In the last few years, terrariums have gained popularity as a creative and beautiful do-it-yourself project. No longer are they the ugly little weed gardens we made as children (at least mine were!). Today they are practically works of art. And not only that, they are super simple and inexpensive to make.
Throughout this post, you will find out everything you need to know about creating your own terrarium. You will also see photos of the various terrariums I’ve been putting together while playing around with different decor combinations.
What is a terrarium?
A terrarium is simply a tiny garden that is kept inside a glass container. Most are extremely easy to care for and some are even filled with water, allowing you to create an underwater environment. But probably the best thing about terrariums is that you can get really creative with them by adding lights, shells, figurines, and all sorts of different materials.
1) A Container
A round or square container with a wide opening will be the easiest to work with. However, there are some beautiful geometric-shaped glass containers and other unique options you can find on both Etsy and Amazon that would look stunning as terrariums.
You can also find many glass containers for $20 or less at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnn Fabrics. You can also check Goodwill, discount stores, and tag sales for less expensive options. And of course, there’s always Amazon.
No matter which container you choose, make sure it is sealed on the bottom if you plan to fill it with sand or water.
2) Base Layers
Many plants require a base for them to grow in. Bases usually consist of rock, activated charcoal, and soil which are arranged in layers. If you are using air plants as I usually do, you can skip this step as they don’t require soil to grow in.
The above diagram is an example of how a terrarium is typically layered. The bottom layer, or rock layer, provides drainage for excess water. The next layer, the activated carbon or charcoal layer, pulls toxins and removes smells. And the top layer, which is frequently potting soil, acts as the root-growing medium.
If you wish to have a low-maintenance terrarium (like I did) you can skip the standard base layers by using air plants. Since air plants don’t require soil, you can use sand, decorative rock, or whatever you can think of for your base. You can also place air plants on top of crystals, driftwood, or shells.
Another type of base you may want to consider is water beads. Water beads are globs of gel that absorb large amounts of water. For some types of plants (like bamboo), they can replace the soil as the growing medium. Just be careful if you have kids or pets who may try to eat the beads.
Always make sure you research your plants so you can find one that fits your lifestyle and living space. As a rule of thumb, make sure to check the amount of sunlight the plants require, how big they will grow, and how and when they should be watered.
Some of the most common plants used in terrariums include:
Some people prefer terrariums that look really natural, while others, like myself, enjoy adding decorative elements for a more unique look. If you need help coming up with your own decor ideas, check out the list below.
Figurines may include things like fairy houses, animals, and people. All of these can be used to add life and color to a terrarium. Some people even use them to create intricate scenes while others use them as cute accents.
Air plant stands
If you wish to give your air plants a little boost, you can use air plant stands. Stands are commonly made of crystal, cement, driftwood, and pretty rocks.
Lighting is a great way to draw attention to your terrarium and will make it look great even in the dark. Some lighted terrariums even look gorgeous as centerpieces. Lighting options may include fairy lights, puck lights, or overhead lighting.
Rocks, shells, sand, and crystals look amazing when used in beach-themed or water-filled terrariums. And crystals are especially stunning when combined with colored sand and air plants.
You can use items like crushed rock, marbles, colored sand, and reindeer moss to cover the bottom of your terrarium. These items can add a pop of color or give interest to an otherwise dull terrarium.
*A note about adding animals
Most terrariums are way too small to add fish or other types of small amphibians. Even a really tiny fish will usually require at least one gallon of water for a happy and healthy life. My recommendation is to keep it simple and just use plants.
Putting It All Together
- If you’re using plants that require a growing medium, you can begin placing your base layers (gravel, charcoal, and soil) and inserting your plants. The order and thickness of your layers will depend on the species of plant you are using.
- After your plants are in, you can apply a decorative top layer to your terrarium using things like moss, sand, or rocks.
- Once finished, you can complete your terrarium with the decorations of your choice.
- If you are using air plants all you have to do is place your base and decorations. Then you can place your air plants wherever you choose.
If you would love a terrarium, but don’t have the time to create one, you can buy a kit or even purchase one that is completely pre-made. In fact, my very first terrarium was made from a kit I got from Etsy, which you can see in the above photo.
A kit will come with all of the materials you will need to create your own terrarium. All you have to do is put it together. Personally, I think Etsy has the best kits but I’ve also seen them on Amazon and other sites as well. Buying a kit can also be more cost-effective than buying all of the items separately.
Terrariums that are already finished are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but they are usually more expensive. In some cases you may have to place some of the plants and decorations on your own, depending on how it is shipped.
I’ll admit that some of the terrariums I created were disasters. But others I ended up really loving, especially the one in the below photo. As you can see from all of my other pics, I like to keep my terrariums simple, but yours don’t have to be. Feel free to go wild and crazy with your plant and decor choices.