How to Make Your Own Terrarium - Backyard Boss
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How to Make Your Own Terrarium

A terrarium is a fantastic way to bring a piece of nature indoors, especially for people who live in apartments or have limited outdoor garden areas. Creating a terrarium is a fun and rewarding DIY activity because you can choose the plants and add decorations to make a unique and personalized mini-ecosystem.

A well-maintained terrarium is a beautiful and eye-catching addition to your home, adding a touch of greenery and nature to any space.

What Is a Terrarium?

Air plants in a glass bowl
Image credits: avrene via Openverse

A terrarium is a small enclosed ecosystem you can create and maintain at home. They bring the beauty of nature indoors and are a fun and educational hobby. And, once established, they only require a little extra care.

Use any vessel you’d like to make a terrarium, such as a glass jar, fish tank, or acrylic box. Terrariums range in size from small to large and can be open or closed.

Materials You’ll Need

Materials to make a terrarium
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Before getting started, you’ll need to gather a few materials to craft your DIY terrarium. They’re available at most local garden centers if you don’t have them.

  • Container
  • Small pebbles or gravel
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil
  • Small trowel or long-handled spoon
  • Decorations (optional)

Select a Terrarium Container

Succulents on a table
Image credits: cottonbro studio via Pexels

First, select a container for your terrarium. Any wide-mouthed container that’s big enough to reach inside works well. Before filling it with soil and plants, ensure the container is clean and dry.

When choosing your terrarium container, consider what plants you’d like to use. Cacti and succulents prefer dry conditions and grow best in open containers. Tropical and air plants need more humidity, so it’s better to use a lidded container.

Choose Your Terrarium Plants

Plants in a terrarium
Image credits: mia.judkins via Openverse

Small, slow-growing plants that require little maintenance work best for terrariums. So, ensure your terrarium plants have similar light, water, and humidity needs.

Numerous plants can thrive in a terrarium environment. Here are a few suitable options:

  • Ferns: These hardy plants prefer humid climates with indirect light. Ferns come in various sizes and shapes, making them a versatile choice for closed terrariums. 
  • Mosses: Mosses are small, low-maintenance plants that flourish in moist environments with moderate light. They are an excellent option for closed terrariums and add color and texture to your miniature ecosystem.
  • Pothos: Pothos is a trailing plant with heart-shaped leaves. It prefers moist, humid conditions and bright, indirect light. This hardy plant is low-maintenance once established.
  • Prayer plant: These evergreen tropical plants have lush, variegated leaves that range in color from grayish-green to purple. Prayer plants grow best in a closed terrarium with bright, indirect light.
  • Bromeliads: Bromeliads are tropical plants with vibrant, showy flowers. They need bright, indirect light and plenty of moisture.
  • Succulents and Cacti: Succulents have thick leaves that can store water. Cacti store water in their fleshy stems. These unique plants are well-suited for brightly-lit, dry, open terrariums and come in various sizes and shapes.
  • Air plants: Air plants don’t require soil to grow. They do well in humid environments with bright, indirect light. 

Add Layers of Gravel, Activated Charcoal, and Soil

Creating a terrarium
Image credits: cottonbro studio via Pexels

Terrarium containers usually don’t have drain holes. Therefore, adding a 2-inch layer of gravel or pebbles at the bottom helps drainage and keeps the soil from getting soggy. 

Next, sprinkle a thin layer of activated charcoal over the rocks. Doing so helps to prevent harmful bacteria and fungi from growing in your terrarium. 

Finally, add a layer of potting soil. Use a potting blend formulated explicitly for terrariums. Or, create your mix tailored to your plants’ needs. Make sure the soil is deep enough to accommodate their roots. How much soil to add will depend on the size of your plants and container.

Place Your Plants

Arranging plants in a terrarium
Image credits: amy.gizienski via Openverse

Now it’s time to decide how to arrange your terrarium plants. It’s a good idea to place the largest plant first. Then, fill in the remaining space with smaller plants.

Use a small trowel or long-handled spoon to create a hole in the soil. After settling the root ball in the hole, fill in around the edges and gently press down to secure it in place. If the root ball is too big, you can remove up to a third of it. Avoid overcrowding your plants and leave several inches between each plant and the edge of the container to give them room to grow.

Finishing Touches

Treasure chest in a terrarium
Image credits: elias_daniel via Openverse

Incorporate interesting rocks, figurines, driftwood, or other decorative items to personalize your terrarium. To add a bit more texture, cover the soil with bark chips, colored pebbles, or sphagnum moss. Get creative and have fun!

Maintaining Your Terrarium

Cacti and succulents in a terrarium
Image credits: avrene via Openverse

Keep your terrarium healthy and thriving by following a few care tips.

Most terrarium plants prefer bright, indirect light. If the plants get too much direct sunlight, they may wilt or become scorched. Without enough light, the plants may become leggy or grow poorly.

Water regularly, but be careful not to overwater. Mist the plants with a spray bottle, or use a watering can with a narrow spout to avoid disturbing the soil. Generally, only give open terrariums about 1 tablespoon of water a week when the soil is dry. On the other hand, closed terrariums can go up to half a year without needed water. Signs that it’s time to water include dry soil and condensation on your plants.

It’s best not to fertilize your terrarium plants to avoid excessive growth or salt build-up. Keep the humidity at an appropriate level for the plants you’ve selected. If the environment is too dry, mist the plants more frequently or place a small dish of water inside to increase humidity. If it’s too humid, open the lid for a few hours to let out excess moisture.

Get Planting!

Terrariums are a favorite for indoor gardeners because they’re fun to create, low-maintenance, and they make an attractive and unique addition to home spaces. Making your own terrarium allows you to let your artistry and inspiration flow. It is a crafty way to enjoy the beauty of plants.

Have you ever tried making a DIY terrarium? Please share your terrarium ideas or ask any questions in the comments below!