Terrariums: Growing in Miniature

The outside doesn't have to stay outside.

Terrariums: Growing in Miniature


By Amy Enfield

Bring exotic plant life often found in deserts, mountains, and rainforests into your home by creating a terrarium. These tiny, contained green spaces allow your creativity to bloom with little care required. Whether open or closed,terrariums make great “living decor” for homes, apartments, or offices. And because they can be planted in a variety of sizes and fashioned from an even wider variety of materials, they fit into any space and all styles of home decor. Even more, they make perfect party favors and housewarming gifts.

Indoor Gardening Made Easy

One of the reasons terrariums have increased in popularity is their ease of maintenance. In many cases, caring for them requires little more than placing the container in the right setting and watering on a limited basis Terrariums also provide a natural creative outlet. Beyond the traditional glass vase or fish bowl, these unique container gardens have become growing art. These are just a few ideas from endless options of containers to create a terrarium with.

  • Light bulbs
  • Saltshakers 
  • Syrup dispensers
  • Teacups
  • Cider jugs
  • Decorative glass bulbs
  • Empty light fixtures
  • Inside tree ornaments

For those with an inclination for clever recycling methods, you can build a terrarium from clear plastic or glass bottles. Building terrariums together also makes for a perfect family activity or class project.

Make a Terrarium in 5 Steps

Although terrariums are easy to maintain, there are some basic decisions to make before starting. For instance, whether you want an open or closed container. Closed containers retain the most humidity and are great for tropical plants.

Open containers will create drier environments, either requiring more frequent watering or plants, such as succulents, that are accustomed to dry conditions.


Which leads to a second decision - which plants to choose. In many cases, it is best to consider a theme, like woodland or tropical or desert. Even considerations like traditional decor or urban modern. Creating a unifying theme not only helps in the design process, but also ensures that the plants you choose will grow in similar conditions. Mixing plants - like succulents and tropical - that require widely different light, temperature or moisture conditions can quickly become a problem.

Whatever container choice, make certain it is clear. Tinted or cloudy glass greatly reduces light transmittance and interferes with plant growth.

1. Pick your plants. With so many cute little plants to choose from, it's fun to browse Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration and create a mood board that complements your decor. Be sure to check how much sunlight and maintenance they need so you and your plant babies get along famously.

2. Choose your container. Big, small, purchased, built, or repurposed, there are almost no rules when it comes to choosing the structure for your terrarium. Just make sure your container is clear and big enough to accommodate your plants of choice.

3. Create a layered base. Open terrariums with drought-tolerant plants such as succulents and cacti do well with layers of sand, rock, and finished with a bit of fast-draining soil such as Miracle-Gro® Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix.

For closed terrariums with moisture-loving plants such as ferns and nerve plants, use an easy-to-water potting mix such as Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix to help maintain ideal humidity levels. When layering your closed terrarium, start with a base of rocks or decorative pebbles, add a very thin layer of activated charcoal to help keep water fresh and prevent bacteria, and then top it off with potting mix.

4. Give it a sense of style. Complete the look of your terrarium with other materials that transform it into a micro-landscape or themed garden. Create a lush jungle, calming Zen garden, whimsical fairy village—go wherever your imagination takes you.

5. Take care of your plants. Tending to your terrarium will vary by the plants you choose and whether you have an open or closed style. Here are some of the basics to get you started, but it's best to research your specific plants to ensure proper care.

Open terrariums require a little bit more maintenance because they're exposed to the surrounding air. Check on your plants weekly to see if the soil is dry. If your open terrarium consists of drought-tolerant plants like succulents, let the soil dry completely before watering again. When it's time to water, do so conservatively to prevent saturating the soil, which could lead to root rot.

Closed terrariums can take a little bit longer to set up, but once the micro-climate is established, they require very little care. All you have to do is give them proper lighting and a humid environment. Since evaporation is limited, you'll only need to check the moisture level every 2 weeks to make sure things are running smoothly.

Even little plants need to be fed once in a while. Infrequent feeding provides essential nutrients for your glass garden to thrive and produce vibrant foliage. For open terrariums with cacti, jade, and other succulents, go with Miracle-Gro® Succulent Plant Food. If you have a closed terrarium with humidity-loving plants, use Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food. Each of these liquid plant foods are made to nourish their respective plant varieties and can be applied directly to the soil or mixed with water.

Yes, growing is going inside and finding its place in corner offices, on living room bookshelves, and grade school classrooms. It's giving artists a nature-inspired outlet and creating new interests in sustainability. All thanks to an idea said to have begun 2,500 years ago in Greece - the terrarium.