How to Make a Terrarium for Showing Off Your Favorite Tiny Plants

Person watering plants terrarium
Photo: Marty Baldwin

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

01 of 10

Perk Up Your Indoor Space

Completed Terrarium on table
Marty Baldwin

You'll want to know how to start a terrarium after seeing how adorable and easy this DIY project is. Also, terrariums don't require much care. 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 (just use fewer plants in a small terrarium). Follow our steps, and you'll have your own tiny plant terrarium in no time!

02 of 10

Terrarium Supplies

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. Still, if you want to use a more unique container, you'll probably find better options at a craft store. If you want to make a DIY closed terrarium, just be sure to choose a container that comes with a removable lid.

  • Glass container
  • Horticultural charcoal
  • Potting mix
  • Gloves
  • Terrarium plants
  • Sheet moss
  • Watering can
  • Trowel
03 of 10

Build the Base

Person placing soil terrarium
Marty Baldwin

To start your DIY terrarium, place approximately 1-2 inches of horticultural charcoal ($12, 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.

04 of 10

Mix It Up

Person with soil gloved hand pot
Marty Baldwin

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

05 of 10

Add the Second Layer

Person placing soil with tool in terrarium
Marty Baldwin

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.

06 of 10

Add Plants

Person placing plants terrarium
Marty Baldwin

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. For the healthiest terrarium, stick to plants with similar watering and light needs.

07 of 10

Squash Air Pockets

Person pressing hand into soil plants
Marty Baldwin

Use your hands (wearing garden gloves makes 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.

08 of 10

Top Dress

Person placing moss terrarium
Marty Baldwin

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 ($5, The Home Depot)

09 of 10

Give Your Terrarium Plants a Drink

Person watering plants terrarium
Marty Baldwin

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 the environment they're growing in. To avoid overwatering, test the soil for moisture with your finger before pulling out the watering can ($10, The Sill).

10 of 10

Caring for Your Terrarium

Person trimming plants terrarium
Marty Baldwin

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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