting your terrarium there.

A couple of things you really should keep in mind when you’re figuring out where to keep your terrarium:

  1. Don’t keep it near an air vent.
  2. Position the terrarium at eye level or higher. You get a much better view of it from the side than from the top.

Step 8: Maintain Your Terrarium

After a couple of weeks, assess your terrarium to see if it needs more water, or if water is pooling at the bottom. If it’s too dry, add more water. If it is too wet, open the container for a day and allow the water to evaporate. If the interior of your container is foggy, that means that there’s too much water.

Condensation, however, is normal in a terrarium. In a closed terrarium, the entire water cycle happens in miniature Trapped moisture will condensate inside the terrarium and water will drip inside the glass. Therefore, you have now created a mini tropical rainforest environment.

Another thing you need to do in order to maintain your terrarium is to rotate it a quarter turn every week or two so that all plants can receive enough light. This also prevents your plants from growing only in one direction.

Losing a plant or two inside your terrarium is normal, so don’t be too guilty about it. You can always replace it.  Find the same plant again or try something new.


If you don’t have access to outdoor gardening, creating an indoor garden that can be placed on your table is a great alternative. The small worlds that are formed by plants, rocks, moss, and other materials inside a terrarium can be both fascinating and inspiring. Terrariums are not just convenient and easy to care for, they’re also a pleasure to look at and admire.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in Turning an Old Tyre into an Amazing Pond.

Melissa Lobo
Melissa Lobo
Melissa is a young and energetic writer, a mom to a sweet little boy, and a fur-mom to two perfect pooches. Before becoming the Associate Content Director for Project Female, she was a journalist specializing in topics related to women in politics and policy affecting women.


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