The Ultimate Guide to Creating & Maintaining a Thriving Terrarium

Terrarium, Terrariums

Terrariums are miniature ecosystems enclosed in glass, captivating plant enthusiasts and interior designers alike. These self-sustaining worlds bring a touch of nature indoors, requiring minimal maintenance while offering a visual feast of greenery.

Whether you’re a seasoned plant parent or a beginner, this comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of creating and caring for your own terrarium, from choosing the right plants to troubleshooting common issues.

Choosing Your Terrarium Style:

  • Closed Terrariums: These sealed containers create a humid environment ideal for moisture-loving plants like ferns, mosses, and certain tropical species.
  • Open Terrariums: These offer more versatility in plant selection and are better suited for succulents, cacti, and air plants that prefer drier conditions.
Terrarium TypeDescriptionIdeal ForSkill LevelMaintenancePlant Examples
Closed TerrariumSealed environment, high humidity, self-sustainingMoisture-loving plants, beginnersEasyLowFerns, mosses, Peperomia, Fittonia
Open TerrariumExposed to air, lower humiditySucculents, cacti, air plantsEasyLowCacti, succulents, air plants, some tropicals
Woodland TerrariumMimics a forest floor with moss, ferns, and small woodland plantsIntermediate hobbyistsModerateModerateMosses, ferns, miniature orchids, Pilea
Desert TerrariumReplicates arid landscapes with cacti, succulents, and sandIntermediate hobbyistsModerateLowCacti, succulents, Aloe vera, Echeveria
Aquatic TerrariumIncludes a water feature (pond or waterfall) for aquatic plants and possibly small aquatic creaturesAdvanced hobbyistsHighHighJava moss, Anubias, Water lettuce, small fish (optional)
Carnivorous TerrariumHouses carnivorous plants like Venus flytraps and pitcher plantsAdvanced hobbyistsHighModerateVenus flytrap, Pitcher plant, Sundew, Butterwort
Bioactive TerrariumIncludes a self-sustaining ecosystem with decomposers like springtails and isopodsAdvanced hobbyistsHighModerateWide variety, depends on chosen ecosystem

Essential Supplies:

  • Glass Container: Choose a clear glass container with a lid (for closed terrariums) or an open top (for open terrariums).
  • Drainage Layer: Gravel, pebbles, or activated charcoal create a base for drainage, preventing root rot.
  • Soil Mix: Use a well-draining potting mix specifically designed for terrariums or create your own blend.
  • Plants: Select plants that thrive in similar conditions and have compatible growth habits.
  • Decorative Elements: Add moss, rocks, miniature figurines, or other decorative items to personalize your terrarium.


Planting Your Terrarium:

  1. Create the Base: Layer the bottom of your container with drainage material, followed by a layer of activated charcoal to filter impurities.
  2. Add Soil: Fill the container with soil mix, leaving enough space for the plants’ roots.
  3. Plant Selection: Gently remove plants from their pots, tease out the roots, and plant them in the terrarium soil. Arrange them aesthetically, considering their growth patterns.
  4. Water and Close: Lightly mist the plants and soil with water. For closed terrariums, seal the lid. Open terrariums may require occasional watering.

Maintenance Tips:

  • Light: Place your terrarium in bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch the plants.
  • Watering: Closed terrariums rarely need watering as they create their own mini water cycle. Open terrariums may need watering every few weeks, depending on the plant types.
  • Pruning: Trim any overgrown plants to maintain the desired shape and prevent them from overcrowding the terrarium.
  • Cleaning: Wipe down the inside of the glass to remove condensation or algae buildup.
  • Monitoring: Watch for signs of pests or diseases and address them promptly.


  • Too Much Moisture: If condensation is excessive, open the terrarium for a few hours to allow excess moisture to evaporate.
  • Yellowing Leaves: This could indicate overwatering or insufficient light. Adjust watering frequency and light exposure accordingly.
  • Pests: Introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs or use natural pest control methods to manage infestations.


Terrariums are not just beautiful decorations; they’re living works of art that offer a glimpse into the wonders of nature. With a little care and attention, your terrarium can thrive for years, providing you with a calming and captivating display of miniature plant life. So, gather your supplies, unleash your creativity, and embark on your terrarium-building journey today!

Additional Tips:

  • Research different plant combinations for inspiration and compatibility.
  • Consider creating themed terrariums, such as a desert landscape, a rainforest oasis, or a whimsical fairy garden.
  • Share your terrarium creations on social media and connect with other terrarium enthusiasts.
  • Experiment with different container shapes and sizes to create unique displays.

By following this guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a terrarium expert, bringing the beauty of nature into your home in a sustainable and low-maintenance way.

Leave a Comment