Terrariums are beautiful, tangible odes to spring. They are also easy to make.

There are two kinds of terrariums: open and closed. Closed terrariums, that is, terrariums with lids, are perfect for plants that thrive in high-humidity, such as plants in the fern family. From asparagus to maidenhair, there is a great diversity of green and leaf shapes to choose from. Open terrariums have no lid, allowing the system to dry out more quickly, and are better suited for plants such as succulents that prefer a drier environment.

succulant shoe planter

Building your own terrarium is fun activity for a spring afternoon and also great gift idea. The best part is that after they are completed, they need little maintenance.

Here’s how:

  1. Select your terrarium. Decide if you want an open or closed terrarium. Either way, it’s made of glass, so that sunlight can get to the plants, and so that you can enjoy watching your plants grow. You can find pre-made terrarium kits at a lot of retail stores or you can fashion your own from the glassware section at your local thrift store. Remember that you will need to be able to reach your hand into the glass container.
  2. Layer the soil:
    • Because terrariums are isolated environments, you need to create a drainage space with a layer of rocks (about one to two inches). Think: aquarium rocks from a pet store or garden pebbles from your backyard. You can throw in a few glass beads or plastic pearls for an extra bit of gleam, if you like. When you water your terrarium, it will trickle down into the space between these rocks, ensuring your plants don’t get root rot.
    • Next add a thin layer (about a quarter inch) of charcoal or the BioChar available in our garden center. The absorbent charcoal ensures the soil in your terrarium will maintain a healthy equilibrium.
    • Then add a generous layer of soil. You will want to add enough soil to cover the roots of your plants. Potting soil works well for most ferns, but if you are going to be planting succulents in an open terrarium, be sure to use succulent soil or other well-draining soil.
  3. Now, you are ready to plant! Remember that whatever you plant will grow, so leave enough space between the plants for growth. Be creative in selecting your plants, pick some that grow as ground cover and some that grow vertically.succulants
  4. After the plants are settled into the soil, you can water your terrarium. Add just enough water to get the soil moist, but not so much that the drainage layer becomes saturated. Even ferns that love moisture do not like to sit in water for extended periods.

Caring for your terrarium:

  1. Keep your terrarium in a space where it will receive diffused sunlight.
  2. From time to time, check on the water supply of your terrarium. For unlidded, open terrariums, you will need to water them a bit more often. Closed terrariums will rarely need to be watered after the initial watering. If the closed terrarium is looking overly moist, just leave the lid off for a couple of hours.
  3. Enjoy watching your plants grow!