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Life Behind Glass: Easy to Create Terrarium

By Laurie Cervantez

What You’ll Need:

  • Container with a wide mouth (You will need a clear glass container such as a fish bowl, aquarium, apothecary jar, vase, cookie jar, brandy snifter, or candle holder. A lid isn’t required, but when used, creates a moist and humid atmosphere many plants thrive in.)
  • Aquarium gravel or pebbles
  • Charcoal bits – available at garden centers and pet stores
  • Sphagnum Moss – available at garden centers
  • Potting soil – unopened bag of top quality soil
  • Decorations – miniature figurines, river rock, shells, driftwood, bark, etc.
  • Watering can or spray bottle
  • Plants – Choose small plants that do well in a moist climate, and have similar light and temperature requirements.


Suitable plant examples  –  Acorus, Baby Tears, Pink Polka Dot, Creeping Fig, Croton, Peperomia, Philodendron, Dwarf African Violet, Spleenwort, Begonia Rex, Birds Nest Fern, Strawberry Begonia, Wintergreen, Button Fern, Pothos, Ivy, Nerve Plant, Oxalis, Prayer Plant, Spider Plant, Swedish Ivy, Bromeliad, Dracaena, Aluminum Plant, small palms, and mosses


  1. Wash and dry container.
  2. Rinse gravel with hot water.
  3. Pour a minimum of 1” gravel into the bottom of the container.  This layer is for drainage and will prevent roots from standing in water.
  4. Pour 1/2” charcoal over gravel. Charcoal helps keep the environment clean by absorbing soil impurities and encouraging air circulation.
  5. Add a layer of sphagnum moss over charcoal to prevent soil from seeping into drainage layer.
  6. Cover sphagnum moss with 2” or more potting soil.
  7. Decide on plant arrangement. Taller plants should be placed in back, and shorter ones in front.
  8. Remove plants from pot and place into the soil, just as you would in the garden.
  9. If necessary, add additional soil to cover roots.
  10. Add decorations.
  11. Water terrarium lightly, and cover with lid.



  • Terrarium should be kept in a location with indirect light.
  • To avoid excessive growth, do not fertilize.
  • Prune plants as needed.

Covered terrariums

  • When moisture builds up along the walls, remove cover and allow evaporation.
  • A container that has a lid can go for months without the need for additional water.

Open terrariums

  • Water according to plant selection needs.
  • Plastic wrap can be used as a substitute for a lid.


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