How to Make a Terrarium

Keep reading to learn how to make a terrarium, what types of terrariums are possible, and which plants and accessories you can put into your terrarium.

But first, what is a terrarium?

Basically, a terrarium is any indoor garden container that is fully or partially enclosed, holding small, decorative houseplants.  Terrariums are usually made of clear glass or plastic.

The benefit of terrariums compared to open plant pots is that they require less frequent maintenance, because they are an enclosed or semi-enclosed ecosystem.

How do you make a homemade terrarium?

A terrarium is not difficult to create yourself, so long as you follow these four simple rules:

  1. Start with a clear glass or plastic container - really, any container will do. You could also put a glass cover (such as a cloche) over a small dish garden;
  2. Select plants that will stay small and have similar water and sun requirements;
  3. Lay a drainage foundation, such as small rocks, in the base of your container to keep excess water from rotting plant roots;
  4. Be careful not to overwater your completed terrarium.

Really, that’s it - so long as you follow these rules, you should be able to build yourself a healthy terrarium container.

However, you probably want your terrarium to not only be healthy, but also to look beautiful. So keep reading for more ideas and tips on how to make a terrarium that you will enjoy for years to come.

What do you need for a terrarium?

These are the basic supplies you will need to create a terrarium:

  • A glass container (or glass cover for a dish garden container),
  • A selection of small plants,
  • Potting soil,
  • Small rocks, pebbles or marbles,
  • A small trowel or spoon,
  • Optional: activated charcoal,
  • Optional: small decor accessories to decorate your finished terrarium.

How do you make a beginner terrarium?

Making a terrarium is not difficult, but if it is your first time owning one you probably want to keep it simple with these tips:

  • Start with just 2 or 3 hardy plants that are not too fussy about water or light needs,
  • Choose a partially-enclosed container that makes it easy for you to access the plants (has a fairly wide opening),
  • Use rocks for the bottom that are plant-safe - aquarium gravel from a pet store is a great choice for a beginner terrarium,
  • Get some terrarium substrate mesh (sold online or at pet stores) to go between your rocks and soil (this is easier than dealing with moss or other substrate for a beginner terrarium),
  • Don’t completely cover the soil with moss/rocks/decor so you’re able to tell when the soil is dry and your terrarium needs watering (you can always add decorative accents later).

If you want to how to make a terrarium that is easy for a beginner, then take a look at the plans for a simple terrarium.

Plans for a Simple Terrarium

  1. Get a partially-enclosed glass container, such as an old pickle jar with a wide opening (without the lid).
  2. Lay a 1-inch layer of aquarium gravel at the bottom.
  3. Cut the terrarium substrate mesh to the size of the container, and lay on top of the gravel.
  4. Add a 2-inch layer of potting soil.
  5. Plant two small, hardy plants in the soil.
  6. Mist lightly until the soil is damp but not soggy (you’ll see excess water drip down into the gravel at the bottom. (Use a q-tip to clean the sides of the container if you got dirt on them).
  7. Place your terrarium in a spot with bright, indirect light.
  8. Check the soil every 2 weeks, and if it is dry then give a light misting.

What to put in a terrarium

As you're planning how to make a terrarium, there are various tools, supplies and accessories that you might want to have available. You can find most of what you need to make a terrarium at your local craft store, pet store, or hardware store (or order online).

These are the main supplies you will probably want to have on hand:

Terrarium Tools

  • A small gardening trowel (or spoon)
  • A spray bottle for misting your plants (you can find these in a gardening store, but also you can just use any empty clean spray bottle from a drug store)
  • Tweezers or long tongs (for placing accessories and removing dead leaves etc. - these are especially useful if your container has a narrow opening)
  • A funnel (for adding substrate and soil into a container with narrow opening)
  • Q-tips (for cleaning the inside glass walls)

Terrarium Supplies

  • A glass container
  • Potting soil
  • Small rocks, gravel or marbles
  • Sphagnum moss (if using)
  • Terrarium substrate mesh (if using)
  • Small plants

Terrarium Accessories

  • Decorative soil topper, such as moss, pretty rocks or gravel, glass beads or sea glass,
  • Larger rocks or crystals,
  • Tiny figurines, such as mini gnomes, animals or fairies,
  • Reindeer moss (available in many different colors).

What plants grow well in a terrarium?

It is best to select plants that are small (and will stay small), slow growing, and prefer shade or partial sun. You also want to avoid plants with large leaves that will cover or shadow the other plants in your terrarium.

When you choose your plants, go with varieties that have similar water and light requirements, and try to find a range of textures and leaf colors for interest.

As you're learning how to make a terrarium, it's a good idea to stick with just one or two hardy plants at first.

Plants to grow in a terrarium

Alpine Balsam

Baby’s tears



Club moss

Creeping fig



Earth Star (cryptanthus)


Goldfish plant

Inch Plant

Miniature Ivy

Job’s Tears

Joseph's coat

Lucky bamboo

Moon Valley Pilea

Nerve plant


Polka Dot Plant


Prayer plant

Purple Waffle



Sweet Woodruff


Air plants (Tillandsia)

Various succulents 

Types of terrariums

There are many different types of terrariums to choose from.  Here are just a few of the more common types:

  • Closed terrarium (those with a lid or fully covered with a cloche)
  • Fish tank terrarium
  • Tiny terrarium
  • Terrarium for kids 
  • Succulent terrarium
  • Air plant terrarium
  • Hanging terrarium
  • Fairy garden terrarium

How to Make a Terrarium for Yourself

When it comes to how to make a terrarium, you are limited only by your imagination and creativity. It’s probably best to start with a simple terrarium described above, but once you’re comfortable with keeping a healthy terrarium ecosystem then try your hand at one of the other types of terrariums above, or design your own to showcase your unique personality and interests!