Try This: How to Make a Terrarium

Use natural elements and repurposed vessels to create simple, stylish terrariums. Learn how to make a DIY terrarium!

| March/April 2012

  • Lidded terrariums trap humidity, so choose plants that thrive in humid air such as ferns, tropical houseplants and mosses.
  • Green up your desktop or any bare corner with this simple terrarium.
    Photo By Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Easy to make and maintain, terrariums are perfect for brown thumbs, but garden enthusiasts will also enjoy creating these miniature landscape designs. Transform empty bottles into happy DIY terrarium homes (see “Bottle Remodel” further along in this article), or scour your kitchen cabinets, recycling bins and local thrift stores for clear glass containers with wide mouths. Once you’ve selected your container, fill it with small, slow-growing plants. Opt for one striking specimen, or select an odd number of plants with similar needs in a variety of shapes and colors. If you want to grow your terrarium in a lidded container, choose plants that prefer humidity.

How to Make a Terrarium

Tools & Materials 

• Newspapers
• Cut bottle (see instructions in “Bottle Remodel”) or another glass vessel (see suggestions below)
• Pea gravel or pebbles
• Activated charcoal (available where aquariums are sold)
• Sphagnum moss or Spanish moss
• Premixed terrarium soil or high-quality potting soil mixed with builders’ sand and humus (2 parts potting soil to 1 part each sand and humus)
• Small, slow-growing plants such as air plants, miniature ferns, succulents or moss (choose plants in 2- to 4-inch pots with similar light and moisture needs; ask a local nursery for suggestions)
• Spray mister filled with water
• Tapered cork stopper if using moss or other plants that require a humid environment (multiple sizes available at brewing supply stores or at Jelinek Cork Group)

1. Cover your work surface with a layer of newspaper and set your glass container in the center. Add 1/2 inch of pea gravel or pebbles for drainage.

2. Top the gravel or pebbles with a thin layer of charcoal granules to absorb odors, followed by a thin layer of moss, which will act as a barrier and prevent soil from falling into the gravel or pebbles.

3. Top the moss with 1/2 to 1 inch of soil (or more if you’re using a tall glass container and tall plants).

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