What’s a terrarium? Well, for an avid plant lover, it’s a little bit of heaven. In simplest terms, it’s a small environment for plants to live in. These could range from bits of moss inside miniature glass bottles to contained ecosystems in old fish tanks. Whether you’re an avid plant collector or just getting started, take a look at these DIY terrarium ideas for some inspiration to create your own.
All About Terrariums
Some terrariums are sealed, so these are otherwise known as “closed terraria”. These work fabulously with plants that need a high-humidity environment. Quite simply, one that’s similar to the humid, sheltered environment found in the tropics and rain forests. This type of mini man-made garden mimics their natural environment so that water will be recycled.
This is how it works: the plants release water in the form of vapor. Next, the vapor condenses back into a liquid form on the terrarium’s glass sides. Over time, this liquid trickles back down into the soil. Because of this natural water cycle, these closed terraria will pretty much look after themselves.
All you really need to do is offer the plants an occasional watering, and a breath of fresh air once a week to remove excessive moisture. All in all, the closed terraria is a perfect little ecosystem that you can make easily at home.
Other terrariums are left open to the elements, so they’re known as “open terraria”. These are more suited to a drier range of plants that need less humidity, such as the succulent family. Plants that have adapted to living in drier climates perform best in this type of open environment. Furthermore, as the air is constantly circulating, it helps to create a moisture-free zone.
Open terrariums will require a little more watering than closed ones, and are best placed in a sunnier spot. This makes them ideal for the cacti and succulent families, which have adapted to growing in hot, dry deserts.
Small plants for your terrarium are easy to come by and relatively cheap. Go to your local nursery or garden center to check out their selection. You’ll find crazy-looking cacti, artful air plants, orchids, succulents, mosses, ferns and bromeliads. All of these work well within a terrarium environment, and can be used to create a mini habitat.
Suitable Containers for Your DIY Terrarium
Once you’ve chosen your plants, it’s time to find a home for them. Fortunately, it’s incredible easy to find a suitable container for your DIY terrarium. I like to use inexpensive glass bowls that I find at my local second-hand store when making habitats for my plants.
In one of my terrariums, I have a selection of small succulents, an Asplenium fern (to give height), and a white variegated Fittonia (nerve plant) to give a splash of foliage color. To allow for extra drainage, I added vermiculite and gravel to the compost.
On my mission to find the “perfect inexpensive terrarium container”, I came across a rather sweet collection of mini bottles. These are particularly perfect for smaller airplants, colored sands and aggregates. Additionally, I’m now using some left to display the remaining bit of floral color left in my garden. Soon enough, I’ll replace these flowers with mosses, sand, and air plants.
Read on to discover some creative display ideas that may inspire your own DIY terrarium designs.
1. Jam Jars
These inexpensive household jars are filled with a medium of spagnum moss, soil, aggregates, ferns and other wonderful plant life. This is a great option for small apartments, and can be filled with plants you find outdoors. They also make great gifts, as well as easy gardening projects to do with kids.
2. Glass Bell Jar and Cloche Terrariums
Each of these jars is carefully planted up with a diverse collection of fabulous foliage plants suiting a sheltered, and mossy environment.
3. Decorative Glass House Terrariums
I spotted some hanging glasshouses in my local garden center and brought a couple home with me to plant up. For mine, I used a base of sandy compost with a layer of spagnum moss on top. In that, I planted the Zebra Plant, or “Haworthia fasciata” in its botanical name.
This is an attractive, fleshy succulent boasting dark green leaves with white horizontal stripes. As with all succulents, these are incredibly easy to care for, as long as you don’t over water them.
4. The Coffee Table Terrarium
A coffee table terrarium makes a simply stunning centerpiece with a diverse selection of plants and aggregates. This is sure to give the “WOW” factor to any home and is easier to make than you might think. For a large scale terraium, this is a tropical genius.
5. Succulent Terrarium
Here we have possibly my favorite example of a hanging succulent terrarium. The wire bird-cage allows the plants to literally burst out from the structure creating an abundant foliage garden. I especially like the “String of Beads” (Senicio rowleyanis) and “Burro’s Tail” (Sedum burrito). Both of these succulents are excellent cascading plants and work perfectly in this hanging terrarium. Another good trailing succulent to look out for is the “String of Nickels” (Dischidia nummularia). The grey-green coin shaped leaves of this Dishidia appear to be hanging from a string, cascading in layers of foliage – really unusual.
6. Hanging Globe Terrariums
A simple, yet artistic display. Each globe is planted with varieties of the “Tillandsia” air plant and colorful gravels. These plants are a perfect low maintenance choice for bright filtered or indirect sunlight.
7. Awesome Orchid Terrariums
This glass table-top terrarium is stunning. The orchid brings a touch of classical elegance to this DIY terrarium creating central height amidst the “Maidenhair fern”, spagnum mosses and recycled wood. This has the theme of a naturalistic woodland environment.
Another example of using orchids and ferns to create a wonderful center-piece in this glass and lead work table-top terrarium with a woodland theme.
How To Get Started:
The photo below shows all the layers needed in planning and planting your terrarium, starting with your plant selection. It really is very easy to create an individual show piece for your home by following the recommended plan. It is important to remember good drainage in your potting soil – you will see below that this soil has had vermiculite added to it.
8. The Wonderful World of the Carnivorous Plant Terrarium
I love this image of a Carnivorous Plant Terrarium and it’s weird and wonderful plants. All of these natural beauties are meat eaters and gain their nutrients from doing just that. This plastic terrarium provides a colorful display of bug-eating plants which is easy on the eye and just a little bit quirky.
Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
A delicate and simple carnivorous terrarium built using a cloche – very easy to make and striking to look at. Remember – Don’t let your plant choices hold you back – be bold and daring.
9. Closed Terraria—Creates a tropical humid and moist environment
- Baby Ferns: Asplenium bulbiferum, Delta Maidenhair Fern, Pellaea roundifolia (to name a few)
- Baby Chameadorea palms
- Baby Philodendron
10. Open Terraria—Creates a much drier desert environment
- Cacti: the list is endless but look out Opuntia microdasys, Euphordia lactea compacta, etc.
- Aloe Vera
- Air plants – Tillandsia varieties “Medusa”, “Tenufolia”, “Stricta hard Leaf”, “Red Jonatha”, “Tricolor”
You could even grow bonsai in a terrarium. Take a look at these masterpieces below…
Just stunning isn’t it? Photo Courtesy of instagram.com
11. Ficus Bonsai Terrarium
This Fishbowl Terrarium below contains 3 x Miniature Ficus retusa (which are perfect for bonsai), mosses, ground cover and rocks. A real life garden in miniature. Quite fascinating.
Photo Courtesy of www.mineral-et-vegetal.com
12. Upcycled Typewriter Cactus Terrarium
Photo Courtesy of Pinterest.
I finish with this novel idea above, which tickled me: I’m now inspired to take a look through the loft.
Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way to build your own DIY terrarium. Get creative, and have fun experimenting with different plants and containers. As long as you match up plants with similar water and light needs and have a well-draining planting medium, the rest is up to your creativity.
You can use soils, sands, gravels and mosses to construct your base and top them with your favorite mini plant collections. Cacti, succulents, ferns, orchids, and many other plants—these are all suitable and there are hundreds of plants to choose from.
Why not find novel ways to make everyday items more interesting by adding your own creative twist? If you have leftover jam or baby food jars, transform them into mini desktop gardens. These also make adorable gifts at bridal showers, or even charming little housewarming presents.
Most importantly, remember that experimenting is when the most wonderful things happen. Be creative, and enjoy the entire experience!