Everything You Need to Know About Making a DIY Terrarium

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You don’t need lots of space or even a seasoned green thumb to have a totally insta-worthy greenspace. You just have to think small. A DIY terrarium lets you create an entire garden — a whole mini ecosystem, even — within the walls of a glass container. Plus, it’s super easy to make and care for. Win!

How to make a terrarium

What you’ll need:

  • Glass container
  • Pebbles or stones
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil
  • Plants
  • Spray bottle

Step 1: Pick your terrarium type

There are two main types of terrariums: open and closed. The difference being, somewhat obviously, whether the container has a lid or not. Open terrariums are better for dry-weather plants like cacti and succulents, and will need to be misted with water a few times a week. A closed terrarium has a lid that will allow moisture to build up inside, creating its own tiny and self-sufficient ecosystem. It works best for humidity-loving plants.

Step 2: Decide on a container

Only rule is that it’s glass. After that, get creative! You can make teeny-tiny plant habitats in salt and pepper shakers or lightbulbs. Or upcycle an old glass pitcher, lantern, or teapot. Of course, you can also play it straight and pick up a glass jar or bowl to use. (Make sure whatever you go with has a lid if you want a closed version.)

Step 3: Layer your soil

Get to work with the dirt: Cover the bottom inch or two of your container with a layer of pebbles or stones, which will provide a drainage and keep your plant’s roots from rotting. Next, put a thin layer of activated charcoal (get it at a garden center) on top of the stones to ward off bacteria and mold. Lastly, add an inch or two of potting soil. (Different types of plants require different soils. If you’re planting desert types like cacti or succulents, get soil that’s specifically labeled for them.) Your container should now be about a quarter full. If the level is off, adjust the amount of potting soil to correct it.

Step 4: Choose and add your plants

Your plants are about to live in some seriously close quarters, so make sure the ones you go with have the same light and moisture needs. For a closed terrarium, pick plants that can tolerate low to moderate light and need humid conditions. A few good options: ferns, ivy, thyme, creeping fig, moss, and baby’s tears. Open terrariums, on the other hand, need heat-loving sprouts like succulents, aloe, cacti, sedum, and air plants. Once you’ve gotten your greens, plant them in the terrarium starting with the largest ones first and then adding the smaller ones around them.

Step 5: Jazz it up

It’s also fun to add decorative items like shells, stones, or little figurines to your terrarium.

Step 6: Care for it — carefully!

Repeat after us: Resist the urge to overwater! All you need to do here is lightly mist your plants with a spray bottle. Do this every week for an open terrarium. For a closed one, you actually only need to water it a few times and then it should maintain its own water after that. (Some terrariums have gone decades without being watered. Whoa!) Keep the terrarium near a window where it gets indirect sunlight. Prune the plants frequently to cut off dead pieces and cut back on plants growing too vigorously. Within a few weeks your new terrarium should be thriving!

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