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DIY Terrariums with Terrain

UPDATE: This post originally ran on April 17th 2012, but with summer coming to an end we wanted to remind everyone of this easy and beautiful way to bring some nature into your home – they’ll cheer you right up as the weather gets colder outside!

Terrariums are one of my favorite ways to add a little outdoor life to the home. The best thing about them is how easy they are to make – and once you know how, it becomes addicting. Trust me – you’ll want to make hundreds, experimenting with different types of plants, flowers, colors, shapes, textures…they’re so much fun! This Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a terrarium workshop at Terrain, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Not only was it a great way to spend a beautiful spring afternoon, I also learned a lot about these sweet little plants and how to keep them healthy. And of course, I documented the whole thing so I could share the tutorial here on the blog!

What you need:

– Your terrarium of choice. A completely enclosed terrarium requires little or no watering. If it is an open terrarium, you may have to water once a week or on a monthly basis. Enclosed terrariums are best for plants that require a moist environment – they keep the water in, and you’ll typically see condensation on the inside of the glass. I used a round glass vase that has a large opening, because I made a terrarium that is drier and doesn’t need much water.

– Your plants of choice. Terrain has a whole section of terrarium plants that you can pick and choose from – but you must stick with using either succulents or moisture-loving plants – you should not mix the two, because they require different environments (succulents can live in a dry environment).

– Planting materials: rocks, charcoal and soil

After examining the selection of plants I decided to go with succulents – I loved the colors of the plant above, and the little mini cacti!

Step One: Add your base layer – this can be rocks, gravel, pebbles or course sand. This layer is for drainage, and depending on the size of your container, you will want to spread at least 1” of drainage material evenly across the entire bottom of your terrarium.

Step Two: On top of the drainage layer, add a thin layer of activated charcoal (aquarium filter charcoal). This layer will help clean the air of the fumes caused when the organic materials begin to decompose.

Step Three: Add soil – all purpose houseplant potting soil is fine. You can play around with this layer to add depth and contour to your landscape with different levels of soil. Make sure you have enough soil that when you put in your plants their roots are fully surrounded by soil and not extending to the charcoal/gravel layer.

Step Four: Now you can add your plants! Think about how you want to arrange them first, and then dig little holes in the soil to place them. Pack in the soil tightly around them.

Step Five: Once your plants are in, you can add finishing touches like larger rocks and stones, moss, sticks, you name it!

I love my little terrarium! Since I used succulents, it requires lots of sun and doesn’t need much water – just a light spritz here and there.  Thank you so much for the workshop Terrain! For added inspiration, here are some other awesome terrariums people made on Sunday:

A larger terrarium like this one allows for more room to play around with plants!

Photos by Julia.

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Christina -April 18, 2012, 8:34AM

I love these! Such a great project and will liven up the garden. :)

Come check out the Fresh Fruit and Chocolate Mint I had for Easter.


megan -April 18, 2012, 9:11AM

I love this…but, I know nothing about plants, so I am a little confused on what types of plants to have in it…also, are you supposed to cover it completely after you fill it? hmm…awesome idea though

fp julia -April 18, 2012, 3:28PM

Megan – you and me both haha – this link is helpful for learning more about what plants are best:; you do not need to cover the terrarium completely – but terrariums with moisture-loving plants thrive in a closed environment and will live longer, because it keeps in the moisture.

megan -April 18, 2012, 9:54PM

thank you so much fp julia :)

Rossana Pearson -April 22, 2012, 1:53PM

Great blog. Terrariums are great for those who own reptiles as pets. When I hear terrarium, I think of living reptiles and snakes. Aqua-rium for fish. Terra-rium for reptiles.

Rhonda Mills -April 23, 2012, 9:59AM

Mother nature loves this

Kelley -April 23, 2012, 10:42AM

Any tips on where to find cool glass vessels?

Vivi -April 25, 2012, 5:52PM


You can get glass vessels at Jo-Ann’s, Michaels, Christmas Tree Shop and even Goodwill thrift store.

Gwen -June 10, 2012, 3:31PM

Hi Julia,

Nice blog you have here, especially the photos you put on here are really inspiring! You don’t find that a lot on the web. I might create on of my own terrariums soon, think it’s a really cool idea! Btw, I also found this site on the web, provided me with lots of info, might be useful for other people too :)

natalie -July 19, 2012, 7:55PM

What is the pink flowering plant called that you put in there? It is beautiful. where did you get it? I went to fredmeyer, home depot, and lowes and never saw anything like it. Thank you for the post! I made one once I saw your pictures and tutorial. ;)

kathleen -August 20, 2012, 8:50PM

it’s a calandiva. sub species of the kalanchoe ( from madagascar)

Chelsea -September 1, 2012, 3:42PM

Most terrarium plants can be found in a nursery’s indoor/home section, though big box stores won’t have as good selection or quality plant material. For cute, small starters, I’ve used etsy before but I always recommend supporting your local nursery or floral shop before going online. You can see your plants when you choose them and can ask questions to knowledgeable staff who might give you some great tips that you won’t hear elsewhere. Also, there are some great terrarium books out there including “The New Terrarium”, “Terrarium Craft”, or even “The Unexpected Houseplant”. I hope this helps some people!

wendy -September 2, 2012, 11:58AM

I really like this!!!! I am going to make it my business to try this!!!

Jess -September 8, 2012, 9:09PM is the place to go online if you’re looking to create a diy terrarium. You can buy modern hanging glass versions or go old school with vintage brass/glass ones. And you can buy plants, moss and rocks for your terrarium there as well. Etsy is also a great place to find neat little miniature knick-knacks to liven up a terrarium. You can populate your new terrarium with tiny animals, toadstools, gnomes and tiny houses found in their miniature ceramics listings (

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Anthony -July 31, 2013, 6:46AM

Could I use a 55gal. fish tank what kind of plants should I replace the hood lites woth plant lites can I add sum little

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Danny Hofmann -November 1, 2013, 1:33PM

Julia, thank you for the VERY simple step by step instruction you shared along with the pictures. I learned more in your quick little guide than I did with 2 terrarium books I checked out at the library. I’ve been collecting terrarium materials for the past year ie.. Glass containers, stones, sea shells etc but just hasn’t put much together. You’ve inspired me to get down and dirty and start assembly:) Thank you!!

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Vida -April 13, 2014, 11:10PM

I find great glass vessels at the dollar store.

V -May 8, 2014, 11:36AM


Where do you get activated charcoal? Is it the same as the one they put in fish tanks? -May 31, 2014, 1:41AM

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Terrarium Planter -September 10, 2014, 6:04PM

Thanks for the inspiring post! It’s just about the end of the year again, so I’ve decided that it’s time to get a head start on a new terrarium for this year! I think I’m going to go with a desert theme, planted with succulents and cacti, something to remind me that things can be warm and toasty even in the middle of winter! Cheers!

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