How to Make A Terrarium

How to Make A Terrarium

Terrariums have come back around again and are all the rage for DIY-ers.  Nothing spells fun like creating your own little world. Below, we have outlined how to make a terrarium in five simple steps.

Step 1:  Select a Container

The type of vessel you choose for your terrarium will dictate the variety of plant material and the amount of care required. When deciding, take time to understand the two different types of terrariums.  The most important question is: does your terrarium have a lid or no lid?  A closed terrarium (or a lidded terrarium) is a humid environment.  Over time, the plants will build their own ecosystem within the container as long as the lid is not removed.  On the other hand, an open terrarium (or a lidless terrarium) requires more care and watering, but there are more options for plants and decorative items.    

Terrarium Container


Step 2:  Select Plants

When working with a closed terrarium system, select moisture-loving plants such as tropical varieties and living moss.  Avoid using any plants that prefer an arid environment such as succulents and cacti.  When building an open terrarium, choose plants that don’t mind an arid environment. Succulents and cacti work well in this type of terrarium. Be careful with living moss in open terrariums as it will dry out rapidly without humidity. Pro tip: when choosing multiple plants, remember to plant “like with like,” meaning choose plants that want the same light requirements and watering schedules.

Step 3: Build the System

Your terrarium will be built in four layers within the container: drainage, soil, plant(s) and decoration.  The first layer creates a faux drainage layer so that when you give the plants a drink, the excess water has somewhere to go temporarily.  As the soil begins to dry out, it will wick the excess water out of the drainage layer.  The drainage layer can be made from small stones, sand, gravel or any natural aggregate that is porous and will not retain moisture.  

On top of the drainage layer is soil.  This is the medium that will hold the plants. Regular potting soil is fine, even for plants like cacti and succulents.  

Plant the plants just like you would in the garden. Pro tip: if you are using Tillandsia, or “air plants,” you will not need soil. If you are a beginner, check out our DIY Terrarium Kit that includes everything you will need to get started.

Terrarium Plants


Step 4:  Decorate a Terrarium

There are many different types of decorative items you can use to create a unique terrarium.  For example, for a natural look, add things like different varieties of sand, stones, sticks and dried lichen or moss.  You could also add a bit of whimsy to the terrarium with small figurines, toys, metals, minerals or themed items.  Pro tip: when building a closed system, avoid decorating with dried natural objects, such as sticks, bark shavings or lichen; these items tend to mold quickly in a humid environment.

Decorate Terrarium


Step 5: Care for Terrarium

Different plants require different care.  Most terrarium plants, whether tropicals, cacti and succulents, or Tillandsia, prefer bright, indirect light.  Tropical plants are partial to being watered thoroughly and then allowed to dry down between waterings.  Cacti and succulents also like to be watered thoroughly, but are happier to dry out completely between waterings.  Because they store so much water within their own plant tissues, they can remain dry for short periods of time, unlike tropicals.  Tillandsia take in moisture from the air, however, if you don’t live in a humid, tropical environment, you will likely need to mist the air plants regularly, or submerse them underwater overnight once every 2 to 3 weeks.  Pro tip: always remove moldy, dead or dying materials from your terrarium as they increase bacteria within your system.

Care for Terrarium

Now that you have all the tips you need to make a terrarium, get planting! Be sure to check out our vast selection of open and closed terrariums at 46 & Spruce.

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