indoor garden

how to make a terrarium

I have wanted to make a terrarium for years. It’s about time that we finally took this easy project on. Now that we have one done, of course, I want another. They add such a unique beauty to a room. Since terrariums can be built in so many different containers with all kinds of plants, why not build a few? A cluster of them can really make a statement.


Our first terrarium was built using the container that our gifted staghorn fern came in. (Ryan’s office gets the coolest Christmas gifts.) The staghorn has moved on to greener pastures and the container was washed and is ready to roll to become a new home for others. The plants we placed inside the terrarium were selected from The Barn Nursery in Chattanooga. The nursery had such a large selection to choose from. We had a field day picking out our favorite terrarium bound plants. Within minutes, we had our winning combination selected. Once Ryan picked up the potting soil and charcoal, we were ready to get out our hands dirty.

Tip: You want to select plants that are smaller in stature and will fit comfortably inside your container. If you are unsure of your picks, ask a your local nursery for suggestions.


How to make a terrarium

What you’ll need:

  • Glass container
  • An assortment of plants
  • River pebbles
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil
  • Soil scoops or cups
  • Scissors
  • Sand (optional – add this if you are using succulents)
  • Tweezers (optional – if your container is tiny these help)


Step one- With a clean container, place your river pebbles on the bottom. You want to make sure your tallest plants have room to grow, so periodically place them inside your glass container to gauge the available room so you know the amount of pebbles to put in the bottom.


Step two- Place a thin layer of activated charcoal over the pebbles for purification. (This is where the scoop comes in handy.) When you water your terrarium, excess water seeps down to the pebbles where it settles until it is pulled back upward into the soil as it dries out. The activated charcoal keeps the water clean and bacteria free.


Step three- Start placing soil into the container.  Scoop soil into the container creating a thick layer while making sure that your plants have room to grow. If you are planting succulents in your terrarium, you will want to mix sand in with your soil here. This will make the soil more porous and help it drain faster.


Step four- Decide how you want to place your plants within the container. Go ahead and arrange them outside of the container before planting, since it is not easy to test out arrangements once inside the container. Also, it’s best to start planting from the back to front in containers like the one we used. It helps for easier access as you work.

Take the plant out of its plastic container and loosen the soil to free the roots. This allows the roots to grow outward and get better established rather than being concentrated in one area. Then, start to place the plants into the terrarium.


As each plant is placed in its position, lightly pack additional soil around it to completely cover the roots and secure the plant in place. After all the plants are in place, even out the soil around each plant and the edges of the container.

Step five- Slowly water around the edges of the container until the bottom starts to collect water. The water will eventually keep the soil evenly moist where the plants can get to it. Water lightly because you don’t want your plants sitting in standing water.


That’s all there is to it. A lot of terrariums are topped off with little figures inside. Once we finished building the terrarium, I through out the idea of adding our little Buddha figure that we had found outside the old New England house to give it a little something special hidden in the middle.


Finally, our little Buddha has a forever home. I’m adoring our terrarium with its pop of color. As easy as it was to make, there will be more. It just radiates a zen feeling, I might just have to go meditate now.

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