Terrarium Tips from a First Timer

26 Oct

I have been itching to make a terrarium for awhile now. Besides the fact that they are adorable, I have heard they are easy to keep healthy. This is excellent news for someone like me, who can’t keep any plant alive besides the moss ball in the fishbowl on my desk at work.

I have seen incredibly creative ideas for vessels to plant these little ecosystems in, including necklaces, Christmas ornaments, and cake stands. I wanted a tabletop version. I feel in love with the geometric style of  Score and Solder terrariums the moment I saw them, but being unable to rationalize the cost, I searched for similar alternatives before discovering a small one from the new Urban Outfitters in Fort Worth.

Geometric Terrarium

When trying to figure out exactly how to make a terrarium, I found online guides to be plentiful. I found both  common threads and differing advice on the many sites I searched. All of the guides told me to make terrariums in glass or clear plastic vessels. This is what causes the greenhouse effect. Also, be sure to place it in a well-lit area, but avoid direct sunlight or you’ll scorch your plants!

I also learned that there are two types of terrariums: open and closed. Closed terrariums are exactly as they sound. Like mine, these are completely enclosed containers, whether with a hinged door or a lid. A bell jar would be another example of a closed terrarium. Open terrariums can be vases, bowls, or any other clear jars with openings. Open terrariums are better for succulents and plants that like drier soil, while closed terrariums are great for plants that enjoy the humidity.

It seems all good terrariums have layers. The first layer of your terrarium should be drainage. Drainage could be shells, river rocks, sea glass or marbles. Get creative! The second layer should be active charcoal. You can find active charcoal online or in the aquarium section of pet stores. Charcoal helps remove odors from your terrarium as organic materials decompose.

Some guides I found suggested a layer of moss on top of the charcoal to act as a barrier between the charcoal and the soil. Moss also keeps the soil away from the drainage. I chose to do this, but it doesn’t seem to be common advice. Since succulents like drier soil and I opted to put one in my closed terrarium, I mixed some sand in with my soil to create the next layer.

I carefully placed my plants into the sand/soil layer, and topped my little garden off with some more moss. Embellish your new terrarium with little figurines! I love the idea of having seasonal decor in my terrarium, so I will be adding a small pumpkin soon, and maybe exchanging it for a miniature ornament in a couple of months!

Suggested Reading: Free People’s DIY Terrariums with Terrain, West Elm’s Go-To-Guide, Better Homes and Gardens How-To,  and Sprout Home‘s Video for Design*Sponge.


3 Responses to “Terrarium Tips from a First Timer”


  1. Hanging Moss Balls | Design*Sponge « Beyond Its Purpose - 5 November 2012

    […] Terrarium Tips from a First Timer (gustoandgrace.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Indoor Gardening Secrets of a Successful Glass Terrarium « Gardening indoors - 24 November 2012

    […] Terrarium Tips from a First Timer (gustoandgrace.wordpress.com) […]

  3. DIY Terrariums – Harder Than I Thought! | Aprons and Cammies - 16 December 2012

    […] Terrarium Tips from a First Timer (gustoandgrace.wordpress.com) […]

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