Perfect for the urban dweller — or anyone who wants to add a little green to their home or office — homemade terrariums are a huge design trend. Lindsay Williams and Lauren Warren of Etsy shop Collaborate & Collect recently tried their hands — no green thumbs included — at building these mini-ecosystems, and they found them to be both easy and fun.

Materials Needed

A clean glass vessel with or without a lid. Be sure that the opening of the container is big enough to maneuver your plants inside of the jar. Thrift stores and flea markets are a great place to find options like mason jars, fish bowls, glass pitchers, or vintage milk bottles.

Potting soil. No miracle growth soil, please! Promoting growth isn’t necessary in small spaces.

Activated charcoal. The charcoal helps the terrariums keep the stink levels to a minimum. You can find it in the fish aisle of a pet store.

Small rocks, pebbles, or gravel.

Moss. You can purchase bags of preserved moss at a craft store.

Plants. Make sure that you choose plants with the same environmental needs. Mini English Ivy, succulents, cacti, and small ferns work well for open terrariums. Adding a small African Violet gives a pop of color to the mix. If you’re more adventurous, combine a Venus Fly Trap with an asparagus fern and rosary vine. Plants that love the sun work well in an open-container terrarium, while plants that require high humidity environments thrive in closed-container terrariums.


1. Place at least a one-inch layer of pebbles in the bottom of your vessel followed by a thin layer of the charcoal (about half an inch). Then add your potting soil. The thickness of the layers should differ depending on the size of your vessel and the plants that you choose. If you have a larger vessel, make the layers bigger, and vice versa for smaller vessels.

2. Now it’s time to go green. Remember, there is no rhyme or reason to this process — arrange your plants however you see fit. Once you have a desired arrangement, add the moss around the base of the plants and all areas showing the soil. If this creates a tight squeeze for your hands, use chopsticks or a paintbrush to help with the placement of the moss.

3. It’s time for a little spritz of water. How much water you need depends on whether you have an open or closed terrarium.

• For closed terrariums, add water slowly and lightly until you begin to see moisture in the pebble layer. Then screw on the lid. Due to the humidity of closed terrariums, you should not have to water for up to a few weeks. Check your terrarium for moisture droplets every few days, and remember, these are a good thing. If it looks a little dry, an occasional mist of water is all it needs. If your terrarium gets too foggy, take the lid off and let it air out for a bit so the excess moisture can escape.

• For open terrariums, add water directly to the little plants, making sure that they stay moist at all times and never become dry. Even if the plants love the sun, be sure to keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight. Those babies will cook if you do.

Now that your terrarium is complete, it’s time to enjoy your miniature gardening skills. The terrariums work well indoors or out, and they also make wonderful gifts. Add a little bunting banner, ribbon, or even a garden gnome figurine for maximum results.