Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fun DIY Terrarium in 6 Easy Steps (WITH PICTURES!)

Terrariums are an easy, low-cost, low-effort way to bring plants into your home.  They don't take up a lot of space, don't need to be watered as often as some plants, and the glass container keeps the dirt off of your floor.  Yes, terrariums are one of many great options for lazy, busy, space- limited, young, or creative plant owners.  Actually...I think they're good for anyone!  Plus, they're easy to make yourself.  Make one with your kids, your husband, your friends, or by yourself.  You'll have fun no matter what.

(And they make great last-minute Mother's Day gifts, if you still haven't gotten one!)

Here's what you'll need to make your own terrarium.  You might find that you have most or all of these things at your home already.  I did!
A clear glass or plastic container with a narrow opening or lid.  I used a wine bottle, but a mason jar or something similar would work well too.
Small rocks or aquarium gravel.  You can use stones from your yard, too!
Potting soil
Long-fiber sphagnum moss, which can be found at your local hardware store, garden center, or even some grocery stores.
Moss, which can be ordered online, sometimes found at hardware stores or garden centers, and is often easy to find in your own backyard.
Small, low-light, moisture-loving plant(s) OPTIONAL
A dowel or something else thin that will fit into your terrarium
A spray bottle and water
A funnel or piece of paper
Somewhere to put it all together!

 Step 1:
Prepare all your materials.  If you are using a wine bottle like I did, sit down and enjoy your wine!  Then wash the bottle and peel off the label.  You might need to use some rubbing alcohol to get the label off.  Get everything together somewhere that is easily cleaned, because you're probably going to make a mess!  I worked outside on my patio.

Step 2:
Take your small rocks or aquarium gravel and add them to your terrarium.  This can be a little difficult when you're using a container with a small neck.  A funnel is great for this step!  I didn't have one, so I used a sheet of paper to make my own.

I did one thick layer of bright green aquarium gravel and one slightly thinner layer of dark blue gravel.  You can use any color you want, but I chose these because they're my mom's favorite colors.  Last-minute Mother's Day gift, remember?  Tip: Shake your container slightly to level out the rocks.  If you're doing layers, shake between each layer, but not too hard or you'll scramble the colors together.

Step 3:

Here is what long-fiber sphagnum moss looks like up close.  This is what is going to keep your dirt off of the rocks, so excess water has somewhere to drain to instead of water-logging your soil. 

This is where the long-fiber sphagnum moss comes into play.  First, soak your moss for a minute so it is easily pliable. Then, squeeze the moisture out and put some long-fiber into your terrarium.  Go slowly!  Do a little at a time.  Take small amounts and press them into the neck of your container.  You may need your dowel or stick to get your long-fiber into the bottle.  Once you have a few chunks in, stop and shake your bottle slightly to level it as much as you can.  Then, stick your dowel in and press everything down and even it out.  If you didn't put enough in to cover the rocks, add a little more.  If you can't reach the corners with the dowel, you can make sure you get enough long-fiber there by tilting your bottle a little and using gravity to your advantage.

 Step 4:
Time to add your potting soil!  It's easy.  (Isn't all of this easy?)  Just use your paper or funnel to add your dirt a little at a time.  You want at least an inch of soil, but a little more won't hurt, especially if you're adding a plant.  When you have enough in there and have shaken to even it out, use your squirty bottle and mist your soil so it is damp.  Try not to over-water, but if you do, don't sweat it.  That's why you have a layer of rocks there.

Step 5:
Add your moss, and your plant if you're adding one.  If you collected your moss yourself from your yard, remember to rinse it thoroughly.  This part is going to be a little sloppy.  Add your moss a little at a time, just like you did with your long-fibered sphagnum moss.  Some of it will probably land dirt-side up, but that's okay!  You can always add more.  Don't forget that you can tilt your bottle and use gravity to get moss into hard to reach places. 

 When you have as much in there as you need, add your plant.  Small plants are best because not much will fit into the bottle.  Moisture-loving plants that don't need direct sunlight are best.  I chose an ivy plant.  I have no idea if it will survive or not.  But that's okay!  If it doesn't, I'll take it out and try something else.  Press your moss down with your stick and press your plant's roots into the soil.

Step 6 (The final step!):

Clean up the inside of your terrarium if you got dirt on the walls of your container.  You can do this by using your squirty bottle to shoot water at the walls of your bottle.  If you didn't make a mess, use your squirty bottle and mist your terrarium anyway, to give your moss a good drink.  Once you have everything all cleaned up, it's time to decorate!  You can add a rock, or a tiny person, or leave your terrarium the way it is.  Don't be discouraged if everything didn't end up exactly the way you wanted it.  Over time, your moss with spread and your plant will grow.  You might be surprised how much better it looks in a few weeks as your terrarium learns to take care of itself.

Ta-da!  That's it.  You're done!  If you made your terrarium as a Mother's Day gift like I did, don't forget to give it to your mom this Sunday.  Place your terrarium in a moderately lit place, out of direct sunlight.  Water once a week or every few weeks, when your dirt begins to look a little dry.  After a while, you'll learn to read your terrarium's cues, and it'll grow into a lovely little masterpiece.


  1. How cute! I love this idea. We have some class coke bottles laying around that would work great!

  2. This is a brilliant idea AND a great way to recycle old glass bottles! Pinning it now...

  3. That's really cool. It is a fun way for kids to have a plant of their own without the mess. I'll have to try it with my toddler. Pinned it.

  4. I want to know how you got the plant in there! lol This looks cool!