easy diy terrarium in minutes

Confession: I am a serial plant killer. Flowers, ferns, vegetables, and even succulents die under my care. Over-watering, under-watering, too much sun, not enough sun – I just can’t get it right! A few weeks ago, when my latest Jade plant died after a year and a half of suffering, I started to look for my next victim. A friend suggested terrariums, and I was game.

Emily terrarium (9)

What is a terrarium, you ask? A terrarium is a habitat, or ecosystem, for plants. The idea is to find a glass container, fill it with your goods, and put a loose lid on it. The moisture from the soil and the plants “breathing” keeps everything healthy and happy, only requiring  very little care and attention.

Pretty much right up my alley.

I went to my nearest nursery and picked the brains of the experts there. I got my plants and other supplies and made two terrariums in less than an hour. This is how I did it.

What you’ll need:

Emily terrarium (2)

Three or four small plants, a large glass container, potting soil, pebbles or decorative rocks, and a few knick knacks for decoration.

Of course, I accidentally threw out the names of the plants I got, but the woman at the nursery said that any plant with a “hard leaf”, meaning not soft and fuzzy, will do fine. Succulents are better for an open container terrarium without a lid.

Emily terrarium (3)

Ferns are popular, and the other plants I chose I based on color and size. I decided to try some decorative rock and purchased four bags of each kind from the dollar store.

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The knick knacks were just a few toys and things I had laying around the house that I thought would be fun.

Start with a clean glass container. I picked one of these from Marshall’s and one from Walmart for a pretty good price.

Emily terrarium (4)

Carefully pour in your rocks and/or pebbles. Some of the research I did indicated that charcoal was necessary for moisture absorption, but my nursery expert said she uses any kind of pebble for drainage, and if the glass gets foggy to leave the lid ajar for a few hours.

Emily terrarium (6)

Add your potting soil. I was a little disappointed that the blueish decorative rocks didn’t show well, but since my container was on the short side, I couldn’t add more for visual appeal. Make sure to add enough soil to cover the roots of your plants.

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Add your plants, arranging them so that the leaves don’t touch the sides of the jar, which can cause them to rot.

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I used my fern for the taller container and split the other plants for the short one.

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I placed my knick knacks, and presto! Terrarium!

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I especially love this one with the little lamb. So cute.

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I added a few tablespoons of water and I probably won’t need to water them for a few weeks. They don’t require a lot of sunlight, especially in the first few days where filtered light is ideal.

Emily terrarium (1)

 Now they sit happily on my table and add some green to my decor and fresh air to my home! These make great gifts and can be catered to any room with the different knick knacks you put in them.

I think my serial plant killing days are over, and these tiny ecosystems will thrive.

Happy planting,

Emily Fonnesbeck signatureeasy diy terrarium in minutes

  1. August 15th, 2013 at 8:11 pm
    Kate says:
    I'm a serial plant-killer, too, except I've managed to keep one spider plant alive despite abandoning it for weeks at a time in the humid and then icy Midwest. I'm now working in a place with little natural light, so these are perfect..
  2. August 22nd, 2013 at 8:30 am
    Annie says:
    I've made so many terrariums; I'm an avid outdoor gardener and have never had trouble growing things ~ however ~ I find these very difficult to keep alive! I follow instructions and still they wind up either drying up or wilting away.... how did this planting do for you after a month? I'd love to hear some real-life successful experience with these terrariums. I just love them...
    • August 27th, 2013 at 9:11 pm
      Emily Fonnesbeck says:
      Sad story... this summer was not a good time to take care of plants and slowly but surely, my terrariums have died. I have one plant left alive in each and it seems to be doing well, but the others didn't. I followed the directions and the gal at the nursery talked to me like it was the easiest thing in the world. Ha! Another plant murdered. I'm definitely going to try again soon, we'll see what happens!
  3. September 17th, 2013 at 8:57 pm
    krr says:
    Here is my advice put coffee filter on top of decor stone or glass to preserve the layered look but dont skip completely out on the charcoal it purifies water passing through it to keep bacteria and nasties from getting into water i would say layer as follows drainage media(rocks or sand) then sprinkle a thin layer char. then a fibery barrier(coffee filter, garden fabric etc) another thin layer char. then layer of moss then plant and soil. I also saw someone put solar light or an LED in the lid
  4. August 11th, 2014 at 9:20 am
    Bastelschaf says:
    I really love your terrariums and your post - would like to use one or two of your pictures to recommend your post to my readers. (I have a category for that)
    Is that ok for you? If I don't hear from you I take that as consent :-) Otherwise please send me an email to [email protected]

    Thanx and keep up the good ideas!
    Best wishes
  5. August 12th, 2014 at 3:17 pm
    Bastelschaf says:
    Hey Emily and Katie,

    thanks again for letting me use your pictures to recommend your post on my blog!
    Here it is, if you care to have a look:

    By the way - have you tried a new round of happy terrarium life since it didn't go that well the first time? Is charcoal the secret?? ;-)

    Best wishes
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