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12 Tips for Making a DIY Terrarium

If you want to try your hand at growing plants indoors but don't feel your thumb is green enough, try a terrarium. Terrariums not only allow you to control the growing environment, but you can customize them with fun figurines and decorative landscaping. Here are 12 tips for making a successful DIY terrarium.

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Plastic vs. Glass DIY TerrariumDzina Belskaya/Shutterstock

Plastic vs. Glass DIY Terrarium

When choosing what kind of container you want to grow your plants in, plastic and glass are the two most popular options. And while glass is cheaper and widely available, a plastic terrarium is more durable and lighter. Plastic is prone to scratches and discoloration. Glass can be limited to certain shapes and sizes.
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Open or Closed?Yosanon Y/Shutterstock

Open or Closed?

Before you begin, decide if you want an open or closed DIY terrarium. Open containers are great for sun-loving plants, while plants that thrive in high humidity do well in closed containers.
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Be Creative with ContainersXarbaras/Shutterstock

Be Creative with Containers

The options are endless if you want to buy a DIY terrarium, but they can be costly. And for the true DIYer, try an old glass coffee pot, a clear glass vase or even an empty pickle jar to learn how to build a terrarium.
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Sand and Charcoal for DrainageAkkalak Aiempradit/Shutterstock

Sand and Charcoal for Drainage

Your DIY terrarium will need a layer of sand and crushed charcoal to help with drainage so the plants don't rot. And in the average-sized terrarium, a 1-in. layer of a sand/charcoal mix is sufficient when your learning how to build a terrarium.
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Find Some PebblesLubor Zelinka/Shutterstock

Find Some Pebbles

You'll need some small stones for your DIY terrarium. Small beach pebbles work well, as does small pieces of broken pottery. And if you want a punch of color, try aquarium gravel!
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The Right SoilAkkalak Aiempradit/Shutterstock

The Right Soil

While terrariums don't need much maintenance, you should take the time to find the right soil for your plants when you're learning how to build a terrarium. Many home and garden stores sell packaged soil that is specifically made for terrariums. Regular potting soil can also be used, just make sure it's high in organic matter.
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Plants, Plants, PlantsAleksey Stemmer/Shutterstock

Plants, Plants, Plants

The options are endless when it comes to plants for your terrarium. Plants should be able to tolerate humidity (cactus and succulents work best in an open container that allows humidity to dissipate). Also, make sure you choose plants that will work in your space—whether you'll have lots of natural sunlight or if the light will be low and indirect. Popular plants for terrariums include mosses, African violets, Creeping Fig and Baby's Tears (also known as Angel's Tears).
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No Touching!tarapong srichaiyos/Shutterstock

No Touching!

Keep in mind that to prevent overcrowding, you'll want to choose slow growing plants. Also, make sure the plants are small enough to fit into your terrarium without touching the sides.
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Start Layering

Now that you have all your materials for this how to build a terrarium, it's time to layer your DIY terrarium. First, if your terrarium is closed, add a layer of sand/crushed charcoal for drainage. Now add the rocks or aquarium gravel. Pour a layer of sand mixed with charcoal across the rocks. Add the soil and leave holes large enough for the roots of each of your plants. When you're done with each of these layers, look at your terrarium; the materials at this point should be about one-third of the height of your container. The soil layer should be the thickest. Pack the soil to make sure you get rid of any air pockets. Now add your plants.
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Time to Decoratedon padungvichean/Shutterstock

Time to Decorate

Did you leave any space for decorations? Try small figurines, plastic cake toppers, shells or decorative rocks. Be creative, anything goes when you're learning how to build a terrarium!
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WateringAkkalak Aiempradit/Shutterstock


Lightly mist your DIY terrarium daily with a spray bottle. If you have an open terrarium, water your plants once a week and be careful to avoid any mosses which don't need as much water. The soil should remain barely moist, not wet or bone dry. If your terrarium is closed, it should almost never need watering. Also, be careful when it comes to direct sunlight, which can cook plants.
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PruningPiti Tan/Shutterstock


When plants start to get crowded, carefully prune them and remove dead foliage. This will also help prevent rotting.

Seeing so many plants makes us want to try out the latest decor trend—forestcore.

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.