Making a Terrarium: A Beginners Guide

Over a year ago, I become a terrarium owner after falling in love with a pre-made glass-bowl of goodness in Botanic, York. This easy maintenance, self-contained eco-system was the perfect addition to my home and never failed to amaze me. Unfortunately, in my sheer rush to evacuate York when the Corona bells rung, I abandoned the majority of my belongings alongside my beloved terrarium, as I returned home to isolate with my family. On returning to collect the rest of my belongings, my terrarium was in an unrecoverable state.

Throwing away its contents onto the compost on my last day in York, perhaps was a metaphor of waving goodbye to my cherished student life. The terrarium glass bare, the house empty, I was on the road home resolved to replant my terrarium. “Bigger and better things to come” as they say.

With no idea where to begin, I presumed the easiest way was to purchase a kit, without the glass. Whilst I admit, I probably could have sourced the items individually for cheaper, (mainly because I ordered the wrong kit size and now have tonnes of gravel!), I am so pleased with my new eco-system and cannot wait to make another with the remainders of the kit!

I thought I’d talk you through how I made my new terrarium and what you might need if you are thinking of making one yourself.

The Kit:

I purchased mine on Etsy from the UK seller The Art Of Succulents, who have an amazing selection of cacti and succulents, different size kits and pre-made terrariums.

I opted for the large starter kit, which contained gravel, compost, activated charcoal, reindeer moss and pebbles. This kit gives you the option of selecting the gravel and moss colours too, which is always a nice touch. The kit arrived well packaged and I was very impressed with how much spare I have left over!

The Plants:

Closed terrariums require different kinds of plants to open terrariums. This is due to their high humidity and low light, which is suited to some types of plants better than others. For instance, succulents are not suited to a closed terrarium and they will eventually rot due to the humid conditions.

Plants such as ferns, mosses, air plants, Fittonia, begonias and starfish plants are great options for closed terrariums .

I found my plants online at Concrete Lab & Co, who have a great selection of plants suited to all types of terrariums.

The Method:

Before beginning assembling your terrarium, I would recommend putting down some old newspaper to stop your work surface becoming covered in soil!

To begin making your terrarium, start by adding your first layer of gravel. This should be around 1-3cm deep. Next make a well in the centre to add a small amount of charcoal. Not all terrariums require charcoal, small ones may be ok without it.

Now begin to add a layer of compost and decide on the placement of your plants. Once you have decided on your design (it may help to design it outside of the terrarium and then transfer to the glass) , dig holes in your compost deep enough to plant your plants. Keep adding compost until all the roots of the plants are covered and the plants are held firm in place. You can add water to your compost to help mould it into shape around the plant roots.

As the plants are now in place, you can add any further decoration. I added another layer of gravel, a couple pebbles and finally some moss.

Finally place the lid on your terrarium and leave it to do its thing.

Care tips:

Here is the easiest step of all. Closed terrariums act as their own eco-system, which means they essentially care for themselves.

However, it is important to open up your terrarium approximately every three weeks to release any excess condensation and to refresh the system. Make sure to leave the lid off for a couple of hours for this process to occur.

When you re-close your terrarium, check to ensure that condensation reforms on the glass. If this does not happen, then add a small amount of water so the terrarium can rebalance.


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