Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Build Your Own Terrarium

Today I wanted to share a simple and fun project! For the terrarium I'm going to make today,  I've chosen to use succulents. Succulent terrariums are actually more like glorified planters since they aren't enclosed, but nonetheless, they are still fun to make! If you choose to enclose yours, make sure you pick plants that will thrive in a wet and humid environment such as Fittonias, Ferns, Peperomia, Aroids, Earth Stars, or English Ivy.

The supplies you will need include:
-soil or sand
-activated charcoal (you can find this at a plant shop or even a pet shop--it's the same as the kind used in aquariums)
-decorative items such as moss, rocks, or shells.

When selecting your plants, make sure to gather species that will thrive in similar conditions since they will all be in the same container. The two plants I selected are crassula rupestris ssp. mamieriana and ceropegia woodii. They are both succulents so they prefer dry environments.

Step 1: Add a layer of pebbles or coarse sand to the bottom of your terrarium to allow for drainage. Then, add a handful of charcoal on top to provide filtration of chemicals in the air and water as well as overall circulation. If you are making a closed terrarium, the charcoal is especially important. Choose soil that is appropriate for the types of plants you use. I am using cactus and succulent potting mix, but you can also use sand for desert terrariums.

Step 2: Gently pat down the soil as you add it to avoid pockets of air. Make a small hole in the soil wherever you want your first plant to be. Remove the plants from their pots.

Step 3: After taking the plant out of its pot, very gently loosen the roots if they are tightly compacted. In my case, the roots were so compacted that I had to make a small slice down the middle and carefully pull the roots out from the center. This also allows for you to place the plant in a more shallow dish like the one I'm using.

Step 4: Continue making holes in the soil and placing the plants inside the terrarium. When arranging your plants, make sure to leave some extra growth space around each one. Lightly press the soil around the plants and roots; add more soil if necessary. Make sure that the base of the plant isn't buried.

Step 5: Decorate! I've chosen to use pieces of crystal and pyrite, a shell, and some moss.

Yay, the finished terrarium! Here is a little bit of information on caring for your terrarium. If you have used succulents or made a desert terrarium, make sure it stays relatively dry. Only water with approximately 1/4 cup (varies depending on the size of your terrarium) once every couple of weeks (this also varies) and make sure the soil dries out in between each watering. Remember to water sparingly since the container does not have drainage holes; once you add water, it cannot be taken out. Place your terrarium in a well lit area, but avoid harsh or direct sunlight. If you have made a closed terrarium with moisture loving plants, mist the plants whenever the soil begins to dry out or when there are no signs of water droplets on the glass. 

Be sure and research your individual plants to find out how much light and watering will work best. Also, remember to consider the size and shape of your container. 

Resources. If you decide to pursue terrarium making and would like additional information, here are some of the sources I recommend. Much of the information I've provided today comes from these books. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World by Fred Dortort
The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin
Terrarium Craft by Amy Bryant Aiello and Kate Bryant
The Complete Book of Terrarium Gardening by Jack Kramer


  1. !!! Thank you for sharing this tutorial. My apartment needs some sprucing up. Your terrarium is so pretty, the shell was a nice tough. I want to make a few closed and open ones :]

    1. Thank you for reading! If you end up making some, send me some pictures :)

  2. That is so nice, I would look at it all day long :).

    P.S. Enter my awesome giveaway, win some bling!

    1. Thank you so much. I'm gonna go check out the giveaway now.

  3. Yay! Definitely one of my favorite posts from you :) thanks for sharing!
    xo Heather

  4. This looks awesome! I may have to try this out for myself :) xox

  5. I found your blog through Fly Anyways and am so glad I checked it out - I am a terrarium fiend! They're so awesome when you're stuck in an apartment! Your blog and your etsy shop are super cute! Sorry I used so many exclamation points :P

    1. Hey Jess, I'm so glad you found my blog! I love terrariums as well as you can probably tell :) I'll definitely check out your blog!