Building a Terrarium – Your Step-by-Step Guide

Building a terrarium is a fun project to do. Your terrarium can take any shape or form and can be as simple or ornate as you wish. It doesn’t take too much skill or time if you have a suitable container and all the necessary ingredients.

How to Build a Terrarium

Choosing a Container

Building a Terrarium - Wardian Case

The first thing you’ll need to do is find a sealable, clear glass container that you’ll use for your terrarium. There are no specific rules, but here are some good ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • old apothecary jars are really attractive and make great terrarium containers
  • find an old Wardian case (a Victorian-styled terrarium) at an antique shop or online (they are hard to find!). Or you can buy a newly-built one
  • be creative and use something different like a light bulb to make it into a work of art

Building a Terrarium - Lightbulb Terrarium

Other Things You Need

Once you have found a suitable container, you need to gather the remaining “ingredients” for your terrarium:

  • aquarium gravel or small pebbles which will go at the bottom to prevent the soil from sitting in soaking water when you water it. the water will drain through to the gravel
  • gardening charcoal
  • fresh, quality potting soil
  • fine metal gauze (like used on a fly-screen), to put between the gravel and soil to keep the soil from falling between the pebbles
  • water
  • some plants that have the same lighting and water requirements

If you don’t want to get these bits individually, you can buy a terrarium kit that contains all that you need to get started.

Make Your Terrarium Step-by-Step

Building a Terrarium - Diagram

  1. Put the gravel at the bottom of your container
  2. Place a piece of gauze on top of the gravel to prevent soil falling down into the gravel and removing the benefit of having the gravel in the first place
  3. Mix the soil with some gardening charcoal. This improves the quality of the soil.
  4. Water the soil
  5. Place the soil on top of the gauze
  6. Start planting and decorating with decorative pebbles, driftwood and whatever else you desire
  7. Place your terrarium where it gets sufficient light to satisfy the plants’ needs

Kits for Kids

The Exo-Terra range of kits are great for children and a good, practical way for them to learn about the natural world. They focus more on terrariums for reptiles and amphibians.

Terrarium Care

Because terrariums are a closed ecosystem, they thrive on neglect. You don’t need to water your terrarium often. Sometimes they can be left without water for up to four months. When you water, don’t water too much. Too much water will soak your soil and make the soil into a breeding ground for mold and disease.


Return from Building a Terrarium to Terrarium 

Return from Building a Terrarium to Indoor Gardening

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