Terrariums: 5 Easy Steps to Create the Prettiest Ones

Translated by Nick R

You’ve probably seen those tiny plants inside glass containers used to decorate interiors. They are terrariums, an elegant and creative way to have a miniature garden anywhere.

So, if you want to find a closer way to enjoy gardening, having a home terrarium is the solution. Following we’ll talk about the features and benefits of having a terrarium. We’ll continue with what materials and plants you need, to finish with 5 easy steps to do it.

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is essentially a small ecosystem with plants and soil inside a translucent recipient. In short, they are mini-gardens much simpler to care for and maintain than conventional ones. Besides, they are popular as decorative elements and gifts.

We can differentiate two types of terrariums:

Open terrariums: 

Suitable for plants mostly adapted to dry conditions and that don’t require as much humidity. For this reason, they are created into open containers where air can easily run and sunlight shines better.

They may require more irrigation than closed terrariums, but not that abundant or frequent.

Closed terrariums:

Perfect for plants in tropical locations or that require moist conditions.

Having a closed terrarium allows better water circulation, that is, you can witness a small-scale water cycle. This is because the soil moisture evaporates due to the internal temperature of the terrarium. Then, this vapor condenses into the vessel’s walls until it finally returns to the plants and the ground.

Advantages of having your own terrarium

  • They are an easy and inexpensive alternative for people who want to enjoy gardening but lack enough space or time.
  • You can get creative and do it in your own style. Feel free to decorate it as you want to give it your personal touch.
  • They are quite self-sufficient and easy to care for. Moreover, they are comfortable habitats in which the plants can last quite a long time.
  • They bring life and nature to your home or office and thanks to the small space they occupy, terrariums are an ideal decoration element.
  • Assembling your own terrarium is a pretty relaxing activity that will make you feel fulfilled when seeing the result.

What materials do you need to make a terrarium?

Now, for you to venture into this idea of setting up your own terrarium at home, I’ll let you know what materials to have at hand and what roles they’ll perform within this ecosystem.


First, you must choose the container in which your miniature garden will grow. You can choose from many styles, but we recommend a glass vessel.

In addition, you can use items that you already have at home, such as a vase that is not in use, one of those jars in which pickles come or even a crystal glass.

As we already mentioned, you can create your terrarium in both closed and open containers. In both cases, try to consider the size of the opening, which should be wide enough for your hand to enter so you can easily reach the inside to place and move things as needed.

Small and large stones

Clearly, the container won’t have drainage holes at the bottom, so it’s important to create a layer that supplies this function. For this, we’ll use small stones that allow aeration and shape the ground. The thickness of this layer varies depending on the size of your container. The smaller the container, the thinner the layer of rocks.

The large stones can be used as decoration at the top of the terrarium when you have finished setting it up. You’ll see that stones give it a sophisticated and elegant touch.

Activated charcoal

You’ll also need a thin layer of granulated activated carbon which will keep the soil fresh and will be useful to prevent the appearance of bacteria, fungi and odors. You don’t need much, just enough to cover the stones.

You can get it in florists, stores with gardening departments, some health shops and even pet stores since it is used for aquariums.


An essential element will be the substrate, which is precisely where you’ll settle the plants and shape the top of the terrarium.

Soil, compost or potting substrate will be necessary. It’s usually a mixture of soil, fine sand, and organic fertilizer that you can easily get in florists or in stores with gardening specialized sections.

However, on the market, you can find other types of land for specific plants. For example, you can choose to sow ferns or succulents although it may cost a bit more. But as they’ll suit better they have more benefits than others.

The container you choose will tell you how much land you will have available, for this, remember that what matters is that the roots have good space to grow.

Moss (optional)

Moss is often used in terrariums to prevent soil, coal and stones from mixing. Therefore, moss will help you to better set the layers, which is visually aesthetic, but you can also use it on top as part of the decoration. It’s also good for absorbing and retaining water.

You can buy moss in any garden shop or take it directly from nature. If it’s the second option, try to clean and disinfect it well to remove all kinds of bacteria it may have.

What plants could you use for a terrarium?

Before telling you exactly which plants we recommend you to plant, we want to share certain aspects that you must consider first.

Select the plants according to the size of the container. The ideal is not to have vegetation that touches the edges of the container, pops out or piles up too much. Take the container with you when choosing the plants to avoid this.

Select short-growing plants. This clearly doesn’t interfere with the container, especially if it is a closed terrarium. However, it is possible to have fast-growing plants, but you’ll need to perform constant maintenance and the terrarium would lose its meaning.

Group the plants according to their needs. You can use different types of plants as long as you take into account their likes. For example, you can combine succulents with cacti, which are from dry climates, or ferns with tropical plants, which love moisture.

That said, let’s see 5 ideal plants for a terrarium:

Fittonia or nervous plant

It’s a classic plant for closed terrariums, tropical and lovers of indirect light. They are identified by the white, green and pink veins that run through their leaves and grow up to 15 centimeters.

You must be careful about its watering because lack of water will make it wither quickly. On the other hand, if you want to propagate it you’ll only need a cutting off its stem and place it in a container with water, in a warm and illuminated space.

Small ferns

Ferns are flowering plants perfect for closed terrariums. They have bright green leaves, usually pine-shaped. Although there are different varieties of ferns, all of them love humidity and shade, so any option you choose will be excellent.


Succulents are adapted to survive long periods of drought in arid weather as they retain or store water in larger quantities. They have a variety of families and are quite diverse and are widely used and highly recommended for open terrariums.

An important aspect if you want to have a terrarium of succulents is that you should plant them leaving space between them. So that the air can circulate freely with ease and your plants can grow in perfect condition. For this reason, it’s also ideal to place the succulent terrarium near windows where they can receive good ventilation and lighting.


Cacti are part of the succulent family, so they are characterized by accumulating water and nutrients in their tissues.

They are fashionable plants within homes due to their low maintenance, their large number of varieties, and the ease with which they adapt to the habitat where they are placed.

You’ll see that there are cacti with or without thorns, with or without flowers, and even both large and small. Thanks to this, you’ll have many options to choose the ones you like most, according to your style.

Lucky bamboo

Despite its name, this plant has nothing to do with bamboo, is called this way due to the similarity of their stems. It’s very appreciated in homes thanks to the belief that it brings good energy and luck to houses.

It’s a perfect plant for open terrariums. Leave it in a place with intense light, but avoid direct sunlight so beautiful green leaves can sprout. Besides, it’s a fairly resistant plant, just try not to overwater it.

5 steps to set up your terrarium!

Once you have the required materials prepared and you have chosen which plant you will grow, it is time to continue with these 5 simple steps to create the terrarium.

  1. Wash the glass container thoroughly to reduce impurities and cover the bottom with a layer of small stones. As we said earlier, a tall, narrow container will require a deeper layer of drainage stones than a wide, shallow one.
  2. With a spoon, apply a layer of activated charcoal enough for the rocks to be completely covered. On the other hand, if you are going to put moss you should soak it in water, squeeze it to remove the excess liquid and place it moist to form the third layer, just above the stones and the charcoal.
  3. Fill the container with potting soil, you can help yourself with a large spoon or a hand shovel. You should make a layer about twice the size of the first 3 layers, which means that the layer of soil should be proportional to the layers of stones, charcoal and moss put together.
  4. Remove the plant from its container and prune the roots to make them shorter, especially those that are long and thin, this will help slow their growth. Then make a hole in the soil according to the size of the plant and put it in place. If you have more than one plant, it’s up to you to get creative and arrange them as you wish. As a final detail, you can accompany this decoration with a few large stones.
  5. Water the terrarium. Give the plants a little water to help soften the transplanting shock. They must be moist, but not soggy, so water lightly.

How to look after your terrarium?

Although we have already spoken that terrariums are basically self-sufficient, you still must consider various aspects to give them a long life so they can keep being such a beautiful decorative element in your home or office.

  • Locate the terrarium in a place where it receives indirect light. Keep in mind that they are small greenhouses that keep their own climate inside, so exposing them to direct sunlight will burn the plants.
  • Check the plants periodically. In the case of having an open terrarium, this is to control that it doesn’t have pests, especially it’s important to detect them in time so that they are easy to remove by simply cleaning the plant. If you have a closed terrarium it’s important that you remove the lid from time to time to get some fresh air. Do this at least once a month or in case you have added extra water.
  • Touch the ground to see how wet it is. Since terrariums are usually watered approximately every 15 days, a good way to know if it is time to pour water is to stamp the soil. You’ll know if it’s dry or if it doesn’t require watering yet.
  • If some leaves die or wilt, remove them immediately, you’ll maintain health and vitality within this small ecosystem. In case the plant dies, remove and replace it.
  • Avoid using glass cleaners to clean the container. That’s because this product’s particles may poison your plants, you’ll only need a clean, humid cloth to clean the edges of your terrarium.

Terrarium ideas 

Before concluding, we want to share with you this picture that will give you a better idea of what a terrarium looks like in case it’s the first time you read about the subject or, to help you as an inspiration to build yours.

As you could see, having a terrarium at home will be an exceptional way to fill it with a little nature. Plus, by now you already have all the knowledge to set one up by yourself. so, get down to work!