3 Easy Steps to Brighten Your Home With a DIY Terrarium

Sara Barnes # Lifestyles

Are you looking to brighten up your home? Terrariums are an easy—and fun—way to bring nature indoors. They’re endlessly customizable and can be made to complement a variety of decor. For years, terrariums have been the DIY of choice for many people—particularly those who aren’t ready to be full-on plant parents, because once you’ve got them assembled, they are relatively low maintenance.

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is a small, enclosed environment that’s suitable for many plants. It’s essentially a greenhouse on a much smaller scale; the plants, rocks, and other elements are kept in a transparent container (typically glass, but plastic also works). They are either sealed or unsealed. But regardless, they work the same way—the plants and the soil release water vapor which then collects on the walls of the vessel and drips down the sides and back into the soil. In this way, they are self-sufficient and don’t need to be watered often (or at all).

How to make your own terrarium:

You can always buy a terrarium, but making your own is way more fun. You can create a DIY terrarium in just three steps.

DIY Terrarium

Photo:Leadhead Glass

1. Choose your container.

This initial step is where you get to showcase your sense of style. Choose a clear vessel based on what you like—it can be something as simple as a large jar or more elaborate like a glass geometric container. The angled tabletop displays are very popular right now and come in a variety of shapes, from cubes to diamonds. But if you prefer curves, there are plenty of bulbous glass planters —some of which hang from the ceiling.

2. Choose your plants.

The types of plants you choose will depend on the container you selected. Vessels that are completely closed require moisture-loving plants and moss. Containers that have an opening can hold succulents, cacti, and other houseplants. Make sure that whatever plant you choose grows slowly or else they'll take over your jar!

DIY Terrarium

Moss works well for sealed terrariums.  (Photo: Buffalo Girls)

Plants for sealed containers: Look for plants that do well in high humidity like ferns (such as the spider fern), starfish plant (does well in low light), golden club moss, Joseph’s coat, and the Moon Valley friendship plant.

Plants for open containers: Succulent and cacti lovers can rejoice—your favorite plants thrive in open container terrariums. Another houseplant that does well is the Gold Dust croton, which is a great visual contrast to bulbous succulent leaves. Air plants also do well.

DIY Terrarium Kit

Succulents are perfect for open terrariums.  (Photo: Succulent Gift Shop)

3. Layer your materials.

Much like a lasagna, building a terrarium requires you to layer certain materials to ensure that the plants will get the proper moisture and that water will drain correctly.

Layer 1 (bottom): Pebbles or stones to allow for drainage.
Layer 2: Activated charcoal on top of the stones to keep mold from developing in the terrarium.
Layer 3: An inch or two of potting soil.
Layer 4: Your plants—make sure they all have the same light and moisture requirements.
Layer 5 (top): Decorative elements like stones, figurines, or other inanimate objects. This section is optional and purely for aesthetic purposes.

Here's a handy guide for how to make a terrarium, visualized:

Terrarium Plants

Photo: The Note Passer

Not a DIYer? Try a terrarium kit.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to create their own DIY terrarium—and that’s okay. There are plenty of shops that sell ready-made terrariums or all-inclusive terrarium kits that have everything you need to enjoy this enclosed garden. This is also a great gift option for the plant-loving person in your life.

DIY Terrarium

Photo: Blow Your Succs Off

DIY Terrarium

Photo: Pistils Nursery PDX

DIY Terrarium Kit

Photo: Terra Sphere Terrarium

DIY Terrarium Kit

Photo: Face of the Earth

DIY Terrarium

Photo: Terra Sphere Terrarium

DIY Terrarium Kit

Succulent Gift Shop