How to Make a Tiny Terrarium for a Cute Tabletop Garden

You'll want to know how to make an easy-to-care-for terrarium after seeing how adorable this DIY project is.

terrarium inside a home

BHG / Phoebe Cheong

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $30

Terrariums make beautiful additions to desks, dining room tables, and other well-lit spots. Our step-by-step instructions will show you how to make a terrarium that can liven up any tabletop.

Completed Terrarium on table
Marty Baldwin

These adorable and easy DIY terrariums are easy to care for and simple to make. You can use all sorts of containers, from simple glass jars to intricate geometric terrariums, so it's easy to coordinate with your decor. And just about any size or shape will work (use fewer plants in a small terrarium). Follow our steps, and you'll have your tiny plant terrarium in no time!

Plants terrarium glass gloves soil watering can
Marty Baldwin

Before getting started, gather everything you need to make a terrarium. You should be able to find most of the supplies you'll need at your local garden center. However, you'll probably find better options at a craft store if you want a unique container. If you want to make a DIY closed terrarium, just be sure to choose a container that comes with a removable lid.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Gloves
  • Watering can
  • Trowel


  • Glass container
  • Horticultural charcoal
  • Potting mix
  • Terrarium plants
  • Sheet moss


  1. charcoal inside glass container


    Build the Base

    To start your DIY terrarium, place approximately 1 to 2 inches of horticultural charcoal ($18, Walmart) in the base of the container. Charcoal helps to remove toxins and odors. It also helps with drainage, so plant roots aren't sitting in soil that's too damp.

  2. Person with soil gloved hand pot
    Marty Baldwin

    Mix It Up

    Combine some of the remaining charcoal with potting soil by mixing with your hands or a trowel. Mixing the two helps with drainage and will clean toxins and odors from the terrarium throughout the container.

  3. Person placing soil with tool in terrarium


    Add the Second Layer

    Fill your container one-fourth to one-third full with the charcoal and soil mixture. Gently pack the soil every 2 inches to avoid large air pockets.

  4. person adding plants to terrarium


    Add Plants

    Carefully remove your terrarium plants from their containers and arrange them on top of the soil to ensure proper spacing. Allow enough room between the plants for additional soil. If you're wondering what plants to use in a terrarium, some top picks include starfish plants, air plants, and nerve plants. Stick to plants with similar watering and light needs for the healthiest terrarium.

  5. Person pressing hand into soil plants
    Marty Baldwin

    Squash Air Pockets

    Use your hands (gardening gloves make clean-up easier afterward) to pack the soil in and around plants. Tuck plants deep enough into the dirt to cover all of their roots and keep them from reaching too far above the top of the container.

  6. Person placing moss terrarium
    Marty Baldwin

    Top Dress

    Position moss on top of the soil
    and between the plants. Moss helps absorb odors and excess water that can lead to root rot. It also gives the surface of the DIY closed terrarium a lush, finished look.

    Buy It: Sheet Moss Soil Cover ($7, The Home Depot)

  7. Person watering plants terrarium
    Marty Baldwin

    Give Your Terrarium Plants a Drink

    After all your terrarium plants and moss are in place, slowly add water to help the soil and plants settle in. Future watering depends on the types of plants in your terrarium and their growing environment. To avoid overwatering, test the soil for moisture with your finger before pulling out the watering can ($15, The Sill).

  8. Person trimming plants terrarium
    Marty Baldwin

    Caring for Your Terrarium

    Keep your terrarium in a well-lit area with indirect light. Maintenance is minimal once the plants are established. As they mature, you may want to trim branches that grow out and over the top of your container. Also, it might be helpful to cut the moss occasionally to keep the thickness under control.

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