Even if the only space you have is a tabletop, you can still grow a lovely garden. Terrariums are miniature landscapes, and they’re easy and fun to make. Gather your materials ahead of time, and let your kids make a terrarium the next time they’re home from school or stuck indoors on a rainy day. Or you may want to make your own terrarium and add a little greenery to your home.
Easy (Experienced Gardeners, see below for a more advanced terrarium project. Your tools, materials, and instructions will differ.)
30 minutes to 1 hour
- Tamping tool, made by inserting a cork onto the end of a wooden skewer (You won’t need this tool if you can put your hand into your terrarium)
- Small watering can or spray bottle for misting
- Large glass bottle, jar, bowl or other container
- Paper plate
- Moss, available in most Home Depot Garden Centers
- Small indoor plants
- Potting soil
- Activated charcoal, available from fish or pet stores
- Optional: small ornaments (available from craft stores)
(You can also watch our how-to video, Terrarium…a winter garden!, to see Home Depot Associate “BostonRoots” make a terrarium, step-by-step.)
1. Start with a large, clean glass jar or other container. You may want to choose something that’s large enough to put your hand in. If you use something with a narrow neck, you’ll need the tamping tool from the “Tools” list.
2. Put some small pebbles on a paper plate, and fold it in half. You’ll use the plate to funnel the pebbles into the container. Pour in enough pebbles to cover the bottom. They’ll help with drainage, so your plants won’t stand in water.
3. Next, use the paper plate to funnel a layer of horticultural charcoal into your container. This special charcoal will help purify any excess water, so it doesn’t become smelly and stagnant.
4. Put a layer of moss over the charcoal, to help prevent it from floating when you water. If you can’t get your hand into the container, fold the moss, or tear it into pieces and drop it in. Use your tamping tool to move the moss around. (You can temporarily remove the cork from the skewer, if it’s easier that way.)
5. Now use the plate to funnel some potting soil into the container. The soil doesn’t have to be level. If your container is large enough, you can create a small slope or hill.
6. Time to plant! Use plants that have similar light and water needs. Unpot them and gently loosen their roots. Plant them by using the tamping tool with the cork to gently firm the soil. Leave some room for them to grow.
7. Add another layer of moss around the plants to help retain moisture and make the terrarium look finished. Water lightly and gently. Don’t water so much that water collects in the bottom. Add small ornaments, if desired.
8. If your terrarium has a cover, remove it once a month to let in fresh air. A terrarium acts like a miniature greenhouse, so the water will condense on the sides and top and drip back onto the plants. Water only when the plants and soil look dry. If your terrarium doesn’t have a top, water when needed. Note: if you use succulents, remember that they come from hot, arid climates, so don’t overwater.
9. Don’t put your terrarium in direct light, since the sun will burn the plants through the glass. Prune when needed and turn the terrarium occasionally if the leaves lean toward the light. With a little care, your new terrarium will last a long time.
MORE EXPERIENCED GARDENERS
If you’re more confident about growing indoor plants, adapt this project to make an orchid terrarium. Orchids come in a variety of colors, and the beautiful blooms can last for months.
30 minutes to 1 hour
- Orchid, instead of other indoor plants
- Orchid moss or sphagnum moss without added fertilizer
- Sheet moss
- Small river rocks or pebbles
- Deep glass container
- Water soluble orchid fertilizer
- Optional: Deer moss, available in craft stores
- Pencil or chopsticks
1. Soak some sphagnum or orchid moss, and sheet moss, in a bucket of water.
2. While the mosses are absorbing the water, pour about two inches of river rocks into the bottom of your container.
3. Line the sides of the container with the moistened sheet moss, leaving a hole in the middle. This is where you’ll put the orchid.
4. Unpot the orchid and gently loosen the roots. Loosely pack some wet sphagnum or orchid moss between the roots and around them.
5. Put a couple of handfuls of sphagnum on top of the rocks. Then place the orchid, with the moss still on its roots, into the middle of the container. Cover the roots with more orchid or sphagnum moss. Use a pencil or chopstick to fill any empty spaces. Be careful not to injure the roots. If desired, put some deer moss on top of the sphagnum for a finished look.
6. Fertilize the orchid, following the product directions. Don’t water or fertilize again until the moss feels dry. You may not need to water for weeks.
7. Put your orchid terrarium near a bright window, but not in direct sunlight, and enjoy!
Orchid image: Flickr/gssavage
Terrarium for kids image: Flickr/cuttlefish