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How to assemble a terrarium

If you’ve been around long enough to remember the ’70s, you most likely had a terrarium on your coffee table. Terrariums have come a long way since then. Various shapes and sizes of containers and unique items placed inside give your terrarium a bit of your own personality. Keep reading for tips on how to assemble your own.


A terrarium is a miniature landscape created in a glass or plastic container that you can enjoy as a decor item in your home. Using small plants, miniature accessories and possibly even reptiles, you can create your own unique display that will continue to grow and thrive for years.

Types of terrariums

There are two types of terrariums you can create — enclosed or open. Enclosed terrariums are completely self-contained environments that require little or no maintenance once they are established. Open terrariums will need watering once in a while and are less prone to plant diseases than enclosed varieties.

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Choosing your container

When it comes to the container for your miniature landscape, the only limit is your imagination. Clear glass or plastic containers work best, since smoky glass may not let in enough light for the plants to thrive. Consider where you will display your terrarium to help you choose the best size and shape for the space. Almost any shape will work, as long as the opening is large enough to work with.


Plants that grow well in terrariums include small ferns, various types of mosses, ivy or any other small plants that don’t grow too quickly. Consider how you would like to arrange the plants when choosing them, especially if you plan to have varying heights of greenery.

Before planting, prepare the bottom of your terrarium properly.

  1. Place a layer of pea gravel or other small rocks on the bottom of the container.
  2. A layer of activated charcoal on top of the rocks helps keep your terrarium smelling fresh.
  3. Add a layer of sphagnum moss on top of the charcoal to help with drainage. This also keeps the soil from filling in around the rocks.
  4. Finally, add a layer of mostly-dry potting mix to the terrarium.

If you plan to view the terrarium from all angles, you may want to plant the tallest plants in the center. If your container has a narrow neck, using long-handled chopsticks or other kitchen implements will help you create the holes for your plants and lower them down into the container.

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Again, your only limit in decorating your miniature landscape is your imagination and creativity. Do you love fishing and camping? Find cute miniatures at a hobby store to reflect your passions and set up a camping scene in your terrarium. If your plant choices evoke thoughts of an English garden, how about a small cat walking past a woman who is reading on a park bench? Scenes can be whimsical or serious — the goal is to create something unique.

Some people even let a critter inhabit their terrarium. Small lizards or frogs might live happily ever-after in a terrarium, as long as you make a small pool to hold water for them and remember to feed them.

Take the time and care to properly set up your terrarium, and it will thrive for years.

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