There are a few things that you might have noticed around our home that, after hanging with us for a while, should come as no surprise. Think: white bedding (always), navy accents, pale pink something. Velvet everything. Brass. Marble. Terrariums. Dinosaurs!
Okay, but let’s get serious about those last two (ha!). We absolutely love adding greenery as a finishing touch to any space, especially in spaces that are feeling a little too monotone. Add a plant, and boom! Instant color, contrast and life. But perhaps our very, very favorite way to add that greenery is through a terrarium! They’re simple to make, they make us smile, and they can be endlessly customized. Psst: See our other black-thumb loving houseplants of choice.
Remember the terrarium we made for our Chicago kitchen 3 years ago? It’s still alive! We have to pluck a few dead leaves from time to time, but other than that, we don’t touch it. And in our most recent Tree House kitchen reveal, a few of you spotted another dino terrarium that sneaked its way in! We’ve made a handful of terrariums over the years, and we’ve learned a lot. After a few failed attempts initially, we’ve discovered that closed-lid terrariums are where it’s at. The contained environments seem to take care of themselves, which is so, so nice. Here’s how you can make your own:
Tools + Supplies Used
Jar or vessel
Rocks for drainage
Soil scoop + large spoon
Splash of water
Layering Your Substrates
I picked up a large and small canning jar, but anything made with clear glass and a lid could work. (We’ve rounded up some favorites at the bottom of this post!) Both jars got a soapy warm water rinse and dry, and then it was time to create! The order of the supplies should look like this, starting from the bottom and working your way to the surface:
- 1-2″ of small rocks for drainage
- A thin layer of activated charcoal to remove toxins
- At least 3-4″ of potting soil (deep enough for any plants you choose)
- You can generally use any decorative rock for the base layer. We use white aquarium gravel because it’s the whitest white we can find! On the other hand, aquarium gravel comes in a rainbow of colors, so this is your chance to go really bold, too.
- The dust from charcoal is very messy! You’ll want to avoid dumping it from the bag into your vessel, because this will cause an instant black haze. To prevent this, I use a spoon to gently add the charcoal layer.
- I also use a spoon for the areas where my hands can’t reach. One of the toughest parts of building a terrarium is fitting your hand through the small opening of most vessels.
- Once you purchase your rocks, charcoal and soil once, you’ll have enough on hand to make so many terrariums – and they make for great, personal gifts!
Planting + Watering
- In a closed terrarium, you’ll want to choose plants that like a little humidity. Small ferns or jungle plants (ask your local nursery for help!) are all ideal. We’ve had great luck with crispy waves and baby rubber plants.
- Grab that spoon again! The spoon can help to pat down soil while you plant, as well as add small amounts of additional soil as needed.
- Once the plants are in, I get my hand wet under the faucet and flick the water into the jar/vessel. I do this just enough to get the plant(s) a little misty and the top layer of soil barely damp. A spritz from a spray bottle could also work! Do not run water directly into the vessel, as a closed terrarium can get moldy with excessive moisture.
Adding Hidden Treasures
Once the substrates and any plants are in place, we like to add wood chips, preserved moss and hidden treasures! I have an embarrassing collection of small dinosaur toys, as well as a few knick knacks found within the walls of our own home during various waves of demolition. Tucking in a few surprises amongst the greenery – whether it’s figurines, pretty stones or gems – is guaranteed to make you smile.
Caring for Your Closed Lid Terrarium
- About once a month, I’ll take the lid off of the terrarium jar in our Chicago kitchen. I do this when I notice the inside of the glass getting foggy from humidity, and I’ll replace the lid after a few hours. I’ve only watered our kitchen terrarium 2-3 times in the 3 years since I’ve made it, further proof that the closed lid will create it’s own sustainable environment!
- As we notice dead – or sometimes moldy – leaves, we’ll reach in and pluck them out. If you realize that the plant you’ve chosen isn’t loving the warm / light conditions, you may need to replace it. We’ve found that there’s always a bit of a learning curve here!
While I was making the terrarium for Tree House, I made a smaller version using only preserved moss (no plants) for Lucy’s nursery shelf. Because her blackout blinds are closed the majority of the day during naps, I needed greenery that could handle low light:
The most important part of making a terrarium is to have fun! Think of all the possibilities you can create in these miniature worlds. Below, I’ve rounded up a handful of vessels I love, as well as ready-to-make kits and supplies to get started right away!
1. classic glass, $34 | 2. olivewood canister, $30 | 3. looking glass canister, $30 | 4. piper canister, $88 | 5. gold canister trio, $29 | 6. heritage hill, $15 | 7. Dansk Niklas, $50 | 8. montana glass trio, $30
Kits + Supplies