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How to build a terrarium

By: Sherri Ribbey
Follow these simple steps to create a beautiful terrarium you can enjoy all year.

Bring the garden inside

All it takes is a few hours to build a terrarium and you’ll have plants to enjoy year round. We’ll walk through how to choose the right materials and how to care for your terrarium. Scroll to the bottom for the materials list, and be sure to click through the slideshow for detailed, step-by-step instructions with photos! Let’s get started.

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What to use as a container for a terrarium

You can use any type of clear glass container for a terrarium, but remember that the bigger it is, the more soil there will be and the less you’ll have to water. Also, a larger mouth makes it easier to get things inside — the opening for this one is a little more than 6 in. There’s a lid for this container, which helps regulate moisture, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

What to plant in your terrarium

There are lots of terrarium plants to choose from. Just make sure they all have the same light and moisture requirements. You can showcase a single specimen or group several together. Look for a mix of foliage shapes and colors and different growth habits to keep it interesting. In this one I combined a fern for height, a couple variegated plants and some red and chartreuse for a pop of color.

Terrarium Care Tips

  • Most terrarium plants do well with the indirect light of a north-facing window.
  • Direct summer sun, especially with the lid on, will overheat the container and plants will die.
  • You shouldn’t have to water very often, especially if you put the lid on at night. Do a quick check with your finger and if it’s dry, water.
  • These miniature gardens don’t last forever. You’ll need to refresh your planting eventually so you can continue to enjoy it all year.

How to build a terrarium


  • Glass container — try to avoid etching or patterns, as they can block sunlight and your view
  • Plants that like moist conditions
  • Gravel
  • Landscape fabric
  • Organic potting mix
  • Activated carbon
  • Decorative stones, moss, beach glass, etc.


  • Spoon
  • Paint brush
  • Chopstick
  • Scoop
  • Scissors


Plant List

A) Fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)
B) Nerve plant (Fittonia spp.)
C) Peperomia (Peperomia spp.)
D) Golden clubmoss (Selaginella kraussiana ‘Aurea’)
E) Aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei minima)
F) Polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

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Published: Dec. 4, 2018
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