How To Make a DIY Terrarium in 6 Easy Steps

Terrariums are closed environment miniature gardens. The closed nature of the container means that your miniature garden develops its own ecosystem. Whilst appearing complex, these beautiful terrariums are actually very simple to make and enjoy in your own home.

Today we’ll be learning how to make a DIY terrarium. This post will also provide you with a few maintenance tips to keep your DIY terrarium looking as fresh as possible.


A clear glass container, such as a jar with a lid.

Bonsai dirt

A plant suitable for your terrarium environment

Sphagnum moss

Small stones

Activated charcoal

Decorative items (optional)

Sand (optional)

Moss (optional)


Long-handled spoons

Funnel (optional)

Spray Bottle filled with water or dropper.


1. Choose Your Container and Plants

You may already have a suitable container around your home. Get creative! Most glass vessels can be turned into a terrarium. I have in the past even used a french press, where the outside stand had broken.

A few things to keep in mind when choosing a vessel. Choose a container with a wide opening. This is because if your opening is narrow, it will be harder to make your terrarium. It’s far easier to make a terrarium if you are able to fit your hand inside the vessel to move things around as needed. Glass jars with lids are a great choice. For something a little more ornate you could consider containers with gilding metal edging and various glass panes.

When choosing your plants, select those that are small, slow-growing and require minimal light. As your terrarium will be living inside your house, you don’t want a plant that will outgrow it’s container quickly or die due to the low lighting in most homes.

Likewise, choose plants that like being moist. The DIY terrarium we’re making will be closed, with a lid on top which means your container will become humid, as the terrarium is designed to do so. Think of it as a mini-greenhouse!

Good plants for your terrarium include Fittonia (nerve plant), maidenhair ferns, or peperomia.

1 diy terrariumThe Fittonia, or ‘Nerve plant’ as it’s commonly called is a striking addition to any terrarium. 

2. Place a small layer of pebbles on the base of your container.

These pebbles will provide a drainage layer for your DIY terrarium and prevent your plants from becoming waterlogged.

Ideally, this layer should be one-two inches within your container. Though any color pebble will work fine, consider using light-colored pebbles to add to the visual ‘layered’ effect of your finished terrarium. This way the pebbles will contrast with the potting soil.

As you begin the process of building your terrarium, think about your glass container in terms of ‘thirds’ The first third at the base of your terrarium is for the first three layers. The second is for your potting soil and the last third, the top of the container is for your plant to have room to grow in.

3. Add a layer of activated carbon

This activated carbon is different from the kind used in fish tank filters but provides a similar purifying function. It’s also known as activated charcoal. Using activated carbon in your terrarium is optional, but will help your terrarium last longer and remain healthy.

Activated carbon purifies the soil, removing any build-up of toxins in the potting soil that long term, may harm your plants. It also tends to take away some of that ‘swamp’ smell if you decide to leave your terrarium open.

4. Add a layer of Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum moss is a particular type of dried moss that can be found at most nurseries or online.

This layer of your terrarium acts as a barrier between your soil, and the pebbles. Without the moss layer, when watered the soil will wash away down into the pebble layer.

Sphagnum moss is important in terrariums particularly for its ability to retain moisture. This is one of the reasons you will rarely have to water your terrarium.

2 diy terrarium
Sphagnum Moss provides moisture to your terrarium as well as separating the soil from the other layers. 

5. Add Soil layer and your plant

Gradually add your soil to your terrarium. I suggest using a fine soil such as a bonsai blend, as these soil mixes are designed for slow-growing plants with small root systems. This is handy to use in many various projects, including How to Grow and Care for A Bonsai.

Depending on the opening of your terrarium you may find a funnel or long-handled spoons come in handy for this step!

Once your dirt covers the layer of sphagnum moss by an inch, add your plant then cover the root system with more soil.

At this stage, if you want to make a beach-themed terrarium, use your funnel to gently add a layer of sand on the top. Alternatively, make a woodland terrarium by pressing some green moss down onto the soil.

Arrange your plants within your container carefully, considering the heights and colors that will be complementary to your overall scheme.

6. Add your Decorations

Terrariums are like their own little world. As such, it’s a lot of fun to decorate your terrarium with a little figurine.

Pick some up from eBay cheaply, or from a thrift shop, or perhaps ask your child if they have a small toy they’d like to include in the terrarium. Let your imagination play.

Amazon has some great miniature figurines available for purchase. Minature figures of humans add a little bit of wonder and character to your terrarium. If you find a lamppost figurine you could even make your own Narnia within your terrarium. Figurines of animals such as cows and calves are cute and make a peaceful scene within your terrarium. Some decorations come in bulk, which makes them cost-effective, particularly if you’re making a few terrariums to give as gifts.

Once all decorative pieces are in place, gently mist terrarium with your spray bottle and place lid on container.

3 diy terrarium

Some of my favorite terrarium decorations have come from thrift shops. Including this sweet little cat lying down figurine which I used in a terrarium with moss. 

Top Maintenance Tips

  1. Once the lid is on your terrarium resist the urge to take the lid off. Doing so will disrupt the ecosystem that is developing inside.
  2. Misting on the glass is normal. This is caused by your plants releasing and absorbing moisture, and different times of the day will result in changes in the amount of mist inside your terrarium.
  3. Don’t place your terrarium in direct sunlight. It may look pretty on the windowsill, but if the sun comes out the glass will act like a magnifying glass and fry your pretty plants.
  4. Do place your terrarium in a bright place, away from direct light. They make lovely table centerpieces and are at home in bathrooms.
  5. Every plant eventually outgrows its container and will need repotting at some stage. However, you can gently trim most terrarium plants if you find they’re getting too big.  But, if you care well for your terrarium it should last for several years.
  6. If your terrarium soil is looking completely dry, you may need to water. Water your terrarium with a spray bottle on mist, or a water dropper to the base of the plant. A little bit of water goes a long way.

Terrariums thrive on neglect, so they’re one of the easiest house plants to make and enjoy. We hope you have a blast making a DIY terrarium, we certainly did! Terrariums are one type of container gardening that can save you space and exercise your creativity. Terrariums are one of the many options available for indoor plant keeping and make a striking feature in your home.

4 how to make a diy terrarium

Terrariums can be made with an assortment of various glass jars and containers. Including french press coffee makers. 

how to make a diy terrarium