Terrariums are a great way to interact with nature in the winter, or any time of year.  For me, they evoke a feeling of nostalgia for the Victorian era.  Victorians had an innate desire to commune with the natural world in response to the rapidly changing landscape during the industrial revolution.  Botanist Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward accidently made the first terrarium when a rogue fern spore found its way into one of the jars he was using to observe and study insects.

It is easy to relate to this intrinsic need to seek out authenticity in a world overrun with factory-made disposable products. I love to display my terrarium alongside other objects of interest I have collected on my adventures.  Here is my guide to making your own terrarium without buying a ready made kit.


The Container:

I was able to find my glass container for under $20 at my local craft store.  You can also find some great glass pieces at antique shops for a reasonable price.  If you use a glass container that is not fully enclosed like a vase or compote, you will have to water it.

The Plants:

I used wild foraged Louisiana mosses that I acquired on Etsy.  I bought a variety pack for $12 that included 4 types of moss. Mosses are great because they love humidity, and have antiseptic and antibiotic properties that make them more resilient in an enclosed environment.

It is a good idea to quarantine your mosses or plants before you build your terrarium to make sure there are no pests or mold.  I put my mosses in a tupperware for a week and sprayed them with water to keep them wet and happy.

  • Pick a small plant that will not outgrow your terrarium
  • Plants that like moisture and prefer shade are best, like those from woodlands and rainforests

Other Supplies:

  • Rocks, pebbles and/or gravel
  • Activated charcoal (You don’t need a lot of this, I was able to buy a small bag in the terrarium section of my locally owned garden center.)
  • Potting soil
  • Decorations like rocks, wood, gnomes, other miniatures (We found this dinosaur while on a walk)


When you have all of your supplies and your plants are ready, you can build your terrarium.  You may want to wear gloves.

  1. Make sure you are starting with a clean terrarium that is free of mold and bacteria.
  2. Add about 1-2 inches of rocks/gravel/pebbles to the bottom of your container mixing in a handful of charcoal.
  3. I did not use soil in my terrarium because mosses prefer wood because it is more acidic.  If you are going to be planting other plants besides moss, you will need topsoil.  Add 2-3 inches of topsoil.
  4. Pat down to create a level surface.
  5. Make small holes for your plants.
  6. Remove your plants from their containers and free their roots gently by pulling them apart and removing excess soil.
  7. Plant in the holes you made, patting down soil gently after plants are in.
  8. Add your decoration.  Place mosses or pebbles on top to neaten soil.
  9. Lightly water your terrarium.

This is a fun and easy project to do on your own or with a friend.  Remember that open terrariums will need to be watered once per week; if you use succulents, you can water once per month. To keep your terrarium environment healthy, remove weeds, mold, sick plants or dead plant matter immediately.  Let some fresh air into your closed terrarium once in awhile.