Terranium? Terrarium? 🤔 Whatever You Call It, We’re DIYing One This Spring

Building our own terrarium is topping our DIY list this season. Terrariums are almost entirely sustainable, liven up the greenery in our spaces, and are one-of-a-kind decor. Plus, if you didn’t hone your green thumb last year at the onset of stay-at-home orders, here’s your chance to give it a go!

A terrarium is an indoor garden inside of a glass container. Some are fully enclosed with a removable lid to prevent moisture loss and improve humidity, whereas open terrariums allow for more air circulation, sunshine, and lower humidity levels. With the right care and maintenance, plants can thrive in either one—and we’ll give you some tips on how to optimize each below.

Ready to get started? We’re rooting for you (we had to)—let’s do this!

Terrarium Prep

First, decide on an open or closed terrarium. Open terrariums are ideal for cacti and succulents. Closed terrariums work best for plants that tolerate higher humidity and need less care (like fern or moss), and are great for pet-friendly households—but they can also invite pests or infections due to a lack of oxygen.

Once you know your container’s type and size, choose your plants. Our favorite slow-growing greens include cacti, succulents, air plants, club moss, nerve plants, prayer plants, and button ferns. Keep like-plants that thrive well together and avoid combinations like cacti and fern.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • A transparent glass container, with or without a lid

  • A small trowel (a large spoon works too)

  • Gravel, stones, or pebbles (for drainage)

  • Activated charcoal for freshness

  • Potting soil

  • Plants, of course

  • Optional: Gloves, a toothbrush or paintbrush, tweezers, any additional decor

You can gather the above from thrift stores, local garden centers, and your own backyard. If items aren’t easily accessible, you can also order a terrarium kit or plants online. Our favorite pre-made kits include The Sill’s DIY Succulent Terrarium Kit, this Etsy kit from Terra Flora Studio without a container (so you can pick your own), or one of these innovative kits from Uncommon Goods, a certified B Corp.

Step-By-Step Guide: How To Make A Terrarium

  1. Prep your space: If you’re able to do this outdoors on a patio or deck, that’s easiest for clean up. Newspapers laid out indoors work well, too. We like to use the “mise en place” approach, laying out all prepped supplies so we can see everything we’re working with.

  2. Start your base with drainage. Add a 1.5-2” layer of gravel, stones, or pebbles to the bottom of your container. Because a glass container won’t have the same drainage holes that plant pots do, this DIY option will do the trick.

  3. Layer on the charcoal. Add a thin layer of activated charcoal on top of your rock base—this will keep your water fresh and fight off any toxins or odors.

  4. Add potting soil. The key here is adding enough soil so that your plants take root, but not so much that they touch the top of the container. The magic number is usually between two and three inches. Gently press down with the spoon or trowel along the way to remove air pockets.

  5. Arrange your plants. Now for the fun part! If you’re working with cacti, pause first to throw on a pair of gloves here. Then, when you remove the plants from their original pots, gently shake off excess soil and prune the roots so that they don’t grow too quickly. The general rule of (green) thumb is to place the biggest plants first so you can work around them. Create a small hole for each plant using a spoon or your fingers. (If the terrarium’s “neck” is too tight, you can place your plants using tweezers.)

  6. Make it pretty! Some terrariums are finished with moss accents, figurines, pebbles, or shells. Do what feels good for you without overpacking the container. When everything is securely placed, use an old toothbrush or paintbrush to remove any dirt or grime from the sides of the container so your plants can shine through.

Terrarium Maintenance Tips

In the words of Elf, “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best [terrarium]! Great job!” 😉 The hardest part is officially over.

Luckily, most terrariums and plants don’t need much maintenance to thrive. But here’s what to keep in mind for care:

  • If you have a closed terrarium, open up the lid weekly for a few hours to allow for airflow. Keep it out of direct sunlight, too.

  • If you have an open terrarium, chances are your plants can tolerate bright light and dry conditions, so feel free to place it in direct or indirect light.

  • The number one mistake for plants is overwatering, which can easily become the case for terrariums, too. Because there’s no drainage hole, you want the soil to be damp but not wet—otherwise, there’s nowhere else for the excess water to go. To be safe, use a spray bottle or small watering can and water closer to the roots without over-saturating.

  • Want the full run-down on indoor plant care? We have a comprehensive guide to help.

Have you DIY-ed your own terrarium? We’d love to see it! Share your story below or tag us on social (@thegoodtrade)! 🌵

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