Terrarium Garden

She has lucky friends.

I love to give a terrarium as a gift, especially for a housewarming party.  I find housewarming gifts in general to be so tricky, even if you know what someone’s taste was before they moved, you don’t know if maybe they are looking to make a change in their new home.  And, perhaps they saw their big move as an opportunity to purge themselves of a lot of unnecessary crap and simplify their lives a bit, in which case, a bunch of soaps, serving platters, and coasters don’t really serve that goal…

But who could complain about a little tabletop mini-garden?  They look at home in any kind of setting: modern, country, industrial, traditional…  And they clean our air!  You can make one for just a few dollars, and you might already have a lot of the ingredients stashed in your garage or shed.  It’s so simple that even a two-year old can do it, as evidenced by my Schmoodle-Noodle.

Here is what you will need:

some kind of container, preferably glass so you can see all the pretty layers
rocks or stones, any kind will do
some potting soil
a few plants, the smaller the better
some sheet moss

First just put the stones in the bottom of the glass container.  I like to do about an inch and a half, or more, of stones.  The purpose is to help the soil drain properly.  You don’t want a big soggy mess for the plants to sit in.  Nobody likes wet feet, well, except maybe frogs, but we’re talking plants here…  Anyway, so if you have the stones in there, then any excess moisture can just trickle through them and collect underneath, and then the soil stays just perfectly moist and not sopping wet.

Next just a little layer of potting soil.  You don’t have to go too crazy here because the plants probably already are in pots of soil.

Now for the plants:  You can use as many or as few as you like.  Even just one plant in a pretty jar makes such a beautiful statement.  Or, if you want to use multiples, the rule of odd numbers always seems to work, but choose them carefully so that each one stands out on it’s own.  I have a tall leafy one, one with pretty variegated, spotty leaves, and one low and pudgy succulent.

When you take them out of their pots, you may notice that they look root-bound.  This is what root-bound looks like:

The roots are tightly coiled and almost knotted up in the bottom of the pot.  So you want to gently tease them.  Open them up a little to encourage them to spread out and stretch their legs in their new home.

Just place them in the container in a pretty way.  I like to ramp them up like a hill so that the garden is lower in the front and higher towards the back.  And be sure to leave a little empty space too, a good composition should always include negative space.  This way you can really see what’s going on.

Press everything in place and maybe add a little more potting soil if it seems like it needs it.

Now just tear pieces of sheet moss and cover all of the dirt.  You can just patchwork-piece it till everything is neatly covered.  Press it into place.  Not only does the sheet moss look pretty, but it keeps pests out of the soil and also helps keep everything moist.

One of the beauties of this type of garden is that it is almost completely self-sufficient.  You hardly ever, if ever, need to water it.  If you’ve chosen a lidded container, it will never need watering, because the moisture will just condense on the glass and drip back down to the roots.  It’s like a greenhouse.  If your container is open, it may need a little spritz with a spray bottle once every month or so.  Just keep it in a not-so-sunny place so the plants don’t cook to death.

What’s better than a homemade gift?  So thoughtful and meaningful, and a fun project to boot!


9 thoughts on “Terrarium Garden

  1. This is a great how-to. Thank you! I’ve been wanting to make these for the indoor garden space we have at our school (we have cold winters, so I’m always on the lookout for indoor projects.) You make it look easy!


    • well, you got me on that question! lol… i did not even know what the plants were, novice gardener that i am. i did a little research, and i believe what i have is: dwarf umbrella tree, polka dot plant, and jade plant. i picked them all up at lowes in their houseplant section, as well as the moss, potting soil, and marble chips. they also have other kinds of stones to choose from, including river rock and glass pebbles. the container is from pier one! i’ve also seen similar containers at michael’s and a.c. moore.

  2. Beautiful! Word of caution though…the Dwarf Umbrella(Schefflera) grow into large plants. I have a 12 year old plant that is about 5 feet around and in the pot is about 3 feet tall. I may need to try this project for the house here in Florida.

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