Tips To Setting Up An Terrairum In Your Own Home

By Kate Boland on April 16 2020 in How to

Succulent plants arragement with decorative ornaments in a glass terranium. Image credit: Syazana Rose Razman/
Succulent plants arragement with decorative ornaments in a glass terranium. Image credit: Syazana Rose Razman/
  • Botanist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward designed the first known terrarium in 1842. These popular glass gardens soon became known as Wardian cases.
  • A well maintained terrarium can live on indefinitely. The oldest living terrarium on record is more than 60 years old!
  • Colored or tinted glass can negatively impact your terrarium. Choose clear glass containers instead.

Whether you are an apartment dweller with no outdoor space, or a garden-lover with no time to mow, water, or fertilize, a terrarium is the perfect - and easy - answer to bringing more greenery to your home. Fuss-free and visually inviting, read on to discover tips to bring your DIY terrarium to life.

Location, Location, Location

Just like in real estate, success with your terrarium is all about location. Too much sun and the glass container will magnify the sun’s rays and burn your bouquet. Too little, and your flowers won’t flourish. In order to choose the best spot, check the nursery tag on your plants for its photobiology, and be sure to group plants that tolerate similar sun conditions together before locating the ideal space. Consider bookshelves, picture rails, and window sills. 

Glass Containers

A collection of basic things to make a glass terrarium. Image credit: Syazana Rose Razman /

No need to rush out and by specialized or expensive glass terrarium domes, although these exist and are very decorative. Any clean, clear glass container makes for an excellent terrarium. Cookie or mason jars, wine decanters, punch bowls, unused fish tanks, even the glass container for burned out votive candles can create unique shapes and be reused as ideal terrariums. Be sure the glass is not tinted, however, as colored glass can impede growth. Finally, be sure to choose a container wide enough to fit your hand through to make planting easier. 

Rocks and Roll

Proper drainage is essential to keeping your plants thriving with minimal maintenance. To do this, start with a layer of rocks at the bottom of your container. The rock layers aerates and drains water away from the roots, creating a rolling topography and preventing overwatering. Keep this layer in relative proportion to your container - the smaller the vessel, the fewer the rocks, and consider using colorful alternatives such as pumice, marbles ,or glass beads.

Soak and Scoop

Next, soak sphagnum or sheet moss in water and then squeeze out the excess. Drape the moss across the rock layer, tucking it in tightly around the rocks to create a barrier between the stones and the soil. Then, using a funnel if needed, add the recommended soil for your plants in a thick, rolling layer. 

Plant The Plants

Get creative! Use scissors to trim plants into shape, add decorative mosses, and consider colors and textures. Be sure to loosen the roots before planting in a shallow divot, then completely cover the root bed with new soil. Play with height, shape, and hues until you’ve found the right combination. As mentioned above, the first priority is keeping plants together that have similar sunlight and water requirements. Consider groupings of succulents, mosses, or small green leaf plants. 

Water And Walk Away

Now that you have your terrarium planted, give it a generous watering - not flooding - to secure the plants in place and help them adjust to their new environment. To minimize maintenance ever further, consider adding a decorative glass watering bulb to your terrarium. As an inexpensive alternative, fill a reusable beverage bottle with water. Empty mineral water bottles look lovely but any small bottle will do. Upturn the bottle and firmly plant the mouth completely in the soil. The roots of the plants will slowly withdraw water as needed and when the bottle is empty you’ll know it is time to refill. Otherwise, spritz you plants with water whenever needed as per the nursery tag instructions.   

Skip The Plants

Not a green thumb? Consider terrariums as a unique and inexpensive way to decorate your home. Use terrarium domes and jars to create centerpieces on the dining table. Fill the clear glass vessels with holiday decorations, floating candles, or display delicious treats such as cupcakes and cookies.

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