How to build a Terrarium

You’ve reached here with the expectation of learning how to build a terrarium. Before I get to that, it’s helpful to know what a terrarium is best suited for. From our favorite encyclopedia, Wikipedia:

[quote]A terrarium can be formed to create a temperate woodland habitat, and even a jungle-like habitat. This can be created with pebbles, leaf litter and soil. By misting the terrarium, a natural water cycle occurs within the environment by condensation forming on the lid causing precipitation. Many kinds of plants are suitable for these habitats, including bromeliads, African Violets and Crassulaceae.[/quote]

Here are the steps we followed to build our terrarium:


  1. Find a large jar with a lid and fill it with marbles, pebbles or river rock. Ideally these will be up no larger than 1/4″ and should be spread on the bottom of the jar up-to 2″ deep.
  2. Add a layer of sphagnum moss on top of the stones. The moss helps prevent the soil that you add from filling up the spaces between the marbles, pebbles or gravel.
  3. Add a 1/2″ layer of activated charcoal which will help filter the air and prevent odors and excess water build up at the bottom of the jar. From the research I did online, a lot of filters in aquariums use activated charcoals. I ended up crushing some real wood charcoal and using this.
  4. Add 2-3″ of soil. Depending on the size of the jar you may need more, but, in general try and use a soil that isn’t filled with fertilizers.
  5. Select the plant for your terrarium and pot the plant to ensure the roots are covered
  6. Use a mist-spray bottle to water the plant as needed or recommended
If you decide to follow the steps above, here’s a basic shopping list for a garden center where you’ll find many of the supplies needed for your terrarium:
  1. Glass jar or vase with lid
  2. River rock, marbles or pebbles
  3. Sphagnum moss
  4. Activated charcoal
  5. Soil
  6. Plant
  7. Mist-Spray bottle