From Old Jar to Lush Microcosm: How to Make A Terrarium

Terrariums are decorative mini-landscapes made from just about any kind of clear container, from old jars and fish tanks to light bulbs and soda bottles. As a naturally self-regulating environment, terrariums are a low-maintenance way for the busy urban biophiliac to be around plant life at home or in the office. This Victorian favorite is also a perfect hands-on teaching tool for helping kids understand ecosystems and plant processes. Here’s a look at a few of the different ways you can turn old plastic and glassware into lush microcosms.

First, pick your container. Any clear glass or plastic container in just about any size will do. Recycle a carafe for a table-top piece, or go micro by re-using a wine glass or Tabasco bottle. Apothecary jars make beautiful living room centerpieces, and have wide openings that make it easy to arrange your plants.

Then, choose your plants; dense, slow-growing plants that thrive in humidity are ideal. Small ferns, moss, succulents, African Violets and Creeping Charlie are great no-fuss starter plants.

An odd number of plants with a variety of colors and textures are most eye-catching. Overall, you will need your container, plants, some pebbles or gravel, potting soil, moss and charcoal (for closed terrariums). You can add decorative elements like figurines, wood, crystals, seashells, even dollhouse furniture to make your own scene.

  1. Place sand, aquarium rocks or pebbles at the bottom for drainage. For closed terrariums, add a half-inch layer of horticultural charcoal on top to filter the air and keep it fresh.
  2. Add a layer of moss to let the water seep down while keeping the soil out of the drainage area.
  3. Add a ½ inch of dry soil.
  4. Decide which side is front and back and place taller plants in back; if it will be seen from all sides, you can make a central hill. You only need to water every 4-6 months using a spray bottle.

You can find more tutorials from Terrarium Man, along with resources on how these living treasures can help teach kids about ecosystems and stewardship of nature.

Need more inspiration to build your tiny universe? Check out this Microworld collection on Etsy, artist Paula Hayes’ towering plantscapes, Rachel Bishop’s Beetlejuice house in a jar or these DIY refrigerator magnet terrariums. The scale and landscape is only limited by your imagination!

Follow Erin on Twitter: @ErinPie

image: cuttlefish