Create a Beautiful Plant Terrarium For Your Family

Creating a plant terrarium is a fantastic way to get your entire family involved in a shared project. Children, especially ones who cannot own a pet for allergy or living space reasons, will be particularly taken with their "fish tank garden", and may surprise you at how diligent they are at taking care of the family terrarium.

Everything you need to build a Terrarium can be purchased very cheaply. There are even all-in-one terrarium kits for those of you who are not great at DIY projects.

Why build a terrarium? It's a great solution if you love the look of plants indoors, but don’t have the time or a green thumb to take care of them. It's a self-contained plant habitat.

Once you've set it up and closed the lid on the jar or other container you have chosen, the plants inside create their own eco-system – all you have to do is... enjoy it! This is the ultimate low-maintenance indoor garden experience.

More Benefits of a Plant Terrarium

This type of gardening gives a great opportunity to garden plants that you wouldn't normally be able to garden due to your specific climate conditions.

Some gardeners would prefer to garden plants that lean toward the tropical side, while others prefer plants that thrive in dry conditions.

What am I talking about?

For example, if you live in a dry desert climate, ferns would normally be out of your reach. However, with this unique form of Container Gardening, a hot humid environment is achievable. Therefore, ferns or mosses would now be possible to grow.

Learn the answers to some common questions like: What's best, cork bark or Styrofoam for a background?

If you plan on including reptiles, insects, spiders, or scorpions in your container, you need to know how to plan, build, plant, and maintain your investment.

We'll not only learn how to make a Terrarium, we'll discuss the best location, how to choose lighting, and even provide videos to make the process that much easier.

Part 1: Getting Started

Don't worry: selecting or building a terrarium is not a difficult process. We'll walk through the methods together, and find the right way to go.

Temperature and humidity are key factors in success, as well as watering and fertilizing. But the first thing you need to decide upon is: location, location, location. This old saying for real estate goes hand-in-hand with all kinds of gardening, including indoor projects like plant terrariums.

As far as styles go, you can find a simple accent to your living room, or a huge, elaborate Victorian-style orangery construction. I've seen countless types and configurations.

This is something you'll definitely have to decide on your own. But with these visual aides, I think the whole process will be made much simpler.

Here in these terrium videos, you'll find out how to select the proper terrarium for your needs. See what to look for, and what to skip over when shopping.

Plant Terrarium Tip:

When shopping, don't forget to bring a list of things you'll want to include as additions. For example, heaters and lighting equipment (anything with power cords).

That could definitely change your outlook on what you'll buy to build your Terrarium. Some models even come with avenues to help you conceal wiring.

Next, we'll see how to choose a background. Often times, backgrounds may come with your terrarium, especially in a kit, but if not, then they should be available where your purchase will be made.

The two types and styles discussed here are: Natural Cork and Styrofoam. Both are acceptable, however, there are some disadvantages.

Cork Bark is a natural material. Degredation will occur over time. With the presence of moisture (or maybe a lot of moisture), the cork could possibly fail quickly. However, it has a wonderful natural look, which could be enough to warrant a replacement every so often.

As said before, some units will come with a backgound included. Those most likely will be Styrofoam. It is not as natural-looking as the cork, but Styrofoam will never degrade.

Plant Terrarium Tip

Feelin' lucky?

Make your own Styrofaom background! Practice on a small piece first. Carve out a "natural look" to the Styrofoam using a metal grinder or some other tool that will cut through the Styrofoam to form the grooves. After the look is achieved, paint with a watered-down earthy brown color (or one to your liking). Add other detailing as you desire!

Part 2: Selecting The Base Layer

As we learn how to build a Terrarium, whether it's our first, second, third, etc., we can always learn some helpful tips on our way. We're discussing and will discuss basics, but if you can dream it, YOU CAN DO IT!

So... dreaming of a great size? Maybe a plethora of vegetation? What about waterfalls with lizards and frogs jumping and playing?

Can you see it? Wow! I can!

Once the foundation of the Terrarium is laid, the sky's the limit! Exotic terrarium plants, exotic animals... Once the basics are achieved, adding that waterfall or driftwood for added attraction can easily be done.

Use everything you find in the tips boxes and videos to build the foundation upon... and then, just keep building!

Have some ideas that might be helpful for our pages, check out the contact us page and fill in the comment box.

Here's a visual aide for the different types of Base Layers one can choose from to build a Terrarium.

Three main sources for a Base Layer are:

  • Gravel
  • Clay Beads
  • Charcoal

This awesome video clip discusses the pros and cons of all three. Your decision will be made much easier after viewing.

So to recap:

  • Charcoal will do sort-of-a recycling for you. However, if you don't want to worry with the mess of charcoal, "steer clear."
  • Gravel on the other is not messy at all, but pretty heavy. If your Terrarium will not me transported in or out, than no problem usingthe gravel. It, as well as Clay Beads, will drain well for you.
  • Previously mentioned, Clay Beads can offer great drainage. As well, it can offer a great solution to the weight of a Terrarium. Terrific if one wants the Terrarium to be mobile!

Next on the agenda, is installing our chosen base layer. A pretty simple process. Just remember to make it a little under 2" or so thick.

In this video clip, you'll see that demonstration, plus a tutorial on how to construct the base layer and soil divider using screen. 

Part 3: Selecting The Best Soil for a Plant Terrarium

Correct soil will make or break your plant terrarium. Check out these clues for proper selection.

In my younger days of Container Gardening, (being young and stupid), I'd go out to the woods at the side of my house with a shovel in hand. Take out a scoop of dirt (sticks and all), throw it into the pot, and commence to planting.

Later that season, I'd wonder...."why didn't these things live?" Hmm? Well, now I know!

The importance of good, well-draining soil, is a crucial part of any container gardens success. That certainly applies to a Terrarium or Vivarium as well.

If it's a dry climate you plan on building, or a humid and wet environment you seek, the vegetation contained therein will thrive on good soil.

First on the list of gardening videos is soil selection. As we said earlier, when learning how to make a Terrarium, it's extremely important to choose the right blend.

Know what plants you plan to install into your Terrarium and what possible "wildlife" may inhabit the space.

Since there are so many variations of plant species and animals that are possible dwellers of your Plant Terrarium, we're discussing an over-all starter for picking soil.

Never fear, most stores will have pre-mixed substrate (soil) that would be suited for specific Terrariums and Vivariums. Some even come in handy "brick-type-shaped-things".

If you plan on mixing your own, this video will help guide you.

Here's a video tutorial on adding that soil to your Terrarium.

What if You Want a Desert Plant Terrarium?

I'm sure you've noticed that the above videos are introducing soil tips for tropical plants.

However, let's take a quick moment and talk about a Desert Terrarium. The set-up on how to make a Desert Terrarium can be somewhat the same with a few variations.

First, most typically, a Desert Terrarium will be open. Allowing for humidity and moisture to escape. Desert Plant Terrariums need lots of drainage in the soil. Here's how to accomplish that.

Establish a base layer. For example: pebbles. Pebbles will allow for "breathing".

On top of that, place your soil mixture. It can be a rough mix of half peat-based potting soil and half sand or perlite. You can make that around 2" thick.

That will make a good medium for your desert plants to be placed. Don't be tempted to water too much.

Stick your finger into the soil for a test. If it's moist... LEAVE IT! Too much water on desert species will be horrible!

Part 4: Plants and Placement

Wow! Terrarium Plants. Where to start. There's a lot to choose from, that's for sure. Here, our goal is to make the daunting task a little easier... no... make that, a lot easier.

Let's start by saying this. A person really needs to know what they have to work with.

Different species of Terrarium Plants grow to different heights. So the question is, what size of Terrarium do you have or want to get?

If you want a large Terrarium, you're almost forced to purchase plants that will "fill" the look of the container. Small plants of course, still look great in the large space.

If you want a small Terrarium, you're almost forced to go with smaller plants. Even though you may fall in love with a larger species of plant.

Give and take, I guess.

The same goes for Terrarium accents. Large pieces of driftwood won't work in small Terrariums. But... good news, wood doesn't grow. So, small wood looks awesome in the large containers!

So, with the type of Terrarium picked out, let us partake in a discussion of tips to remember.

Choose Terrarium Plants that have the same "needs".

  • Soil Needs
  • Water requirements
  • Light requirements

And don't forget to look at the plant information tags. There's a wealth of information contained therein.

That leads me to one last thing about the shopping process. The height! For reasons you can figure out, please don't forget to check the Maximum height that the plant will grow to inside the plant terrarium.

Watch this video for some more greats tips on plant selection.

Terrarium Plants For Warm, Humid Environments

Ferns, Prayer Plant, African Violet, Venus Fly Traps, Nepenthes, Butterworts, and Sundews

Watch this video for a complete visual on the actual planting process.

Tips include:

  • Where and how to place them.
  • How to handle the tender root ball.
  • And a trick on holding up tall plants with wire.

Don't forget to "Landscape" the plant terrarium soil first. Make ridges and humps in the back or where ever you want some height. Definitely don't make the soil flat.

Flat = Blah!

Terrarium Plants For Water

Some aquatic plants do best partially in the water pool. Before you buy your plants, be sure to read the information on the tag.

Examples include Cryptocoryne, Bacopa, Acorus, Anubias

Accents are the icing on the cake. As I said before, choose the appropriate size for your Terrarium project.

Never underestimate the use of a plant as an accent in any type of container garden (which a Terrarium is). You'll see in this video how mosses are used as accents for a more natural look.

Use your personal preference, but keep it natural looking. Always remember, Terrariums and Vivariums are re-creating Nature.

Terrarium Plants Suitable For a Desert Environment

Elephant Bush, Panda Plant, Hen and Chicks, Jade Plant

Don't think this is an unbelievably hard task, but when you want to build a Terrarium, you always need a plan.

Keep in mind the size, shape, and color of your Terrarium plant choices. Your Terrarium size and what accents you want. The over-all look of your Terrarium design depends on it.

How to Build a Plant Terrarium

You can buy a plant terrarium ready made and good to go!

Why build your own terrarium, when you can get a great-looking one ready to go? This pet terrarium is also a great place for your plants! Click to read more, or order online

You can construct a plant terrarium out of almost anything. Your choice of containers are only limited by your imagination.

Traditionally, a glass terrarium (smaller aquarium) is used with a lid, but a large glass jar or other container will work nicely, too.

HINT: One Man's Garbage...

Drive around your neighborhood the night before garbage day. Every couple of weeks, I see somebody discarding an old fish tank, a large glass carboy, or something else that would make a great plant terrarium.

Live in an area where there isn't any quality trash on the sidewalk? Don't worry. Check your local paper, eBay, or Craigslist, for people advertising aquariums for sale, and snap up a bargain.

Plastic plant terrariums work as well. Just make sure that it is clear plastic, or you won’t be able to admire your handiwork once it is completed.

Whatever size or material you choose, the most important factor is that it does not leak. You need the water and moisture to stay inside for it to work, and you don’t want a mess inside your house.

Popular Terrarium Plants

When planting your terrarium, choose plant varieties that thrive in similar conditions and grow well in a humid environment.


  • Venus Fly Trap (our son Jasper's favorite!)
  • Sundew
  • Pitch Plant

Rainforest plants:

  • Chamaedorea Palms
  • Small Fern
  • Fittonia

Click here to read our article on choosing terrarium plants.

For a few dollars (with free shipping!) you can fill your terrarium with beautiful, self-sustaining vegetation. Wow!

An Elegant Victorian-style Tabletop Plant Terrarium

This beautiful tabletop plant terrarium would look great on your coffee table
Click to order this item from Amazon. Free shipping!

Plant Terrarium Maintenance Tips

Plant terrariums are a low-maintenance indoor garden. They need indirect sunlight (not too bright ); no water is needed after the initial water is added.

The heat from inside the plant terrarium evaporates the water, and then it condenses on the lid, falling back down to the plants.

This process will continue keeping your plants alive. If there is too much water present, you may need to vent (with a vented lid or open the top a small amount). Just be sure to keep an eye on the soil’s moisture level (not too wet or dry).

Plant Terrarium Kits

Making stuff from scratch is not for everybody. If you're more of the DIY vegetable container kind of person, and can't imagine putting together a home made plant terrarium that will look good on a coffee table, then check out this cool kit.

A terraium doesn't have to be a living decoration. This herb terrarium kit lets you grow tasty fresh herbs indoors
Click to order this item from Amazon. Free shipping!

This great-looking dome style terraium not only will brighten up your kitchen or living room, it also is useful!

Growing fresh herbs is really popular, and can transform your cooking.

For people who struggle to grow herbs indoors, this herb terrarium kit might be just the ticket.

We've rounded up the best terrarium kits below. Some are pitched at pet owners, but you can use more or less anything clear as a terrarium. So don't let that put you off.

A plant terrium kit is a great gift idea for a child who has everything. Get them interested in nature, and give them something to take (minimal) care of at the same time!

Click to see more terrarium kits at Amazon.

Leave Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.