How To Make A Terrarium

Need a great gift idea?
How about a beautiful terrarium… Learn how to make a terrarium and you will have a great gift to give that is simple to make and easy to maintain! Terrariums can also be very inexpensive to make if you shop at second-hand stores, flea markets, or discount stores for the decorative glass containers. Just follow our easy step-by-step instructions on how to plant a terrarium and you'll have the perfect gift for someone who could use a little tranquility in a jar!


How To Make A Terrarium

How To Make A Terrarium


How To Make A Terrarium:
Materials List

How To Make A Terrarium


  • Decorative glass containers with lids
  • Gravel (we used aquarium gravel)
  • Activated charcoal
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Potting soil
  • Small house plants
  • Decorative elements (rocks, shells, figurines)
  • Spray bottle



How To Make A Terrarium



Select Your Container:

We recommend a glass container with a wide mouth and a lid. A few suggestions would be: glass candy jars, apothecary jars, large mason jars, glass cookie jars (what we used), or even large pickle jars. You could also purchase a wardian case, which look like miniature greenhouses, but they can be kind of expensive.

The wide mouth will of course make it much easier to add plants to your terrarium. Also don't select a jar that is too small for the house plants that you want in your terrarium. Just remember, the bigger the jar, the greater your choice and size of plants you can choose from. Keep in mind that your terrarium will fill up faster than you realize and you will also want room for your decorative elements like rocks, shells or wood. And a great place to find cheap or unique glassware would be a second-hand store.



Select Your Terrarium Plants:

The ideal plants for enclosed terrariums are those that prefer a humid environment, moist soil, and low to medium light. They should also be small enough to fit in your terrarium without touching the sides too much. Some other things to consider would be selecting a mixture of plant heights, leaf textures and leaf colors. But most importantly, that all the plants you select are compatible with each other for their care requirements. A few good choices for your terrarium plants would be small ferns, prayer plant, peperomia, baby's tears, or a variety of mosses.

Note: Succulents and cacti do poorly in an enclosed terrarium and should not be used.


How To Make A Terrarium


Drainage Layer:

The bottom layer of your terrarium is for drainage. You can use small aquarium gravel, small pebbles, or even coarse builders sand. Do not use beach sand; the salt content will kill the plants. Evenly spread ½" – 2" depending on the size of your container. This will insure proper drainage so the soil will stay moist but not wet. See photo A.



How To Make A Terrarium


Activated Charcoal:

Next, evenly layer about ½" of charcoal. The enclosed environment of the terrarium can cause odors. The charcoal will filter the air and water and keep it fresh. You can find activated charcoal at any pet store with aquarium supplies. See photo B.



How To Make A Terrarium


Sphagnum Moss:

Add a thin layer of moss on top of the charcoal. This is simply to keep the soil from filtering down into the charcoal and gravel. See photo C.



How To Make A Terrarium


Potting Soil:

Now add enough potting soil (at least 2") to cover the plants' roots. Do not use dirt from your yard. See photo D.




Prepare Your Plants:

Remove the plant from its pot. If it's root bound, take a knife and cut down the sides, through the roots. See photo E, where we are using an X-acto knife to do so. If the plants have several stocks or individual shoots, you can carefully pull the root ball apart and separate the plant into several smaller plants. See photo F. It's better to have terrarium plants as small as possible so the terrarium isn't over crowded.

How To Make A Terrarium How To Make A Terrarium

How To Make A Terrarium


Add The Plants:

Using your hand or a small hand spade, make a hole in the soil big enough for the plant's root ball. Place the plant in the hole and cover the roots with additional soil if needed. See photo G. Then pat the soil down around the plant. Now plant the rest of your plants.

Add The Decorative Elements:

To add interest, place small rocks, shells, wood, or small figurines around in the terrarium. A great accent idea would be to add an engraved rock to your terrarium as a focal point. See photo H. It would make the terrarium seem more personal if it had a special message inside. If you would like to know where we bought our engraved rocks, we bought them at Elements Etching on Etsy (See ad on upper right).

How To Make A Terrarium


How To Make A Terrarium


Water The Plants:

Using a mist spray bottle, mist the plants and soil to the point of being really damp, but not soaking wet. See photo I. To clean the dirt off the glass, just spray it with water while you are watering the plants. Then dry the glass with a paper towel and you're done!

Now you know how to make a terrarium, wasn't that fun?!

How To Make A Terrarium


Caring For Your Terrarium

Terrariums are very low maintenance. Since it's a closed environment, the water will constantly recycle throughout the terrarium. Because of this, terrariums require very little watering. You only need to water it when there is no longer any condensation on the glass. If you ever get it too wet, simply leave the lid off for a little while to allow for some water to evaporate. Since you want to keep your plants small and growing slow, you do not need to fertilize. Do not place the terrarium in direct sunlight, as that would overheat it and burn your plants.

We hope you enjoyed learning how to make a terrarium! Terrariums can be a fun project for just about anyone to try, even young children with some supervision of course. So if you are looking for a quick and easy gift to make, terrariums are wonderful gifts, even for someone without a green thumb!




For more easy homemade gift ideas, click the link below.

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Jill Says:

Nice idea and great tutorial, thanks!

Melissa Says:

I love this idea. Thanks for the great gift idea. I'm going to make one for my mom.





How To Make A Terrarium