How to Make a Terrarium? Steps You Cannot Miss

Gardening – possibly the most popular of all the DIY pursuits – is an always rewarding hobby and a beauty it actually is when you see your upcycle! But no matter how beautiful your garden grows or how bountiful your harvest is, successful gardening is still very much about many hours of exhausting digging, weeding, pruning, and fertilizing. Despite all of the hard work, perhaps it is time to consider a simpler way to enjoy gardening. If so, a glass-container terrarium is a right fit for you.

Terrarium - What It Is?

The word “Terrarium” originates from two Latin words, terra, and rium, meaning earth and home, respectively. Together, they have come to mean a small-scale natural habitat, where plants and life co-exist. It is usually inside a glass container with sufficient space for one to grow, typically around 1-5 liters, and is used mostly by people who are living in a limited space. It does not require much sunlight, but it does require regular watering and a very low maintenance level. The idea of having a terrarium growing on one’s house is both unique and wonderful, bringing the beauty of nature indoors. Focusing on a specific aspect of nature (terrestrial, aquatic, desert, jungle, etc.), terrariums offer a smaller-scale version of the surrounding environment. They mimic the surrounding elements and are perfect means to introduce children to the natural world, the meaning of which they are oblivious.

How Are Terrarium Able to Sustain Life?

The principle of having a terrarium is similar to that of aquariums, with a few differences indeed. Aquariums are mostly water-based, and terrariums are usually oil-based, which makes them more biologically diverse as a result. As fish and birds (for example) can only live in appropriate habitats, so plant. Plants require specific conditions in which they can grow successfully; more specifically, they need sunlight, food, and water.

A terrarium, in theory, will provide a limited amount of water and sunlight, thus creating a suitable micro-environment. This space is filled with a soil-mulch mixture to provide ideal growing conditions for short plants like ferns, mosses, grasses, and succulents. The plants in a terrarium have a closed atmospheric area, which means that they can survive in a low temperature and humidity. They convert the available carbon dioxide into oxygen and release water vapor. Besides this, the available sunlight is also utilized by the plants to create energy in the form of carbohydrates. And this cycle is successfully maintained by the plants; the requirements are met, resulting in an ongoing natural cycle depicted in miniature.

5 Things You Need to Create A Terrarium:

Terrarium, just like every other project, requires some setup and planning. Unless you have all of the necessary equipment, supplies, and tools, you’ll be lacking an understanding of just how to create a terrarium. So, without further ado, here are the things you’ll need to have on hand:

create a terrarium

1. The Terrarium Container:

It can be a plastic or glass container; either way, you’ll need a clean and sturdy vessel to house your terrarium. Make sure it is free of cracks or grime. You have to understand that terrarium can be either closed or open, and both have different functionalities.

For an open terrarium, you can use literally any type of glass container with sufficient space for your plant species. A closed terrarium’s design is the same as an open terrarium, with the exception that it has a top glass cover. This is to prevent any external pests or elements from entering the container and contaminating or harming the plants inside.

2. A Terrarium Substrate:

Terrariums need the proper substrate for it to hold the plants securely and maintain a healthy environment for them. One way to make an open substrate is by using coco peat, or vermiculite and perlite (half and a half). The other method is to use sand and gravel, or even aquarium gravel. A closed terrarium, on the other hand, is usually a soil-mulch combination. The density of the gravel is very important for it to be the right terrarium substrate.

3. Activated Charcoal:

To ensure that no toxic element enters the terrarium, having activated charcoal is a must. This is a carbon product that absorbs all types of toxins and pollutants. It also absorbs light to a certain degree, preventing the growth of algae and other harmful microorganisms. Its presence retains the moisture for a longer time between the watering.

4. Potting Soil:

This soil acts as a reservoir for the water and nutrients, and it should be loose and free-draining to allow the plant roots to grow freely. The ideal potting soil for a terrarium is the soil from a tropical climate; it is more fertile, and it retains more moisture.

5. Plants:

Terrariums will benefit from being planted with a variety of plants to bring a real-life feel to the project. The more plants you have, the more fun the terrarium will be. You can also mix plants with flowers, plants that can be found in tropical environments. This will make them visually appealing, and they will complement one another.

Terrarium - What You Need to Consider:

Before starting with your terrarium, make sure you read and understand the whole process. There are some vital points to consider while learning “how to make a terrarium” that will help you during the whole process.

making a terrarium

1. Humidity:

The soil will contain a sufficient amount of moisture, but the plants themselves will evaporate water, which will quickly raise the humidity if enough plants are used. Therefore, in order to maintain this amount of moisture, you should check it regularly. Else, having a terrarium with dry soil can cause the plants to die.

2. Light:

The most important thing to consider in how to make a terrarium is light. In order for your terrarium to grow, there are some minimum requirements to light. It should receive at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day; the closer to the equator you are, the more sunlight will reach your terrarium. It will also depend on the plants you’ll decide to plant.

3. Air Flow:

This depends on the type of terrarium you’re going to build. If you’re going to construct an open terrarium, make sure you provide proper air circulation. If it’s a closed terrarium, then you need to ensure the lids can be sealed to prevent any outside air from coming in.

4. Plants:

As with other gardening activities, variety is the key here as well. This is because different types of plants and mosses will not get along well with one another, and the plant that will end up overgrowing the rest is not a good choice. Additionally, plants that can breathe well and are high in humidity, like ferns, are best suited for terrariums. It is advisable to choose only a couple of species that won’t cause any trouble with one another.

Steps to Make a Terrarium:

Here we are presenting some basic steps to make a terrarium. Some major steps are, you have to sort out the plants, including their sizes. Apart from this, also choose the appropriate containers.

decorate terrarium

1. Place the Pebbles:

This is the first one to achieve and the first step to making a terrarium. You need pebbles or gravel in the bottom of the container to make an appropriate substrate for the plants. Pebbles will offer the plants some solid surface to grow on and also a filtering material to clean any excess water or fluid.

2. Adding Activated Charcoal:

Add a thin layer of activated charcoal over the pebbles for filtering purposes. You can get activated charcoal at specialty stores or at drugstores that have a pharmacy.

3. Add Soil:

Once the activated charcoal is in place, you can add a layer of soil over it.

4. Place the Roots:

Finally, you can plant your plants into the soil and place them on the pebbles where they get enough sunlight.

5. Decorating:

Decorate the Terrarium and enjoy the view of nature right in your home. Make sure the plants have enough space to grow, as they will/might require regular watering and sunlight.


So, these are the basic things you need to understand the build a terrarium. The steps are just made simple, but it will require some time too. Terrariums are special in their own way, especially when you’re looking for a low-maintenance project. They are also great to start with if you’re an amateur when it comes to DIY. So, this is how a terrarium is built and how it helps you to make a natural environment inside your home.

You have always wished to exercise your green thumb. But you didn’t have the space to make a garden. Good news: you can practice on a small scale in a terrarium. And this piece can help you on how to make a terrarium.

However, before the steps on creating that beautiful mini-greenhouse, there are a few things you should know. Have a look!

What Terrarium Should You Make?

Generally, terrariums are of two kinds:

  1. Open terrarium
  2. Close terrarium

Open terrariums, like the name, do not have lid coverings. Thanks to that feature, they are low-maintenance.

Also, with an open terrarium, you have less worry about humidity and humidity-influenced infections.

Closed terrariums, on the other hand, require regular maintenance routines. These kinds have lids and are prone to fungal diseases.

Tip: if you’re a beginner, choose an open terrarium. However, that’s not saying closed terrariums are “no good.”

That brings us to the next crucial question:

What Plant Should You Plant In Your Terrarium?

A terrarium by itself is just a housing feature. The juice of it all is the plants. That is why they are the focus.

As such, your intended plants eventually decide what kind of terrarium you’d have. Not only that. Your choice of green also determines how rigid your maintenance routines would be.

That said, you should consult an expert to know what container best fits a plant. Then, you act in that line.

Nevertheless, here are the common terrarium plants you can choose from:

  • Airplants
  • Carnivorous plants
  • Dwarf palms
  • Ferns
  • Peperomia

What Do You Need To Make a Terrarium? The 9 Essentials Of Building Your Mini-greenhouse

  1. Time – you need at least 2hrs of work time as a beginner to build a simple terrarium. And that is excluding the time you’d spend to get the materials for the build.
  2. Plants – are the most crucial detail of your terrarium. To make the best decision, choose from the list we had provided.
  3. Container – can be with a lid or without one. Another thing to consider is the material. It is best to choose glass containers as you can see through them. More importantly, glass containers are the best to add beauty to your interiors.
  4. Sheet moss – soaks up water from the base of your container. By so doing, it helps you to prevent infections such as mold rot.
  5. Activated charcoal – helps to enhance soil permeability. In other words, water and air would flow adequately in your substrate. Activated charcoal also neutralizes acidity or unpleasant odors.
  6. Substrates – help your plants cope in their new environment. They adjust details such as soil structure, aeration, and permeability. Examples of the base substrates you should get are beach stones and gravel.
  7. Potting soil – is one of the crucial details you should get right. Plants need rich soil. So do well to get a rich,  multipurpose, sterile mix.
  8. Large spoon and gloves – is for adding mixes or substrate to your container. You can also use alternative aid like a garden trowel. Also, get gloves to protect your fingers. You don’t want to have blisters after the work is over.
  9. Decorative complements – are optional. You can yet add them to spice up your terrarium.

Now, you have the materials and knowledge. Let’s delve into the steps.

How To Make A Terrarium In 5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Get The Necessary Materials

You can’t build anything without resources. So, get the items we had already listed. Also, let your container align with the plant of your choice as well as the interiors of your home.

Step 2: Set The Base Of Your Container

When setting your base, you should focus on two goals. The first thing you should do is to appropriate drainage for your container. Why?

Your containers have no hole on their underside. And we won’t even advise you to create an opening. Instead, maneuver your substrate. How?

Get your sheet moss, and add it to the base of your terrarium. Remember that it soaks up water.

Next, add the substrates (e.g., gravels, stones, and sea glasses). Make these about 2 inches in depth. That would create enough drainage layers for your plant.

Tip: you can add the substrates before the moss. Either way, note that a narrow container will require deep drainage maneuvers.

Step 3: Detoxify Your Terrarium

Your detoxification aid is activated charcoal. So, get some and add to the base of your terrarium.

Make the addition of the activated charcoal at most ½ inch. The reason for that is because you yet have other layers to add.

Another thing: you can add activated charcoal to your potting soil. It will help to remove the toxins and neutralize acidity.

Step 4: Add The Main Planting Base

You had set a drainage layer and appropriated a detoxification aid. Excellent!

Now, prepare the bed for your terrariums plants. In other words, add your potting soil.

In this stage, you don’t have to measure the mix. Just add as many as possible. However, ensure that the soil level is appropriate to contain your plants within the terrarium.

Tip: you can add another later of moss before adding the potting soil. Doing so could add a spice of beauty to your terrarium. Plus, that also helps your drainage systems.

Step 5: Plant

All the previous steps are for this ultimate phase: planting your terrarium plant.

Depending on the plant you desire, you might want to cut off some parts of the root. Doing so will ensure that the plant maintains a somewhat slow growth.

Another thing: you should have a plan on how you’d design your plants. It could be a minimalistic feature like height or planting in shapes.

Once you have those under wrap, proceed to plant. But don’t stop there. You will yet water the plants.

Now, your terrarium is ready. Good job!

Here are more maintenance tips to keep your beautiful greenhouse healthy:

  • Don’t overwater your terrarium. Water only when the soil is dry.
  • Don’t use fertilizer. Else, your plants will outgrow their containers too soon.
  • Open the lids off closed terrariums at least once monthly.
  • Do not use glass cleaners before adding the components of your terrarium. Such could be harmful to your plants.
  • Remove dead or discolored leaves as soon as you see them.

That’s all on how to make a terrarium. The steps are easy. Aren’t they?



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