The Habitat
How to Build a Terrarium in a Few Simple Steps
How to Build a Terrarium in a Few Simple Steps

The houseplant trend is huge right now. If your brown thumb has long had you banned from the plant shop but you love the look of luscious, leafy decor, consider a terrarium instead. Terrariums are a fun, low-maintenance way to add greenery and personality to your home. Make a terrarium yourself with just a few easy-to-find supplies, and customize it to suit your tastes.


Choose your base

hands making succulent terrarium mixetto / Getty Images

The first step in creating your own terrarium is choosing your base. Select a glass container with an opening large enough for your hand to fit through. It is possible to create terrariums with smaller openings, but you may need to use tweezers or other tools to put the items inside. Always make sure your container has been washed and dried before you begin.


Add rocks

rocks for terrarium drainage

Terrariums need drainage to prevent the plant roots from rotting or getting too soft. Place rocks in the bottom of your container to allow the water to drain out of the soil. River rocks and aquarium pebbles are two common choices and give you a chance to customize the look of your terrarium.


Add a moss layer

corked bottle terrariums @jansmartino / Getty Images

Place sphagnum moss in water and wring out the excess. Spread it across the top of your rocks and tamp it down a bit to press it in place — this will help keep the soil separate from the rocks. Keep in mind that the wider your container is, the thicker your layer of rock and moss should be. Smaller containers need a thinner layer.


Select your plants

building a terrarium Hasret Sonmez / Getty Images

What type of terrarium do you want? The plants you house in your terrarium will determine the type of soil you need. Some common plants for terrariums are spiderwort, golden club moss, starfish plants, and nerve plant. The internet is overflowing with other suggestions. A peat mix soil is best for mosses, while a potting mix with moisture-control will work for most other plants.


Add soil

air plant terrarium Jena Crosley / Getty Images

Now that you've selected the right soil for your plants, its time to add it to your terrarium. Spread a layer thicker than the rock layer over the sphagnum moss. For added interest, the soil does not have to be perfectly flat. You can get creative with this part as long as there's enough soil depth at each point for your chosen plants.


Add your plants

girl making terrarium mixetto / Getty Images

Once your soil layer is in place, you can add your chosen greenery. Plant these as you would in a regular pot. Dig an appropriate-sized hole, position the roots and cover with soil. If you pick your plants from the great outdoors, you may want to use a natural pestiside to ensure they didn't bring any pests with them.


Add water

air plant flamingo terrarium akeeris / Getty Images

After getting your plants in place, give them a drink to prevent shock. The sphagnum moss and bottom rock layer will allow the water to drain into the bottom, but it's still important not to overwater. Allow for full absorption and draining. Going forward, mist your terrarium every two weeks to a month to keep it hydrated and beautiful.


Sealed terrariums

glass terrarium with ferns Samathi / Getty Images

Creating a terrarium in a sealed container is slightly different than making an open one. Place pebbles or rocks in the bottom, but place a layer of activated charcoal over it instead of the sphagnum moss. This charcoal layer beneath the soil acts as a filter that purifies the air in your terrarium. Be sure not to place a closed terrarium in direct sun, as the temperature inside the container will be hotter than an open-air terrarium.


Dry terrarium

cactus and succulent glass terrarium hamikus / Getty Images

If the idea of soil and watering still seems like too much work, you could opt for a dry terrarium. Fill the container of your choice with rocks, pebbles, and sand of various types and colors. You can add crystals, seashells, or an air plant to the top layer. Be sure to keep your air plant out of direct sunlight and soak it in water for two or three hours every two weeks.


Get creative

be creative with the contents of your terrarium

When you understand the basics of making a terrarium you can feel free to make something that feels personal and unique to you and your home. Think about the theme you want to portray, and add small figurines or personal mementos. As long as the items you use are waterproof, you can get as creative as you like.




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