How To Plant Terrarium [ Full Guide ]

Terrariums are miniature ecosystems that bring a touch of nature indoors and are relatively low-maintenance. Creating and maintaining a terrarium can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, and it’s a perfect way to add a touch of greenery to your home or office. From selecting the right container to choosing suitable plants and preparing the soil and drainage layer, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to plant a thriving terrarium.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Terrarium

To plant a terrarium, you will need to follow these basic steps:

  1. Select a container: Choose a clear glass or plastic container with a wide opening for easy access.
  2. Choose suitable plants: Select small, slow-growing plants that thrive in humid environments.
  3. Prepare the soil and drainage layer: Use a layer of pebbles or activated charcoal for drainage, followed by a layer of potting soil.
  4. Plant your terrarium: Carefully plant your chosen greenery, ensuring that the roots are well-covered and the arrangement is aesthetically pleasing.
  5. Maintain and monitor: Place your terrarium in a location with indirect light, water sparingly, and monitor for any signs of overgrowth or imbalance in the ecosystem.

Now, let’s delve into each of these steps in detail to ensure that you can plant and maintain a healthy and vibrant terrarium.

Selecting The Right Container For Your Terrarium

Choosing the appropriate container for your terrarium is crucial as it will directly impact the health and growth of the ecosystem within. When selecting a container, keep the following considerations in mind:


Terrariums are commonly made of glass or clear plastic. Both materials allow for maximum visibility, enabling you to appreciate the beauty of the miniature landscape inside. Glass containers usually provide a more aesthetically pleasing look, while plastic containers are lightweight and less prone to breakage.

Size And Shape

Opt for a container with a wide opening to make planting and maintenance easier. The size will also determine the types and quantities of plants you can incorporate. A larger terrarium will offer more space for a variety of plant species and allow for more intricate landscape designs. However, smaller terrariums can be equally charming and are perfect for compact spaces.


Consider how easy it will be to access the inside of the container for planting, pruning, and maintenance. Containers with a large opening or a removable lid provide convenient access, while those with a narrow opening may require specialized tools for planting and maintenance.

Lid Or Open-Top

Decide whether you want a terrarium with a lid or an open-top design. A lid can help create a more humid environment, making it suitable for moisture-loving plants. However, an open-top terrarium may be preferred for plants that require more air circulation, such as succulents.

Once you’ve considered these factors, you can select a container that aligns with your preferences and the specific needs of the plants you plan to include in your terrarium.

Choosing The Appropriate Plants For Your Terrarium

Selecting the right plants is essential for the success of your terrarium. Since a terrarium is a closed environment with high humidity, it’s crucial to choose plants that can thrive in such conditions. When choosing plants for your terrarium, consider the following factors:

Size And Growth Rate

Opt for small plants that have a slow growth rate. Since terrariums have limited space, slow-growing plants will maintain the balance within the ecosystem and require less frequent pruning. Additionally, small plants will be better suited to the scale of the terrarium and prevent overcrowding as they mature.

Light Requirements

Consider the lighting conditions in the location where you plan to keep your terrarium. If the spot receives indirect light, choose plants that thrive in low to moderate light conditions. If the location has bright, indirect light, you can select plants with slightly higher light requirements.

Moisture Needs

Since terrariums create a humid environment, it’s important to choose plants that enjoy high humidity. Look for plants that thrive in tropical or subtropical climates, as they will adapt well to the environment within a terrarium.


Select plants with similar environmental requirements to ensure that they can coexist harmoniously within the enclosed space. Avoid combining plants with conflicting needs, such as those that require different levels of moisture or light, as this could lead to imbalances and the eventual demise of the ecosystem.

Popular Terrarium Plants

Some popular plant choices for terrariums include:

  • Ferns: Maidenhair ferns, button ferns, and bird’s nest ferns are excellent choices for terrariums due to their love for high humidity and low light conditions.
  • Peperomia: With its small, ornamental leaves, peperomia is well-suited for terrariums and thrives in humid environments.
  • Fittonia: Also known as nerve plants, fittonias come in various colorful varieties and can add a vibrant touch to your terrarium.
  • Pilea: Pilea plants, such as the Pilea glauca “Aquamarine”, are compact and visually appealing, making them ideal for terrariums.
  • Succulents: Certain succulents, such as haworthia and echeveria, can thrive in open-top terrariums that provide good air circulation.

Once you’ve chosen the plants that best suit your terrarium, you can proceed to the next step of preparing the soil and drainage layer.

Preparing The Soil And Drainage Layer

The soil and drainage layer in a terrarium are crucial for maintaining proper moisture levels and preventing waterlogging. The following steps will guide you through preparing the soil and drainage layer for your terrarium:

Selecting The Right Soil

Opt for a well-draining potting soil that retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. A mix specifically designed for indoor plants or terrariums is ideal, as it will have the right balance of nutrients and drainage properties.

Creating A Drainage Layer

To prevent water from pooling at the bottom of the terrarium, create a drainage layer using small pebbles or activated charcoal. The drainage layer will allow excess water to collect at the bottom, away from the plant roots, helping to maintain a healthy balance of moisture within the soil.

Layering The Soil

Once the drainage layer is in place, add a layer of potting soil on top. The depth of the soil layer will depend on the root depth of the plants you are planting, but a depth of around 1-2 inches is typically sufficient for most terrarium plants.


Gently pat down the soil to create a firm base for planting. Avoid over-packing the soil, as this can hinder the circulation of air and water within the terrarium.

With the soil and drainage layer prepared, you are now ready to plant your terrarium and bring your miniature ecosystem to life.

Planting Your Terrarium

The process of planting your terrarium requires careful consideration of the arrangement and spacing of the plants to create an aesthetically pleasing display. Here are the steps to planting your terrarium:

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Arranging The Plants

Before placing the plants in the terrarium, arrange them outside of the container to determine the best placement. Consider the height, color, and texture of the plants to create a visually appealing composition. Taller plants can be positioned toward the back or center, with shorter plants placed toward the front or edges to create depth and dimension.

Planting Techniques

When planting, use a small trowel, spoon, or chopstick to create small holes in the soil for each plant. Gently remove the plants from their containers, being careful not to damage the roots. Place the plants in the prepared holes and backfill with additional soil as needed to secure them in place.

Adding Decorative Elements

As an optional step, you can incorporate decorative elements such as small figurines, decorative rocks, or driftwood to enhance the visual appeal of your terrarium. Be mindful of the scale of the decorations to ensure they complement the overall aesthetic without overwhelming the plants.


After planting, water the terrarium lightly to settle the soil around the roots. Use a spray bottle or a small watering can with a fine spout to control the amount of water applied. Avoid saturating the soil, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other issues.

Once your terrarium is planted, it’s essential to monitor and maintain it to ensure the continued health and longevity of the ecosystem.

Maintaining And Monitoring Your Terrarium

Maintaining a healthy terrarium involves regular monitoring and minimal intervention. Here are some key tasks to keep your terrarium thriving:

Light And Temperature

Place your terrarium in a location with indirect sunlight or bright, indirect light, depending on the plants’ requirements. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can cause excessive heat and lead to overheating within the enclosed environment. Check the temperature around the terrarium to ensure it remains within the optimal range for the selected plant species.


Monitor the moisture levels in the soil and water sparingly, as terrariums require less frequent watering due to the enclosed environment. Use a spray bottle to mist the soil lightly when needed, and avoid overwatering to prevent waterlogging. Adjust the watering frequency based on the specific needs of the plants and the moisture levels within the terrarium.

Pruning And Maintenance

Regularly check for any signs of overgrowth or imbalance among the plants. Prune any yellowing or overcrowded foliage to maintain the visual appeal and prevent the spread of disease. Remove any debris or fallen leaves to keep the terrarium clean and tidy.


For closed lid terrariums, periodically remove the lid to allow for air circulation and refresh the internal environment. This step is particularly important if condensation builds up on the inside of the container, as it indicates excess moisture and lack of air circulation.


Terrarium plants generally require minimal fertilization due to the recycling of nutrients within the enclosed ecosystem. However, if you notice signs of nutrient deficiency, such as pale leaves, consider using a diluted, balanced liquid fertilizer to provide the necessary nutrients.

By maintaining a balance of light, water, and airflow, you can ensure that your terrarium remains healthy and vibrant for an extended period.

Planting and nurturing a terrarium is a delightful way to bring a slice of nature into your living or work space. With the right container, suitable plants, well-prepared soil, and thorough maintenance, you can create a captivating miniature ecosystem that thrives within its enclosed environment. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can confidently embark on your terrarium planting journey and enjoy the beauty of a self-sustaining green oasis in your home. Happy planting!

Understanding Proper Lighting Conditions

Terrariums are a wonderful way to bring a little piece of nature into your home or office. These miniature ecosystems consist of plants enclosed in a glass container, creating a self-sustaining environment. Planting and maintaining a terrarium can be a rewarding and creative experience.

The first step in planting a terrarium is to understand the lighting requirements of the plants you will be using. Most terrariums are either open or closed, each with its own advantages and considerations.

  1. Open Terrariums: Open terrariums allow for better airflow and are better suited for plants that prefer drier conditions. These terrariums generally require bright indirect light. Place them near a window with filtered sunlight, avoiding direct sunlight, which can scorch the plants.

  2. Closed Terrariums: Closed terrariums create a more humid environment and are suitable for plants that thrive in moist conditions. These terrariums can tolerate lower light levels. Place them in an area with indirect light, away from direct sunlight, which can cause excessive heat and humidity buildup.

It’s important to research the lighting needs of your chosen plants to ensure they are compatible with the type of terrarium you are creating. Consider factors such as the natural habitat of the plants and their light preferences when selecting plants for your terrarium.

Watering And Maintaining Humidity Levels In A Terrarium

Proper watering and maintaining humidity levels are crucial for the health and longevity of your terrarium. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Watering: The key to watering a terrarium is to strike a balance between providing enough moisture for the plants while preventing waterlogged conditions. It’s essential to use well-draining soil and containers with drainage holes to avoid water accumulation.

    Start by moistening the soil before planting, ensuring it is evenly damp but not overly saturated. After planting, monitor the moisture levels by touching the soil. If it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water. Use a spray bottle or a watering can with a narrow spout to control the amount of water you add.

    Remember to water sparingly, as terrariums have limited space for excess water to evaporate. Overwatering can lead to root rot and the growth of mold or fungus. It’s better to underwater than to overwater your terrarium.

  2. Humidity Levels: Closed terrariums naturally create a more humid environment, thanks to limited airflow. However, even open terrariums can benefit from maintaining proper humidity levels. Here are a few ways to maintain the right humidity:

    • Mist the terrarium: Use a spray bottle to mist the plants and interior walls of the terrarium. This will help create humidity.

    • Condensation control: Monitor the level of condensation inside the terrarium. Excessive condensation can lead to rotting plants, so if it becomes too excessive, remove the lid to allow for some evaporation.

    • Ventilation: Periodically open the lid of a closed terrarium to allow for fresh air circulation, reducing excessive humidity.

By watering your terrarium carefully and maintaining appropriate humidity levels, you will create a healthy and thriving environment for your plants.

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Tips For Arranging Your Terrarium Design

The arrangement of plants in your terrarium plays a vital role in its aesthetics and functionality. Follow these tips to create a visually appealing and balanced design:

  1. Variety of Plants: Choose a mix of plants with different heights, textures, and colors to create visual interest. Consider using plants with different growth habits, such as trailing vines, tall foliage plants, and compact ground covers. This will add depth and dimension to your terrarium.

  2. Thriller, Filler, Spiller: Follow the "thriller, filler, spiller" principle to create a well-balanced arrangement.

    • Thrillers: Choose a focal point plant, such as a tall and striking plant, to serve as the centerpiece. This plant should be visually appealing and stand out in the composition.

    • Fillers: Select plants with medium height and bushy growth habits to fill in the space around the thriller plant. These plants should complement the focal point and add volume to the arrangement.

    • Spillers: Choose trailing plants that will spill over the edges of your terrarium, creating a cascading effect. These plants soften the overall look and add a sense of movement.

  3. Proper Spacing: When arranging the plants, consider their growth patterns and space requirements. Leave enough room for each plant to grow and expand without overcrowding. Ensure that the leaves of neighboring plants do not touch or overlap excessively, as this can create a humid environment prone to mold and disease.

  4. Layering and Elevation: Create visual interest by layering plants with different heights. Place taller plants towards the back or center of the terrarium and shorter plants towards the front. Additionally, elevate some plants by adding rocks, logs, or small ornaments to create varying levels within the terrarium.

  5. Consider Maintenance: Keep in mind the maintenance requirements of each plant when arranging them. Place plants with similar watering and light needs together to make maintenance easier.

By carefully considering the arrangement of your terrarium, you can create a visually stunning display while ensuring the plants have the space they need to thrive.

Adding Decorative Elements To Enhance Your Terrarium

Adding decorative elements can elevate the visual appeal of your terrarium and create a personalized touch. Here are some ideas to enhance the aesthetic of your terrarium:

  1. Rocks and Pebbles: Add a layer of rocks or pebbles at the bottom of the terrarium before adding the soil. This will help with drainage and prevent waterlogging. Choose rocks of different shapes, colors, and sizes to add texture and visual interest.

  2. Miniature Figures and Ornaments: Incorporate miniature figures or ornaments that complement the theme or style of your terrarium. This could include tiny animals, fairy figurines, or architectural elements. Be mindful of the scale and ensure that the ornaments do not overwhelm the plants.

  3. Natural Elements: Integrate natural elements like seashells, driftwood, or dried flowers to create a more organic and natural feel. These elements can add texture and provide a sense of harmony with the plants.

  4. Colored Sand or Gravel: Use colored sand or gravel in different shades to create visually appealing layers within the terrarium. This can add depth and dimension to the overall design.

  5. Terrarium Tools: Consider adding small tools like miniature rakes or shovels to further enhance the theme and provide a whimsical touch.

Remember to be mindful of the plants’ needs and growth patterns when adding decorative elements. Avoid overcrowding the terrarium or obstructing the plants’ access to light and airflow.

Planting a terrarium is a creative and rewarding experience that allows you to bring a piece of nature into your indoor space. By understanding the proper lighting conditions, watering, and maintaining humidity levels, arranging your terrarium design thoughtfully, and adding decorative elements, you can create a visually stunning and thriving miniature ecosystem. Follow these steps and let your imagination run wild as you embark on your terrarium planting journey. Enjoy the beauty and tranquility that your terrarium brings to your home or office environment.

Step-by-step Guide To Planting A Terrarium

Terrariums are miniature ecosystems, composed of plants enclosed in a glass container. They have gained immense popularity in recent years due to their aesthetic appeal and low maintenance needs. Whether you have a green thumb or are a complete novice in gardening, planting a terrarium is a rewarding and enjoyable activity.

Step 1: Choose The Container

The first step in planting a terrarium is to select a suitable container. Glass containers such as jars, fish tanks, or vases are ideal for creating a terrarium as they provide a clear view of the plants and retain moisture effectively. Ensure that the container has a lid or can be covered with plastic wrap to create a sealed environment.

Step 2: Gather Materials

Next, gather all the materials you’ll need for your terrarium. Here’s a list of essential items:

  1. Container
  2. Potting soil
  3. Activated charcoal
  4. Rocks or pebbles
  5. Plants (small varieties that thrive in humid environments)
  6. Moss or decorative elements (optional)

Step 3: Prepare The Container

Before adding any materials, clean the container thoroughly with warm, soapy water. Rinse it well to remove any residue or chemicals that may be harmful to the plants. Once cleaned, allow it to dry completely.

Step 4: Add Drainage

Proper drainage is crucial for maintaining a healthy terrarium. Begin by adding a layer of rocks or pebbles at the bottom of the container. This layer will prevent water accumulation, preventing the roots from rotting. The rocks also serve as a reservoir, allowing excess water to evaporate slowly into the terrarium.

Step 5: Add Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal helps to filter out impurities, absorb odors, and prevent the growth of bacteria in your terrarium. Sprinkle a thin layer of activated charcoal on top of the rocks, ensuring an even distribution.

Step 6: Add Potting Soil

Now, it’s time to add the potting soil. Choose a well-draining soil mix suitable for your plant selection. Fill the container halfway with soil, making sure to create slopes or raised areas for visual interest. Leave ample space for the plants’ root systems.

Step 7: Choose And Position Plants

Select plants that are small in size and thrive in humid environments, such as ferns, mosses, succulents, or air plants. Consider the light requirements and growth habits of the plants to create an appealing arrangement. Keep in mind that plants with similar care requirements should be grouped together.

Gently remove the plants from their pots, taking care not to damage the roots, and position them in the soil. Ensure that the roots are covered and pressed firmly into the soil, providing stability.

Step 8: Add Moss Or Decorative Elements

If desired, you can add moss or other decorative elements to enhance the overall aesthetic of your terrarium. Moss can be placed around the base of the plants or used to cover any exposed soil. Decorative elements like small figurines or pebbles can also be added to create interest and personalize your terrarium.

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Step 9: Watering And Sealing

Once all the plants and decorative elements are in place, water the terrarium lightly. Use a spray bottle or a small watering can with a narrow spout to avoid overwatering. The goal is to moisten the soil without saturating it. Pay attention to the moisture levels and adjust the watering accordingly.

Finally, cover the terrarium with a lid or plastic wrap to create a sealed environment. This will help to maintain humidity within the terrarium.

Caring For Your Terrarium Over Time

Once your terrarium is planted, it is essential to provide proper care to ensure its long-term health and beauty. Here are some guidelines for caring for your terrarium:

Light Requirements

Terrariums generally thrive in bright, indirect light. Place your terrarium near a window where it can receive filtered sunlight. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this can cause the temperature inside the terrarium to rise, leading to excessive heat and damage to the plants. If necessary, you can supplement the light with artificial grow lights.


Proper watering is crucial for a terrarium’s survival. Overwatering can lead to root rot and the growth of mold or fungus, while underwatering can cause the plants to wither and die. Monitor the moisture levels within the terrarium, and water only when necessary. The frequency of watering will depend on the specific plants you have chosen and the moisture levels within the container. It’s better to underwater than overwater, as terrariums thrive in slightly drier conditions.


Regular maintenance is required to keep your terrarium healthy and beautiful. Remove any yellow or wilted leaves to maintain the overall aesthetics of the terrarium. Trim any overgrown plants to prevent crowding and ensure light penetration. Monitor for signs of pest infestation and take appropriate measures if necessary.


Terrariums generally do not require frequent fertilization, as the plants derive nutrients from the soil and their own decaying matter. However, if you notice signs of nutrient deficiency, such as pale leaves or slowed growth, you can use a diluted, balanced liquid fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging to avoid over-fertilization, which can harm the plants.

Temperature And Humidity

Terrariums prefer a moderate temperature range of 60-75°F (15-24°C). Avoid placing them in areas with extreme temperature fluctuations or drafts. Maintain humidity within the terrarium by ensuring the lid or plastic wrap is securely in place. If condensation builds up, briefly lift the lid to allow fresh air circulation and prevent excessive moisture.

Troubleshooting Common Issues With Terrariums

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter some common issues with your terrarium. Here are a few troubleshooting tips:


Overwatering is a common mistake that can lead to root rot and the development of mold or fungus. If you notice excess moisture or a foul smell within the terrarium, it’s likely that you’ve overwatered. In such cases, remove the lid or plastic wrap to allow the excess moisture to evaporate. Adjust your watering schedule to prevent future overwatering, ensuring the soil remains slightly moist but not saturated.


If your terrarium’s plants appear wilted or dry, it’s a sign of underwatering. Increase the frequency of watering, but be cautious not to overdo it. Monitor the moisture levels closely and adjust accordingly until you find the right balance.

Pest Infestation

Terrariums can sometimes attract pests like mites, gnats, or aphids. Check for signs of infestation, such as tiny insects or webbing. Remove any affected plants immediately to prevent the infestation from spreading. You can also use natural pest control methods like neem oil or insecticidal soap to treat the remaining plants. Ensure proper ventilation to discourage pests.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves can indicate various issues, including overwatering, underwatering, or nutrient deficiencies. Evaluate the moisture levels and adjust your watering accordingly. If the yellowing persists, consider adding a diluted liquid fertilizer to provide the necessary nutrients.

Mold Or Fungus Growth

Mold or fungus growth is often a result of high humidity and poor air circulation. Remove any affected plants or areas immediately and increase ventilation by briefly removing the lid or plastic wrap. Over time, the mold should disappear. Adjust your watering routine to prevent excessive moisture buildup.


Planting a terrarium is a fulfilling and creative endeavor that allows you to create a beautiful microcosm of nature within the confines of a glass container. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article and providing proper care, your terrarium will thrive and become a captivating addition to your living space. Enjoy the process and embrace the soothing beauty of your miniature green oasis.


What Is A Terrarium?

A terrarium is a small, enclosed environment where plants and sometimes other organisms can grow. It typically consists of a transparent container, soil, plants, and other decorative elements.

What Types Of Plants Can Be Used In A Terrarium?

Terrariums are versatile and can accommodate a variety of plants, including succulents, mosses, ferns, and small tropical plants. It is important to choose plants that have similar care needs and can thrive in a humid environment.

What Type Of Container Should I Use For A Terrarium?

Any transparent container with a lid can be used for a terrarium. Glass jars, fishbowls, or even repurposed containers can work well. Just make sure that the container is big enough for your plants to grow and has a lid to create a humid environment.

How Should I Prepare The Soil For My Terrarium?

The soil for a terrarium should be well-draining, nutrient-rich, and have good moisture retention. You can create your own suitable soil mix by combining equal parts potting soil, sand, and peat moss. Avoid using garden soil, as it may contain pests or diseases.

How Do I Care For And Maintain My Terrarium?

Terrariums are relatively low-maintenance, but they do require some care to thrive. They should be placed in a location with indirect sunlight and misted occasionally to maintain humidity. You should also monitor the soil moisture and trim any overgrown plants to prevent them from overtaking the terrarium.