By Katie Donbavand
Updated Aug 01, 2014 @ 12:21 pm
How to Make Your Own Terrarium
Credit: Sarah Balch for

We're loving the terrarium trend right now! The tiny, low-maintenance gardens are easy to make and add a dose of mossy serenity to your desk or home.

Before we attempted to make our first terrarium, we headed straight to the experts at Sprout Home in Brooklyn, N.Y., to get some pro tips. "A terrarium essentially is an enclosed ecosystem. It’s a living world inside of a glass house," terrarium guru Natasha Liegel, told us. "It's almost like you took a scoop of the earth and put it inside your favorite glassware. It’s almost like a memory of a moment. I can get really romantic about it!"

Her major advice when making one? Don’t over think it. "With terrariums you can think so much and worry so much about what it’s going to look like, but it’s really going to look good no matter what so you really just have to have fun! You can always change it. It’s a living thing, it’s going to change no matter what."

How to Make Your Own Terrarium
Credit: Sarah Balch for

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

For your terrarium, you'll need:StonesCharcoalSphagnum moss (optional)SoilPlantsDecorationsGlass vessel (For a beginner, Liegel suggests using a deep jar with a wide mouth to give you plenty of room to maneuver while planting.)

Anything and everything is fair game for your terrarium's vessel. "There are so many different styles," Liegel told us. "You can recycle something that was preexisting as something else like a Mason jar or a pickle jar or an old candle jar. You can use anything—a fishbowl, a canister—anything that’s glass."

How to Make Your Own Terrarium
Credit: Sarah Balch for

Step 2: Pick Your Plants

What plants you use should be determined by what kind of habitat you're creating: woodland or dessert.

For dessert style, Liegel recommends on-trend succulents and arid-loving cacti. Some great residents for your dessert terrarium include aloe, agave, echeveria, or rhipsalis.

We created a woodland wonderland, so our palate included forest-friendly plants like begonias, asparagus ferns, maidenhair ferns, purple passion plants, peperomias, and bella palms.

When picking your plants, definitely consider your vessel. "If you’re doing succulents, those definitely prefer to be in an open vessel," explained Liegel. "They need to breathe. They don’t want to be in any contained condensation or humidity."

On the other hand, an enclosed vessels makes for very happy ferns. "Ferns and mosses really love humidity and to stay moist so by putting them in [an enclosed vessel], you actually don’t have to worry about misting them much."

How to Make Your Own Terrarium
Credit: Sarah Balch for

Step 3: Layer Up

Before you lay down your layers, clean your vessel—inside and out—with paper towels or a cloth towel and glass cleaner. It's important to do this first because, once you start planting, it'll be tricky to reach around inside your jar without disturbing your environment.

Your first layer should be pebbles, an inch to an inch and a half deep, to allow for drainage. "When you water your plants, you don’t want them to be sitting in mud because then the roots will rot," Liegel explained. "This will prevent that." Gently place your stones in by hand (instead of pouring them) to prevent cracking your vessel.

Your second layer will be a thin, even layer of charcoal. "The charcoal releases carbon into the soil once it’s watered. It helps keeps things fresh," our terrarium guru told us. Don't overdo the charcoal—you only need enough to cover the stones.

Your third layer is an optional bed of sphagnum moss. This added layer keeps the soil from slipping down into your other layers.

Finally, add fresh, healthy soil.

How to Make Your Own Terrarium
Credit: Sarah Balch for

Step 4: Plant Away

"One way you can figure out how much soil you need is by taking your plant and looking at the depth of the root ball," Liegel told us. "This one is an inch so I would say I’m going to need about 2 inches of soil to really give it enough room to grow."

Keep the root ball as intact as possible as you coax your plant out of the pot. "Gently make a little hole in the soil with your finger of where you want to place the plant, and just pop that little puppy in!"

How to Make Your Own Terrarium
Credit: Sarah Balch for

Step 5: Give Your Terrarium Some Swagger

"This is definitely the fun part!" Liegel said. "You get to dress it the way you want it."

Anything is fair game for your terrarium: colored sand, living or preserved moss, sea glass, geodes, forest bark, crystals, shells, pretty stones, dried plants, toy figurines--whatever you want! "There’s no wrong way to make a terrarium," Liegel declares.

Need a one-on-one demo? Sprout Home's Brooklyn and Chicago locations offer classes where experts guide you through making the supremely stratifying task of creating your first terrarium.