Bring the outdoors in! With a glass container and a few simple tools, you can bring beauty and health to any home with a succulent terrarium. They’re also a great eco-friendly gift!
- A terrarium is a miniature ecosystem made of soil, rocks, and plants arranged in a clear container.
- Usually, terrariums are made in a closed glass container that can be opened for maintenance and to access the plants inside. However, terrariums can also be made using other transparent materials, and do not require a lid.
- Terrariums are a great way to observe how an ecosystem works. An ecosystem is an area in which living and non-living things coexist through relationships. All living things depend on nonliving things (such as water, minerals, sunlight, and air) to thrive. Ecosystems vary in size; a backyard is an ecosystem, so is an entire desert, and so is a terrarium!
- Fun fact! The first terrarium was developed by the botanist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in 1842. Ward had interest in observing insect behavior and accidentally left one of the jars unattended. A fern seed grew, germinated into a plant, and the terrarium was born. This first terrarium model was known as the “Wardian Case.” The trend quickly spread in the Victorian Era among the English.
- 60 minutes
What to Plant
- For closed terrariums, choose plants that are small, slow growing, and like shade and humidity. We recommend African violet, artillery fern, nerve plant, Swedish ivy, small philodendrons, strawberry begonia, spider plant, small ferns, and prayer plants. You can also take cuttings/divide plants you already have, or start plants from seed. With closed-top terrariums, avoid planting cacti or succulents. However, an open container terrarium can contain a larger selection of plants. Succulents work well in an open vessel.
- How the plants are arranged will depend on the size and location of the terrarium. If the terrarium will be viewed from only one side, then place the tallest plants in the back and shortest plants in the front. If your terrarium will be viewed from all sides or if you plan to rotate it, plant the tallest plants in the middle and the shorter plants along the outside.
Materials + Tools
- Clear glass container with or without lid
- Small pebbles or rocks
- Organic potting soil
- Small plants
- OPTIONAL: Small tools for planting and arranging, such as forks, spoons, and chopsticks
- Clean your container with warm soapy water and dry completely – clear glass works best. Make sure your container is deep enough that the soil/pebble mixture can cover the roots of your plants, yet still have plenty of space above the soil surface to grow. Note that an enclosed container will be entirely self-sufficient. A plant in an open container will need occasional watering.
- Add pebbles, charcoal and potting soil to your container:
- Place a 1-2” layer of pebbles at the bottom of the container to promote drainage.
- Add a few tablespoons of charcoal to keep the soil fresh, filter the water and prevent fungi growth.
- Next, add high quality, organic potting soil. You’ll want enough to cover the root of whichever plants you will insert, probably about 2”. Generally, the pebble/soil mixture should not exceed 1/3 of the vessel.
- Place your plants inside your container, and plant them in the soil. You can use your fingers or small tools if you like. Add the cover if you have an enclosed container.
How to care for your terrarium
- Light – All plants need sunlight. At first, place the terrarium in a spot with filtered light. Check the first 2 weeks to make sure it is getting enough light. If plants are starting to grow leggy, new growth looks pale and small, or the plant generally doesn’t seem to thrive, try placing it in a more sunny area.
- Water – Water if the soil looks dry. Be careful not to over-water initially because the closed container will create moisture.
- Air – Ventilate enclosed containers by removing the lid for a short time, but only if lots of moisture is visible on the inside of the glass. If plants begin to fade or compete for space, prune a bit. If a plant outgrows the terrarium, move it to a larger one.