How to make a terrarium at home

How to make a terrarium at home

 · 8 min read
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To craft a lush terrarium, use a clear container with rocks, layer well-draining soil, and choose miniature plants. Add decor and mist for humidity, then place in indirect sunlight. Maintain it with careful watering for an indoor, visually pleasing ecosystem.

  • Craft a DIY terrarium with cost-effective materials for your own miniature garden.
  • Select plants that can thrive in the humid atmosphere and arrange them accordingly to enhance their beauty.
  • Decorate your open terraria or closed terrarium with figurines to express your creativity.
  • Make sure to provide adequate sunlight & temperature to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Making a terrarium at home: FAQs

  • How do I make a terrarium?

    To create your first terrarium, layer up 2-3cm of pebbles in a clean and dry container, followed by charcoal and potting soil. Place your largest plant first and nestle the roots into the soil, ensuring the leaves or petals do not touch the glass jar. You can also decorate with optional items such as stones, moss or sand.

  • How often should I water my terrarium?

    Water your terrarium when the soil becomes dry or plants appear to be sagging to ensure the soil remains moist but not soggy.

  • Can I use any type of potting soil for my terrarium?

    For a successful terrarium, you should use regular packaged potting soil or loam, which provide the essential nutrients for plants.

  • How much sunlight do terrarium plants need?

    Terrarium plants need bright, indirect sunlight to thrive. Too much direct sunlight or extremely bright light can prevent growth.

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Creating DIY terrariums is a rewarding and relatively simple process. With just a few cost-effective materials, you can design a beautiful, calming miniature garden in two steps. 

1. Choosing the ideal glass container

The glass container you choose significantly affects your terrarium's overall appearance and function. Consider the following when choosing a container:

  • Transparency: Transparent containers provide an unobstructed view of your mini ecosystem.
  • Wide-mouthed: Wide-mouthed containers make it easy to arrange plants and maintain your terrarium.
  • Size and shape: Ensure the container is large enough to accommodate your plants as they grow and allow for proper air circulation and drainage.

Opt for glass containers with a lid to trap moisture, heat and gas to create a closed terrarium. Open terrariums require containers with open tops or missing panels, such as shallow bowls or unsealed glass containers.

You can use a variety of glass containers to create stunning terrariums such as:

  • Aquariums.
  • Goldfish bowls.
  • Bell jars.
  • Apothecary jars.

2. Selecting terrarium plants

Picking suitable terrarium plants is key to sustaining a flourishing, healthy environment. Choose small, slow-growing plants that can tolerate low to medium light, such as:

  • Artillery ferns.
  • Aluminum plants.
  • Polka dot plants.
  • Fern ‘lemon buttons'.

The key is to look for plants that can survive and thrive in the naturally humid atmosphere of a terrarium. Ensure your chosen plants have similar light and moisture requirements to create a harmonious environment where they can flourish. We have put together a table below that outlines a few examples.

Plant species

Light requirement

Moisture requirement

Maidenhair Fern

Indirect light

Moderate to high

Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

Low to bright indirect

Low to moderate

Moss (Various Species)

Low to medium indirect

High

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Low to medium indirect

High

Pothos (Epipremnum)

Low to medium indirect

Moderate

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum)

Low to bright indirect

Moderate

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas)

Low to moderate indirect

Low to moderate

Air Plants (Tillandsia)

Indirect light

Moderate

Nerve Plant (Fittonia)

Low to medium indirect

High

Miniature African Violet

Low to medium indirect

Moderate

If you create an enclosed terrarium, avoid cacti and succulents, as they thrive best in open containers with a potting mix containing a substantial amount of coarse sand.

Tips for arranging your plants

To create an aesthetically pleasing terrarium, follow these steps:

  1. Arrange your plants with varying foliage and height.
  2. Start by placing the tallest plant in the rear and the shorter plants in the front to create dimension.
  3. Keep in mind the size and shape of your container, ensuring the plants fit comfortably without touching the sides.

You can also personalise your terrarium with adornments like miniature figurines, shells, or ornamental stones. Use a small trowel to help place these decorations and create a unique mini ecosystem.

What are the essential components of a healthy terrarium?

Aside from choosing the suitable container and plants for your terrarium, there are a few essential components to consider for its overall well-being, such as drainage layers and potting soils. Let's explore these further.

Create an effective drainage layer

An efficient drainage layer is vital to prevent excessive moisture and ensure adequate water management in your terrarium. You can use gravel or pebbles to create a drainage layer that keeps water away from plant roots and prevents soil oversaturation.

Ensure the drainage layer is at least 1-2 inches (2.5 to 5cm) thick to provide adequate water storage space. Cover the drainage layer with a mesh or landscape fabric to prevent bacteria in the soil from mixing with the drainage materials and maintain a healthy environment for your terrarium plants.

Choose the right potting soil

High-quality potting soil ensures the proper balance of nutrients, moisture retention, and drainage, promoting a healthy habitat and encouraging root growth.

Regular packaged potting soil and loam are best for planting your terrariums due to their availability and suitability. You can easily obtain these soil types from most garden centres and provide the essential nutrients for your plants to thrive.

The role of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal has a significant role in preserving a wholesome terrarium environment. This porous, oxygen-treated carbon has many benefits, including:

  • Absorbing and filtering impurities in the soil.
  • Inhibiting the development of mould and fungi.
  • Improving air quality.
  • Acting as a natural insect repellent.

Although not essential, adding activated charcoal can greatly enhance your mini ecosystem's overall health and longevity. To ensure optimal benefits, you can incorporate two cups of activated charcoal for every cubic foot of potting soil in your terrarium.

How can I care for and maintain my terrarium?

Appropriate care and maintenance are key to keeping your terrarium flourishing. From watering your plants to managing sunlight and temperature, understanding the needs of your terrarium will ensure a balanced and healthy environment.

Watering your terrarium

Use a spray bottle or mister to provide moisture to the soil, ensuring it remains moist but not soggy. Rainwater or de-ionised water is best, or if you are using tap water, allow it to sit out for a day or use dechlorination tablets to let any chlorine dissipate before watering your terrarium. This is because chlorine harms beneficial microorganisms in the soil and may negatively impact the overall health of your terrarium.

To know when your terrarium needs watering, watch out for dry soil, drooping plants, and condensation on the glass. You can find out how often you need to water your terrarium plants by reading their packaging, asking your local garden centre or looking up the information online.

Sunlight and temperature requirements

Terrarium house plants need bright, indirect sunlight - placing them on a windowsill or table in full or partial sun is ideal.

You should avoid direct sunlight or extremely bright light, as it can be detrimental to terrarium plants.

Maintain a consistent temperature in your terrarium, ideally between 12-24 degrees Celsius (55-75 degrees Fahrenheit). You can measure your terrarium temperature by placing a thermometer inside, ensuring it's at plant level for an accurate reading of the overall environment.

Constant temperature and adequate sunlight will create an optimal environment for your terrarium plants to thrive.

How can I prevent common terrarium issues?

Proper care and maintenance can help prevent common terrarium issues such as mould, pests, and plant diseases.

Ensuring adequate air circulation, maintaining low humidity levels, watering plants correctly, and providing the appropriate amount of light can all help prevent mould or algae growth in your terrarium.

To manage pests in your terrarium, you can:

  • Employ beneficial insects such as springtails and white isopods.
  • Meticulously scrub the terrarium to remove harmful eggs and insects.
  • Introduce natural predators such as ladybugs.

Ready-made terrariums vs DIY terrarium kits

As you navigate the world of terrariums, you might question whether to buy a ready-made terrarium or craft your own with a DIY terrarium kit. Both options have advantages and drawbacks; ultimately, it depends on your preferences and requirements.

Ready-made terrariums offer convenience, low maintenance, and various design options to suit your aesthetic preferences. However, they may lack customisation options and be prone to overwatering or restricted air circulation.

On the other hand, DIY terrarium kits allow you to unleash your creativity and personalisation and design a mini ecosystem tailored to your tastes. While they may require more effort and care, the satisfaction of creating your own terrarium can be a rewarding experience.

Inspirational terrarium themes and decoration ideas

Designing a customised terrarium offers an opportunity to express your creativity and investigate a variety of themes and decorative concepts. Some popular terrarium themes to get you started include:

  • Beach terrariums.
  • Desert terrariums.
  • Sand art terrariums.

Consider incorporating miniature figures and unique decorative elements to reflect your chosen theme, such as fairy figurines, mythical creatures, or magical objects for a fantasy-themed terrarium. For a jungle-themed terrarium, use wooden items as perches, construct a jungle-like backdrop, or even consider a beach-themed terrarium for a unique variation.

With a little imagination and creativity, you can design or purchase a unique new terrarium that showcases your love for nature and serves as a stunning focal point in your home, bringing the beauty of plants inside.

Wrapping up your home terrarium project

Terrariums offer a unique and rewarding way to bring the beauty of nature indoors. With a few simple materials and proper care, you can create a thriving mini ecosystem that enhances your living space and promotes relaxation. Whether you opt for ready-made terrariums or embark on a DIY project, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Image Credit: Susanna Marsiglia at Unsplash

Age Times UK Editors
Age Times UK Editors
This article was written by Age Times UK Editors, who have many years of experience and expertise writing informative and engaging content around lifestyle-related topics.