DIY home & garden: planting a terrarium

DIY home & garden: planting a terrarium

Create your own miniature wonderland

We’re definitely into winter now, and as the mercury drops it means less time spent outside in the garden. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to bring green life into your home to enjoy over the winter months – from bringing in festive plants like paperwhites and amaryllis, to selecting houseplants that bring colour and fresh oxygen. Today, I’d like to share with you a really fun project that can be done at any time of year, but is extra uplifting as the nights draw in.

Building a plant terrarium is a quick, easy and low-maintenance task that will bring tropical colour and interest into your home for years to come. They make ideal home decorations, and really thoughtful and unusual gifts packed with pretty tropical plants and no-fuss succulents. You can get really creative with the plants you choose to use, and if you decide to plant more than one, each one will be totally distinct so it’s a great family project. Some fun containers to try include a cake stand, recycled jar, fish tank or even a clean plastic drinks bottle – or you can buy a cool, ready made bevelled one from a garden centre or home store.

What you’ll need:

  • Your chosen glass container – make sure the opening is big enough to reach into

  • Fine aquarium gravel or sand

  • Larger stones, pebbles, marbles or sea glass

  • Potting soil suitable for succulents and cacti

  • Your chosen plants (see below for my selection!)

  • A spoon

  1. First, layer the bottom of the container with between one and two inches of your stones or pebbles – this will help with good water drainage and stop your plants from getting waterlogged.

  2. Cover this layer with a good, thick layer of the potting soil – around 2.5 inches to allow the plants to root.
  3. Use the spoon to create a hole that’s big enough for the roots of your biggest chosen plant (choose your location carefully as once you’ve placed this, you can arrange the other plants around it). Place the plant, and tamp the soil carefully around it so it’s firmly held in place.
  4. Continue using this method to plant the rest of your greenery – it’s helpful to start from the back and work forward, from largest plant to smallest. Tip: use a paper towel to protect your hands when placing spiky cacti.
  5. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, cover the plants in a good layer of fine gravel or white sand.
    Terrarium DIY project

    Flickr: Mer Almagro

    This will cover up the soil and looks nice, but will also helps retain moisture around the plants’ roots.

  6. Add some landscaping like pebbles, shells or ornaments.
  7. Give the plants a light watering to help them settle into their new home, and continue watering every few weeks – it’s important not to overwater as terrarium plants don’t like having wet feet.
  8. Place your finished terrarium somewhere that’s warm and bright, but away from direct sunlight.
  9. … And enjoy!

Which plants to use?

Succulents are perfect for terrariums, as they can happily remain quite small and require minimum fuss. Grasses and mini ferns are great for adding some texture, and will remain small based on their environment. African violets have striking purple flowers if you’d like to add a bit of colour, and Baby’s Tears (helxine soleirolii) or some types of moss are great for ground cover. You can really afford to get creative here – if in doubt, just check the plant’s label!