How To Make A Terrarium For Beginners – A step-by-step guide

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Terrariums are actually quite useful and not just aesthetically pleasing. It enables people to keep plants in their homes that they would not otherwise be able to keep. There are a lot of beautiful plants out there that sometimes just will not be able to survive in lower humidity and they need a higher humidity environment.

 In order to provide that high humidity environment, people would have to get some type of greenhouse or a greenhouse cabinet. However, if the plants are on the smaller side you can get away with just a terrarium. They are also art pieces and they add a little bit of decoration to someone’s home and they make an area more aesthetically pleasing. It also helps to keep children and pets out of plants if you have that issue as well.

So it has function and beauty all combined in one. Plus it is very artistic, very fun to make, and everyone is unique to the artist that makes it.

What is a terrarium?

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is some type of enclosure.  be made out of plastic, acrylic, or glass but it is usually some type of clear enclosure that will hold multiple layers of the substrate in order to mimic terrestrial environments. It doesn’t have to be some big, complicated, jar that is sealed for 1000 years or anything like that. It is just some type of container with more than one layer in there and then you can add in plants or moss or whatever you want to make it yours.

The Supplies:

 The supplies you will need today are:

 •Some type of vessel to build the terrarium in – it can be open or closed does not matter

 •Any tools that you feel you might need. If you feel like your hand won’t fit in the vessel there are skinny, long-handled shovels, chopsticks, and rakes, that will fit in there as well. Hands are fine as well.

• Home type of rocks or leca you

•Horticultural charcoal or activated carbon

• You will need mesh or long fibered sphagnum moss

•  some soil mix -for us today we are going to be using 50% potting media and 50% Perlite. It can be whatever you want. It is best to tailor it to whatever plants you are putting in your terrarium. That way they do not rot or have too much moisture in an area with high humidity. This will also prevent mold and rot.


•Decor such as moss, rocks, people’s, homes, mushrooms, tiny doors, furniture, etc.

Step 1: Clean Your Vessel

Clean Your Vessel

 Take some rubbing alcohol and of wipe out the entire inside of your vessel. That way it is sanitized and there will be no bacteria, mold, mildew or any kind of little spores. You have no idea what fell on this while it was just sitting wherever you got it from. So, you want to make sure that that is not going to continue to grow in there and potentially harm your plants and ruin this mini ecosystem that you are making.

Step 2: Drainage Layer

Drainage Layer

Next, you want to pour in your drainage layers. If your vessel is really small you may need some type of funnel. You can easily make a paper funnel if needed. Whatever is necessary to pour the rocks or leca into the vessel.

The drainage layer is where the excess water is going to sit and then it will evaporate and go back up. It is very important that you do not overwater your terrarium. If you end up having the entire terrarium flooded with water, the water goes out beyond the drainage layer then your plants are more likely to rot.  More likely to be mold and mildew. Overwatering a terrarium is the number one thing that causes the death of a terrarium.

Your drainage layer just needs to be some type of rock or rock-like substance. Some types of rocks, local or it can even perlite. It just depends on whatever you feel is going to work best for you. It just needs to be something that is a little bit more chunky and going to keep the next layers up and out of the drainage space.

Step 3: Charcoal


 The charcoal layer can absorb any odors and then if you were to put any type of beneficial bugs like springtails they would actually survive on this charcoal layer as well. It is a very very important layer for the health of your terrarium. It helps keep things flowing evenly and helps kind of filter out the soil and keep the soil out of the drainage layer because if anything gets in the drainage layer it is going to clog it up and it would not be a drainage layer any longer. It would just be a fully saturated layer and can cause a lot of problems. The charcoal layer prevents all those problems.

Step 4: Mesh Layer or Dividing Layer

Mesh Layer or Dividing Layer

A mesh layer is simple to add. You get some type of screen or mesh. You cut the mesh just a little bit tiny bigger than the terrarium base and that way it will kind of overlap the edges just slightly (or you can fold them down whichever you prefer). You just want to make sure that whatever you are putting on top of this mesh layer is not going to be going down past it.

 If you do not have a mesh or can not get a mesh, you can also use long fibered sphagnum moss. It is a great substitute for this. You just want to make sure that it is presoaked and then wrung out so when you add it to the terrarium it is slightly damp. Then you lay it into your terrarium and make an entire barrier out of it and you want to push it down really hard so that nothing else is going to get through it.

Please note that this is not going to last as long term as a mesh would have. Because a mesh is made out of synthetic product awhile sphagnum naturally breaks down over several years. The longevity of your territory is something to keep in mind while you are building and when you’re choosing which substrate to use for this layer. It is a very crucial layer and not having it can mess up the entire ecosystem of the terrarium depending on how moisture retentive you need your terrarium to be.

Step 5: Planting Media

Planting Media

Your soil mix can be slightly dampened or not. Whichever you find easier depending on how much you need to shape your terrarium. If you were planning on shaping your terrarium by building hills and building mounds, it is easier if the substrate is slightly moist. This also produces less dust on the edges of your terrarium for you to clean up later.

This step is where you decide the shape of your terrarium. If you want to have higher plants in the back then maybe it will be easier to have it lower back there so that the plants do not reach the top as quickly.

 If you have a bunch of smaller plants it’s much easier to create a 3-D illusion by adding an angle so you have kind of a sliding scale and sliding hill there. It just depends on what is going to work best for you with the plants that you have chosen. This is totally up to you as the terrarium artist. Whatever you want to do.

Step 6: Plants


You just place them wherever you want. You can use little chopsticks to dig a little hole or if you have trouble reaching. You can also use your hand. Whatever is going to work for you. You just find little places to put these plants to build the design you want. Keep in kind they will grow to. It does not have to be full and perfect right away.

 You can also use cuttings so you don’t have to use fully grown plants. A lot of cuttings propagate in a high humidity environment. You can just propagate your plants in a terrarium environment as well and you do not have to have fully grown plants in order to plant your terrarium. Sometimes plants even do better when it’s just a cutting. If you add rooted plants try to bare root them as much as possible to avoid introducing negative spores, bacteria, etc.

Step 7: Final Touches

Final Touches

 Any final touches you want can be added here. If you have any little houses that you want to add. Any little people and little decorative rocks. If you have liver or preserved moss that you want to add. Basically, anything that’s going to just bring this over the finish line and make it a 1000% amazing for you! this is where you add just the little unique touches in addition to the plants that make this terrarium yours.

And your terrarium is finished. All you have to do now is choose the perfect spot for it and watch it grow.

Terrariums can be intimidating because of all the layers and how complicated and full some of them can look. Hopefully this helped to simplify the process for you and even make it something fun and enjoyable.


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