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DIY Terrarium

September 22, 2020

These enclosed miniature gardens reside indoors and often feature more than plants.


Toadstools, figurines, and miniature sculptures are all welcome. Terrariums are constructed in glass containers to give the best view of your miniature plants collection. Their unique habitat makes it easy to control the environmental conditions and many have their own self-sufficient ecosystem.


Getting Started
Making a terrarium is a lot of fun. These mini worlds can be made quickly, and they don’t have to be expensive. To keep costs down visit discount stores, local markets, and second-hand stores for your supplies. Who knows, you might find a rare and interesting jar shape or goldfish bowl to use at a bargain price.


Terrarium plants are usually small houseplants and miniature cacti and succulents. These small plants are often low cost, which means that a complete terrarium can be made for well under $30.

Follow these steps to create a beautiful terrarium that will impress your friends and family. Or whip up some miniature glass jar terrariums to be used as gifts.



Glass container, with or without a lid

Gravel, sea glass, or beach stones

Activated charcoal, from a nursery or pet supply store

Terrarium plants

Sterile potting mix

Moss and decorative items, optional


Select a terrarium container

Any sterile glass container can be used to make a terrarium, so take the time to choose a fun shape. Pro tip: using a container with a wide mouth is advised because it’s much easier to add plants through a large opening. If you’re up for the challenge of a small container, we salute you! Just make sure you have some thin tongs or chopsticks to help you add your plants.


Choosing plants

When choosing you terrarium plants make sure that they’re the right size to fit comfortably in your jar. And if your jar has a lid, check that your plants prefer a humid environment. This eliminates most cacti and succulents which are better suited to a topless terrarium.

Another critical point to consider when choosing terrarium plants is to look for plants that prefer low to medium light. The plant store tag should have their preferences clearly listed.

Choose from some of these popular terrarium plants for a mixture of sizes, leaf textures, and colours:

  • Croton
  • Pothos
  • Dracaena
  • Small ferns
  • Lucky bamboo
  • Nerve plant
  • Prayer plant
  • Club moss
  • Creeping fig

Add drainage layers

Glass jars don’t have drainage holes, so you’ll need to create a drainage layer on the bottom – because most plants don’t like wet feet! To do this, place a generous layer of sheet moss in the bottom of your terrarium to soak up extra water. If you don't have sheet moss you could use a layer of small stones instead. Whatever material you use for drainage, layer it to approx. 4cm in height for a 1L jar, varying this height to the depth of your container.


Now, to deal with the odour that can come from a stagnant drainage environment. Layer 1-2cm of activated charcoal on top of your drainage base using a large spoon.


Add moss and potting mix

The next step is to add moss on top of the stones and charcoal. This is to keep your next layer, the potting soil, from mixing with the charcoal and stones. It also adds visual interest to your terrarium. This step is purely aesthetic, so it’s optional.


Using a large spoon, add sterile soil-less potting mix on top of your moss. If you aren't using moss, place the potting mix directly over your charcoal. Add as much potting mix as you can—at least 5cm. You will want to make sure that your plants fit in your terrarium with the lid on, so hold your plants up to measure as you add soil. If you’re planting cacti or succulents, be sure to use a specialist cacti potting mix.


At this point, it’s important to think about the design of your terrarium. Will the terrarium have a back and a front? If so, you may want to position your tallest plant at the back or in the centre. You can also contour your soil so that it mounds and sinks to create visual interest.


Preparing your plants

Remove your plants from their pots. You may find that they’re root bound, in which case you’ll want to gently tease the roots apart. If you cut off some of the roots (root pruning) you’ll slow the plant growth. This is usually a good thing when growing plants in the confines of a terrarium. Shake or rinse off any excess soil before planting in your terrarium.


If your plant looks too big in the terrarium, check the plant's root base. There may be several small plants grouped tightly together. Some cluster-grown plants can be separated by gently pulling them apart.


Planting Tips

1. Use a large spoon or your fingers to dig a hole in the potting mix.
2. Place your plant in the hole and gently pat the soil around it. If your terrarium has a narrow neck that you can’t fit your hand into use chopsticks, tongs, or long tweezers to place your plants and pat them in.
3. Ensure that there are no air pockets between the roots of your plants and the soil.
4. Make sure that your plants aren’t touching the side of your jar.


Watering Tips

1. Use a spray bottle to water your terrarium. You don’t want it to be soaking wet, just damp. You can also use the spray bottle to clean off any dirt that has clung to the glass sides of your container, which you can then wipe clean.
2. Never use glass cleaner on the inside of a planted terrarium as it is likely to kill your plants or make them sick

Care and Maintenance

Caring for a terrarium is easy. Check on your mini garden every couple of weeks to see if the terrarium needs water. Feel the soil to see if it’s dry and add a small amount of water if it is.

If your terrarium has a lid, take off the top at least once a month to let fresh air circulate. If you see lots of condensation or have added too much water, leave the top off until the terrarium has had a chance to dry out.


Regularly remove any leaves that show signs of yellowing or damage and prune plants if they grow too large. And while fertilising the rest of your houseplants, don’t feed your terrarium because that will encourage excess growth which can cause your terrarium plants to outgrow their small home.


Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash


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