How to make a terrarium: a guide for beginners (step by step) (2023)

Contrary to popular belief, terrariums do not require complex methods or materials to produce captivating results.

With the right DIY approach — and some tried-and-true plants — creating beautiful living art has never been easier. Even the simplest terrarium can look professional if you follow these gardening principles.

So in this article we're going back to the basics.

I'll show you how to build a terrarium in the simplest process. We'll walk you through every step from the start, telling you everything you need (and don't need) along the way.

So let's dig!

How to make a terrarium: a guide for beginners (step by step) (1)

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  1. DIY Terrarium Guide: Introduction
    • Closed terrarium 101
    • Glass containers for terrariums
    • Select terrarium plants
  2. Basic Terrarium Layers (Step by Step)
    • 1. Drainage
    • 2. Solo
    • 3. Hardscape
    • 4. Plants
    • 5. Finishing touches
  3. Basic care and maintenance of terrariums
  4. This is a wrap

DIY Terrarium Guide: Introduction

Closed terrarium 101

First, let's make sure we're talking about the same type of terrarium here.

After all, modern terrariums come in many forms these days. Although they are broadly divided into two categories:open terrariumseclosed terrariums.

All those colorful plate gardens and succulent terrariums perfect for Pinterest? Yes, we're not going to tackle that today... Open terrariums have their place, but we'll make onefunctionalTerrarium here, so let's talk about that exclusivelyclosed terrariums.

The kind that can retain moisture and create a beautiful tropical environment for our plants.

(Video) How To Make A Terrarium | A Beginners Guide

Eventually, the original terrarium (the Wardian Case) was developed to transport tropical plants around the world. Now let's pay tribute to this history by creating a stunning piece of nature for our home.

So let's make one!

Glass containers for terrariums

Almost any glass container can become a beautiful terrarium.

That is, the shape and sizedefinitiveaffect how easily they are planted.

Basically,The larger the opening, the easier the job.So I wouldn't recommend starting with abottle terrarium. They really are as complicated as they look!

Instead, I'd look for larger aquariums, vases, and mason jars... you get the point. It doesn't have to be fancy, you can get great glassware at thrift stores, online marketplaces, and TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the US).

If you manage to get your hand in, you're a winner.

How to make a terrarium: a guide for beginners (step by step) (2)

👉Check out mineGuide to terrarium containersfor practical tank tips.

Ideally these will be closed containers with lids in place, but don't worry if your chosen container doesn't have a lid (they usually do, and the one we use does).

we have severalSolutions for terrarium coversavailable and cling film (saran wrap) is also a great quick fix.

Select terrarium plants

Choosing your plants is of course the most exciting (and possibly most important) part of the project.

In order to cope with the high humidity and temperature in a closed terrarium environment, you must useexclusivelytropical plants.

That's right, cowboy, put away the succulents and cacti!

You should also consider the size and growth of your potential plants. If you're working with such limited space and want a terrarium design that's as easy to maintain as it is to build, stick with itthumbnailsortseSlowerproducers.

However, if you don't mind regular trimming, plant life is your oyster.

To help you with your decision, you can read our guidesclosed terrarium plantsit is atThe best terrarium plants for beginners.Both have many plant inspirations and options for terrariums.

(Video) How To Make a Terrarium - A SIMPLE Beginner Guide

Okay, so where do we start with choosing our terrarium plants?

To keep things simple, I want to choose from a few categories for a vibrant, natural-looking scene.

  • Laub- You need an accent plant (or two) in the foreground to create a focal point and pop of color.

best choice: Polka Dot Plants and Nerve Plants are classic entry-level terrarium plants. OBatterygenero also has beautiful facilities in Aluminum Factory and Pilea do Vale da Lua.

  • Make some– Ferns are fantastic terrarium plants almost everywhere. They are the kings and queens of texture, and theyto the servicehigh humidity and heat. Not to mention that there are so manyFarn-TerrariumVarieties to choose from.

best choice: I like a sword fern miniature (the lemon button fern is in almost all my terrariums) but today I'm going to use onePterisJudgment.

  • reben- Most of us won't have space in our terrarium to grow a bulletproof pothos plant, but luckily there are some equally reliable miniaturesterrarium tendrilsthat fit the bill.

best choice: For smaller builds, bothficus lined upePilea glaucacome to mind, just like allSelaginella(Club Moss) Genre. I'm also a fan ofSyngonium(especially the pixie variety!).

  • Moos– The moss is the icing on the cake and brings out the whole tropical/forest look in a really spectacular way.

best choice: The two highlightsMosses for terrariumsare cushion moss and mood moss. These grow in clumps instead of leaves and are thereforeveryeasier to style in the terrarium.

Basic Terrarium Layers (Step by Step)

1. Drainage

Adrainage layer(Commonly known asfake terrarium background) exists to make your life easier.

Essentially, they provide a space for excess water to drain and act as a failsafe to protect your plants from root rot if you accidentally add too much water to the system. What is very easy...

To start, simply lay a layer of suitable drainage material at the bottom of the container.

Gravel is a common and inexpensive option, but I like to use porous materials (e.g. lava rock or leca) whenever possible as they are lighter and have some additional benefits for plant roots.

A height of about an inch should be sufficient for most projects.

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As part of the drainage layer(s), you may see some people recommend a mesh screen and aactivated carbon layerhere too.

Both can provide minor benefits - the former for keeping the substrate away from the drainage layer and the latter ostensibly for filtration - but honestly neither is necessary (or possibly worth it).

To keep things simple today, we're going to skip those two!

2. Solo

Next the most important thingthrow from only– Obtaining a quality substrate is essential.

(Video) How To Make A Terrarium - ULTIMATE Beginners Guide

We need something that drains well, retains moisture, and provides nutrients.

To keep things simple, I recommend choosing an intentionally curated mix (why make life difficult?).

If you're unsure, the classic ABG mix is ​​always a winning choice, but honestly any good quality tropical, fern or terrarium mix should do the trick.

How to make a terrarium: a guide for beginners (step by step) (4)

👉 Check out oursTerrarium substrate guidefor help choosing a mix for your project.

(If you only have potting soil,he canworks, but is far from ideal in terms of longevity of the terrarium).

As for depth, you need to add enough to comfortably house the roots of your plants. For reference, mine ended up being about two inches deep for where I placed my plants, but of course that depends on what plants you have.

3. Hardscape

Ok, so hardscape isn't oneessentialpart of a terrarium.

But it's such an easy way to improve everything, I really recommend it.

Seriously, a single hardscape element can take your terrarium from zero to super fast. Provision urgently neededtexture and structureFor your building, it will draw attention, contrast your plants and add a natural look.

All this just adding a rock or branch to a terrarium? It is worth it!

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In my experience, rocks can be a bit easier to maneuver and anchor underground, but you can choose any you likeTerrariensteinorlogsthat makes you want to.

Partially burying the hardscape can be a good way to add some stability by packing the substrate around the base. You don't want something to fall and break the glass...

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4. Plants

Finally time to plant!

I recommendstarting with your tallest/largest plantand work your way down to the smallest. This helps you maintain a sense of scale and create visually stunning levels.

Make a hole in the substrate (the tip of the brush will do the job just fine) and place the roots of the plant, smoothing down the surrounding substrate to keep it in place.

pro tip: If you find this complicated, you can easily water the substrate with a spray bottle. A moist substrate may be easier to work with, but don't overwater it.

(Video) A Beginners Guide To Making A Terrarium

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Now that the main plants are in place, it's time to tie everything together with moss. This completes the "natural look" of our miniature garden. It's my favorite part too!

Start by taking your clumping moss of choice and severing a clump of any size (you may need to trim the excess fibers underneath).

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Simply place it where you want it in your terrarium, with the green part facing the viewer. So keep going until you are satisfied.

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These types of mosses don't grow out very far. So if you want full moss coverage, keep adding until the entire substrate is covered.

5. Finishing touches

Voila, the terrarium is ready!

All that's left to do is lightly water it with a spray bottle and cap.

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If you have a lid, feel free to put it on and marvel at your new creation. If not, here's a simple solution using cling film.

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Basic care and maintenance of terrariums

A well constructed terrarium will take care of itself (and if you follow this guide you should get there).

However, they are rarely a fully independent nursing experience. Even after learning the basics, they still need a little attention/maintenance every now and then.

Here are the key points to note.

  • Luz- Keep your terrarium in a place where it gets plenty of indirect sunlight. An hour of direct sun here and there is usually fine, but too much will burn your plants.
  • Water– saberhow to water a terrariumRight, that's half the battle. If the substrate looks dry and/or your plants are wilting, add a few extra sprays as needed. The substrate should be evenly moist, but never waterlogged.
  • Mofo– A (very common) problem with new terrariums is mold growth. Heat and humidity make terrariums an ideal environment for mold. Don't panic if this happens! It's perfectly normal and there isA variety of ways to combat mold in terrariums.

A good way to prevent mold problems from day one is to add a Collembolan colony and make oneBioaktives Terrarium. Those tiny scavengers that feed on mold - useful, right?

👉Check out mineTerrarium guidefor more details on all of the above!

This is a wrap

Phew, you did it.

I hope you fell head over heels in love with your new terrarium.

(Video) How To Make A Terrarium For Beginners - A step by step guide

If you want to show it off, post it on Instagram and tag us (@terrariumtribe). MarryLoveto see, and we're always happy to share it with our growing terrarium community!

Alternatively, if you want an even easier start to your project, you can check out our favoriteTerrarium Kits.


How do you make a terrarium step-by-step? ›

Setting up your terrarium
  1. In your clean and dry container, layer up your pebbles to about 2-3cm. ...
  2. Next add the charcoal. ...
  3. Layer on the potting soil. ...
  4. Your biggest plant goes in first. ...
  5. Place in other stones, or maybe some moss or sand to cover up the soil if you want to.
  6. Put in any finishing touches.
Mar 30, 2020

How do you make a terrarium in 5 easy steps? ›

  1. Choose Your Terrarium Plants. The first thing you need to learn how to make a terrarium is the type of plants you'll use. ...
  2. Choose Your Container. The next step on how to make a terrarium is to choose the container that will be suitable for your plants. ...
  3. Build Your Layers. ...
  4. Add Your Plants. ...
  5. Follow a Maintenance Routine.
Jan 11, 2021

What are the layers of a terrarium a simple guide? ›

A terrarium basically has 4 main layers. They are, in order from the ground up, the gravel, moss, soil and decorative layer.

How do you make a simple terrarium for kids? ›

How To Make It
  1. Fill the bottom of your glass bowl with small pebbles—about 2–3 inches high. ...
  2. Fill the glass bowl with potting soil about ¾ of the way up.
  3. Pick an assortment of small indoor plants and plant 2–3 plants in each terrarium. ...
  4. Let your child fill their terrarium with special objects of their choice.
Apr 20, 2015

How do you make a simple terrarium jar? ›

  1. Start with a clean and clear glass jar or container. ...
  2. Cover the bottom of the jar with a layer of pebbles or gravel for drainage.
  3. Add a small layer of activated charcoal.
  4. Add a layer of moss to help the potting soil from staying out of the charcoal layer. ...
  5. Add a thick layer of potting soil.
Apr 20, 2022

What is a terrarium answer? ›

A terrarium is like an aquarium, but for plants instead of fish. It is made in just about any glass container. It is planted to look like a miniature garden or forest enclosed in its own little world. You can easily make a beautiful terrarium yourself.

What is a terrarium for grade 1? ›

A terrarium is a miniature garden grown inside a covered glass or plastic container.

Do terrariums need light 24 7? ›

UVB lights should be kept on during the day and turned off at night and should be used along with calcium supplements. Do not keep UVB lights on all the time as this can cause another problem, hypercalcemia (too much calcium).

Should you put rocks at the bottom of a terrarium? ›

As terrariums have no drainage hole, pebbles or rocks down the bottom help to prevent the system from building up stagnant moisture in the soil. For this guide, we used red lava rocks from Bunnings but if you have some small rocks or pebbles lying around the house, give them a rinse and use these instead.

What is a terrarium with water called? ›

This aqua-terrarium, also called a paludarium (latin: palus = swamp), is very popular with biotope enthusiasts. With it you can simulate riverbank zones, landscapes with waterfalls and water holes very authentically.

How do you make a homemade mini terrarium? ›

How to Make a Terrarium Step-by-Step
  1. Step 1: Cover the bottom of your terrarium with a 1 ½ inch-thick layer of small stones or pebbles. ...
  2. Step 2: Add a very thin layer of activated charcoal. ...
  3. Step 3: Add a layer of potting soil. ...
  4. Step 4: Now it's time to add your plants.
Feb 8, 2022

How do you make a terrarium tank? ›

Turn an Aquarium into a Terrarium: 9 Super Easy Steps!
Mar 20, 2020

Why is my terrarium dying? ›

In the case of a terrarium, the most likely causes are either too much water or too much sunlight. Check the soil to see if it's dry or still wet. If it's dry, it just needs more water. If it's wet, your plants roots may be rotting, potentially due to overwatering.

Do terrariums need a lot of water? ›

In general, for terrariums with a normal, loose-fitting glass lid, it most likely will need to be watered a small amount every 3 months. For a terrarium with a cork, rubber, or tight glass enclosure, it can stay closed without needing any water at all.

Can you make your own terrarium? ›

You can set up a basic terrarium in an hour or two with very few inexpensive materials, including many types of glass containers that make beautiful vessels for DIY terrariums. The adorable miniature terrarium plants often only cost a few dollars each.

What is the best shape for a terrarium? ›

Generally, if you get a large(ish) glass container that's square or round – it'll work! See our Essential Guide to Tropical Terrariums to make sure your terrarium is as wonderful as your new container!

Does it rain in a terrarium? ›

When you poor water into your terrarium you are starting the water cycle. Eventually, it will "rain" in the little glass world you have made! When you set your terrarium in the sun the water inside the terrarium will heat up and turn into water vapor in the air. This is called evaporation.

Do you really need a drainage layer for terrarium? ›

Overall, a drainage layer will help any keeper keep their bioactive terrarium healthy and functioning. The most important aspect is to never let your ground water (drainage water) go above the drainage layer into the substrate.

How do you make a mini terrarium? ›

How to Make a Terrarium Step-by-Step
  1. Step 1: Cover the bottom of your terrarium with a 1 ½ inch-thick layer of small stones or pebbles. ...
  2. Step 2: Add a very thin layer of activated charcoal. ...
  3. Step 3: Add a layer of potting soil. ...
  4. Step 4: Now it's time to add your plants.
Feb 8, 2022

How do you make a spooky terrarium? ›

To create a spooky Halloween terrarium, cover the bottom in moss. Cut a haunted house out of tag board and attach to the inside with tape. Add a cute ghost made from a 1'foam ball wrapped in tissue. Push a length of miniature fence into the moss near the front of the jar.

How do you make a large terrarium? ›

How to Make Your Own Terrarium
  1. Choose the right container. Pick a clear container like a glass jar, vase, or plastic pet tank that can receive adequate light.
  2. Layer in the rocks. Create a layer of rocks at the bottom of your terrarium. ...
  3. Moisten your moss. ...
  4. Add the soil layer. ...
  5. Add your plants.
Jun 7, 2021


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