Terrarium DIY-Scenes Under Glass

An assortment of terrariums that are easy to make
An assortment of terrariums that are easy to make

Every year around this time, with the outdoors looking so gloomy and bare, I am starving to see something blooming and growing in my house.  Christmas decorating is just a memory and the Philadelphia Flower Show is still not here yet! To satisfy my urge to garden I turn to terrariums.  Terrariums are easy to create using the right plants and containers.

The preparation is simple for a terrarium, similar to making a layered salad in a bowl.

To see directions on making a beach scene terrarium, go to my post at Beach Scene Terrarium.

Beach succulent terrarium tutorial
Beach succulent terrarium tutorial

Step by Step Directions

I like to use decorative rocks such as geodes and crystals in terrariums
I like to use decorative rocks such as geodes and crystals in terrariums
  1. Lay 1 inch of pebbles into base of container
  2. Add 1 T of horticultural charcoal to the bottom layer and mix in

    Horticultural charcoal
    Horticultural charcoal
  3. Add 2 inches of potting soil and tamp lightly, creating hills and valleys for interest
  4. Dig hole in soil; Plant largest plants first and continue with smaller plants
  5. Brush off sand or soil caught on leaves with soft brush
  6. Water plants lightly, trying to wash off any leftover soil on leaves
  7. Carpet the surface of a woodland terrarium with green moss and spray with water lightly, or if doing a succulent terrarium, add play sand or decorative gravel to surface to cover soil
  8. Add accessories; stepping stones, miniatures, decorative rocks, etc., long handled tweezers are helpful
  9. Water the entire terrarium, being careful to not drench plants using a small watering can or meat baster

For a fascinating account of a man in England who has had a terrarium since 1960, and stopped watering it in 1972, go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2267504/The-sealed-bottle-garden-thriving-40-years-fresh-air-water.html

His terrarium is still thriving!

Steps for creating a woodland terrarium
Steps for creating a woodland terrarium


  • Place woodland terrariums in filtered light and if covered, water infrequently by first checking soil moistness with finger
  • If woodland terrarium is open, water every couple of weeks by first testing soil moistness; mist plants for extra humidity
  • For succulent terrariums, place in bright light; water during growing season once a week, and in winter every couple of weeks; do not over saturate the soil!


Glass containers ready to be planted at Terrain, a nursery/garden center
Glass containers ready to be planted at Terrain, a nursery/garden center

I look for clear glass containers everywhere that I shop.  Tuesday Morning, Target, Crate and Barrel, Michaels, and pet stores are just a few places that have suitable containers. I look for a container that is taller than wide, to provide sufficient room to place growing medium and allow plants room to grow. A lidded container is ideal for those plants that require a moist, humid environment such as ferns and mosses, and for succulents a drier environment is needed, so no lid is required.

Terrarium container ideas
Terrarium container ideas


Because terrarium containers have no drainage holes, you need to provide some kind of drainage system. Gravel is the best option, but because the container is a closed system, be very careful of how much you water. Always stick your finger down into the soil to assess how moist it is, before adding water. Excess water will kill off your plants faster than any other kind of neglect. Keep succulents on the dry side but mist your ferns in a woodland container.

Horticulture Charcoal

The addition of horticultural charcoal keeps your soil sweet, absorbs impurities, and improves drainage. Mix in at least a tablespoon to your gravel before adding your soil.

Planting Medium

Use basic potting mix unless you are creating a desert scene with succulents and cacti.  For a desert terrarium, use a potting mix made just for cacti/succulents which has lots of grit and gravel added.

Splitting Up a Plant


Select from 3 to 5 different small plants that are suitable for terrariums.  Go to http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/terrarium-plants.htm for some helpful hints on plant selections.  I head to a nursery/garden center and look for small plants with interesting leaf shapes, textures, and colors. Be careful to use plants with similar growing needs.  Select both tall and shorter plants for variety.  Arrange your plants in the terrarium until you get a pleasing combination and plant carefully, keeping the soil away from the sides of the terrarium.  Sometimes, I split up my plants to make them a little smaller, saving the extras for another terrarium. Shaking off some of the potting soil, makes the plants fit in better. Finish up with a layer of sheet moss or gravel to hide the soil.

Planting Your terrarium


Add some miniatures like small bird baths,  resin animals, or interesting driftwood or rocks.  For Christmas, I add small glass balls and miniature plastic snowflakes for color. Great sources of miniatures are garden centers that carry fairy accessories, Christmas ornaments, craft stores, and doll house stores or online. I always look at the small villages that stores have set up for Christmas, like Department 56, for unique miniatures that you can landscape your terrarium with.

Ready to Accessorize

For a hands on workshop, creating your own masterpiece, come to the Rawlings Conservatory.

Rawlings Conservatory

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