How to Create a Terrarium

Learn how to create a tabletop terrarium with these simple step-by-step instructions.
Tiny Terrarium in Mason Jar

Tiny Terrarium in Mason Jar

No budget for a new planter? You can turn a basic mason jar into an adorable indoor green space.

Terrariums are a wonderful way to display plants indoors. They differ from conservatories in that the plants are inserted directly into the soil layered in the terrarium rather than placing small pots of plants under glass. Like a conservatory, a terrarium creates a beneficial humid environment for plants.

Gardening expert Colleen Mullaney demonstrates how to create your own terrarium, using any clear glass or plastic container that admits light.


1. Since the terrarium is sealed, it is important to keep the base and the soil sterile. Either run a glass container through the dishwasher, or wipe down all surfaces with rubbing alcohol and water.

2. Build your terrarium by starting with a base level of gravel for drainage.

3. Next, add a layer of chipped charcoal, which keeps the soil clean and helps with any odors. It is available at gardening stores.

4. A layer of potting soil goes next. It should be damp, but not wet. If it is too wet, it will promote disease.

5. Create an interesting landscape with plants by choosing a variety of colors and textures for your terrarium.

Terrarium Plants to Try

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Friendship Plant

Pilea involucrata grows 6 to 18 inches tall and blooms in red. Friendship plant prefers moist soil and full shade to partial sun. 

Watermelon Peperomia

Peperomia argyreia features lovely green and silver variegated leaves. Plant in moist conditions. It grows from 6 to 8 inches tall.

Artillery Plant

Pilea microphylla can grow up to 24 inches tall and spread up to 36 inches. It grows well in full shade to partial sun.

Mother Spleenwort

Asplenium bulbiferum prefers moist, well-drained soil and full shade to partial sun.

Emerald Ripple Pepper

Peperomia caperata grows 6 to 8 inches tall, with a spread equally as wide. It features leaves of green and purple, and blooms in white.

African Violet

Saintpaulia ionantha produces blooms in blue, pink, purple and white. It grows from an inch to 6 inches tall and likes acidic soil.


Lush Sagina subulata can spread 9 to 12 inches and produces white blooms in midsummer.

Silver Nerve Plant

Fittonia verschaffeltii var. argyroneura grows from 3 to 6 inches tall and features green and silver variegated leaves.

Dwarf Sweet Flag

Acorus gramineus can grow up to 18 inches tall and spread just as wide. Its round form and variegated leaves make a nice addition to a terrarium. Give it partial to full sun.

Strawberry Begonia

Saxifraga stolonifera grows between 4 and 9 inches tall. Its white blooms appear in late summer. Give strawberry begonia full shade to partial sun.

Rattlesnake Plantain

Goodyera pubescens prefers moist conditions and partial sun. Consider it for its striking silver and green variegated foliage.

Aluminum Plant

Pilea cadierei thrives in full shade to part sun. It grows 6 to 12 inches tall and features variegated leaves of green and silver.

Bird's Nest Fern

The fast-growing Asplenium nidus likes full shade to partial sun.

Polka Dot Plant

The variegated leaves of Hypoestes phyllostachya will add some vibrancy to your terrarium. The polka dot plant can grow up to 24 inches tall. It likes moist to wet conditions.

Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum like moist conditions and full shade to partial sun. It grows up to 12 inches tall.

6. Arrange plants still in their pots in a pleasing display before putting them into the soil. Take into account any height variations of the cover. Fill in around the plants with more soil.

7. Place the terrarium near a window but not in direct light, since that will produce too much heat and humidity, which promote disease.

8. Instead of watering plants, mist them. This cleans the foliage off and starts the moisture process. The water will recycle itself. Wait about 12 hours before covering the plants so the water dries off the foliage completely.

9. If plants need pruning, simply lift the cover and snip.

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