Want to Make a Terrarium? Here's How

Updated 06/12/17
terrarium
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Terrariums are having a moment and with good reason. A room simply isn't complete without the greenery of plants and the color pops of foliage and florals. They truly have the power to transform a room beyond mere aesthetic styling. And science agrees. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that people who work in an office setting with plants and windows have a higher capacity for attention (among other benefits) compared to those without access to nature. 

There are many benefits to bringing greenery indoors, and terrariums are a great place to start. The good news is you don't need to be a licensed botanist to make your own. In fact, you don't even need to have a green thumb, thanks to our handy guide. Whether you're hosting a party and want an activity to entertain your guests, or you just want to personalize your desk, you can't go wrong with a terrarium. Follow the steps below to get started.

Choose Your Container

Thankfully, any stylish glass container can be used for your terrarium. The possibilities really are endless. To give you some guidance, however, we suggest thinking about the installation process beforehand, and how you want to display it. Do you want it to be mounted on the wall, hanging from a ceiling, or sitting on a flat surface?

When you're choosing the geometric shape of your container, you should keep in mind that it will inform the kind of plants that will be suitable for the given environment. For example, open globes will require a bit more water than bottle glasses or vases with lids that will be conducive to tropical plants. This is due to air circulation and plant distribution. 

Set the Scene

Think of your terrarium as a microcosm or a specific biome. Do you want to build a dry desert or a tropical forest? Once you pick an ecosystem, then you can shop the materials that will make the environment sustainable for your plants. To minimize the mess, opt for tools like funnels, a measuring cup, and tweezers. The key to a healthy terrarium is including these five layers: potting mix, rocks and gravel to function as a drainage system, live moss, horticultural charcoal to keep unwanted odors at bay, and, finally, the plants themselves.

How to Build a Tropical Terrarium

First, create a base layer of rocks. You'll want use to a variety of textures, shapes, and sizes to make sure this layer functions properly. Next you'll add in a layer of live moss, which comes in a few varieties. Be sure to clean it well. Sprinkle a generous scoop of horticultural charcoal on top to support your moss under the soil. You'll want to use standard potting mix or African Violet mix for this ecosystem.

Once your soil is set, you can add the plants. For forest plants, we recommend purchasing the peacock plant, triple splash, Mini Esther, and a nerve plant. Before you put them in, make sure to cut off the stems.

How to Build a Dry Desert Terrarium

Follow the same process as above when it comes to picking your rocks for the foundation. Live moss also works for this terrarium a long as you're using an open container that allows for good air circulation. Next, pour a generous scoop of horticultural charcoal over the moss layer. Now it's time to dump in the soil using a scooper and funnel to keep things as clean as possible. Opt for cactus potting mix for a desert terrarium.

After that, you'll be ready to add the plants. Our favorite desert plant options are the moon cactus and violet queen (if these nicknames make you want to step up your name game, you're not alone). Don't forget to cut the stems so you can nestle the plants into the potting mix.

More Is More

Since terrariums are small in scale, you can get as over-the-top as you want. Show some personality by incorporating random objects like pins, ornaments, crystals, and even string lights. After those finishing touches are complete, you can think about maintenance. The rule of thumb is to check if it's dry or damp on a weekly basis. If it's the latter, you don't need to add water. And finally, make sure you keep your terrarium in a bright area with lots of light. 

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Are you going to build a desert or forest terrarium? Let us know how it goes and share your tips with us in the comments. Happy crafting!

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