Plant Your Own Terrarium

Creating a terrarium is a popular indoor gardening project that brings the plant kingdom into your home. Follow these step-by-step instructions from Martha Stewart to create your own beautiful and low-maintenance miniature garden.


  1. Ingredients you’ll need to plant a healthy terrarium include:
  • A soil mix of two parts potting soil (a good dark potting soil like Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix) with two parts sphagnum moss and one part builder’s sand.
  • Gravel, which can consist of any small stones, from aquarium gravel to river stones. This will be your drainage layer and should be one-half inch to 1 inch deep, depending on the size of the container. 
  • A light layer of finely ground charcoal (used in aquarium filters) reduces bacterial buildup and helps keep the environment fresh.

2. A large bottle exhibits the layers of gravel, charcoal, and soil needed to keep a terrarium healthy. A dwarf begonia is lowered into a hole in the soil with a device consisting of a circular piece of wire attached to a bamboo garden stake—particularly useful in narrow-necked containers. Before being planted, shake excess soil free from the plant’s roots. The foliage can be rolled in a collar of newsprint so it doesn’t get covered with soil when you are planting your terrarium.

3. An old funnel fashioned with plastic tubing is a good way to spot-water a thirsty plant when other plants are fine. A mister works well for initially watering smaller bottle terrariums.

4. Most flea-market containers, such as antique candy jars, laboratory jars, and Mason jars, do not come with lids. Have one cut from glass (Plexiglas will warp) to fit snugly over the top. If your terrarium is producing too much humidity, leave the lid ajar for a day.

5. Before becoming a part of the arrangement, a Tillandsia and moistened sphagnum moss are attached to a stick with thin-gauge copper wire. Wrap the roots of the Tillandsia with sphagnum moss, then, holding the plant against the branch, coil wire around the roots and branch until snug.

6. If you plan to put your terrarium against a wall, back the container with a mirror to mask the wall and to reflect the plants inside. The mirror can be antiqued with a mixture of regular household glue and a small amount of black ink. This mixture is then applied to the glass in splotches with an old towel. Let it dry and attach or lean it against the back of your terrarium.

7. A selection of handmade tools made from household items, including a spoon for digging, a cork for stamping soil, and a brush for cleaning the glass sides, makes navigating around tight interiors easier. The items are attached with waxed twine to handles made from bamboo garden stakes.

Specimen orchids are exquisitely displayed under glass cloches—a lovely way to show off a favorite plant. Orchids enjoy the humidity that builds under glass but require air circulation to survive; remove cloches after twenty-four hours. 

Article by Martha Stewart, as part of the Growing with Martha Stewart partnership.