How to make a terrarium

Terrarium DIY Decorator's Notebook

Historically, I’ve taken issue with house plants on this blog. But recently, I’ve been experiencing something of a conversion to terrariums. With these cute little indoor gardens I can move away from the straggling, dust-gathering house plants I remember from my student days to a neat and contained container of low-maintenance plants that even I can keep looking fresh. As we’ve recently expanded our terrarium collection at the Decorator’s Notebook shop I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips for how to make your own terrarium and ideas for suitable terrarium plants that will look lovely and stay healthy in your home.

What you need to make your own terrarium

How to make a terrarium step-by-step:

  1. Choose the vessel for your terrarium. The ones from Decorator’s Notebook have one open side which makes the terrariums easy to fill and helps maintain and environment at the right humidity for plants like succulents and cacti. If you choose a lidded jar, add a couple of spoonfuls of activated charcoal to the soil which will help absorb moisture, which can cause plants to rot. You can find Decorator’s Notebook’s terrariums here.
  2. Place a layer of gravel or sand in the base of your terrarium and level it off. This is important for drainage.
  3. Next, add a thin layer of soil. For cacti and succulents, use a special cactus compost mix which contains more grit, or simply mix together normal compost and sand to make your own (30% sand, 70% soil).
  4. Carefully add your plants one by one, packing more soil fairly tightly around the roots of each plant. Wear gardening gloves if your plants are spiky! I found a spoon useful for adding the soil so I could get it exactly where I wanted it.
  5. Finish your terrarium with some decorative gravel or more sand to cover the surface of the soil. My lovely sparkly white gravel is designed for fish tanks and came from the local pet shop! For a more woodland look you could use moss instead.
  6. If you like, you can add extra decorations at this stage, such as larger pebbles, crystals, shells or even figurines.

Read on to see three different terrariums I made with plant choice ideas…


Best succulent plants for terrariums: houseleek (Sempervivum), rolling hen-and-chicks (Jovibarba), tree houseleek (Aeonium), Mexican hens-and-chicks (Echeveria), stonecrop (Sedum).

hanging terrarium Decorator's Notebok Shop

Best trailing plants for hanging terrariums: variegated ivy (Hedera helix), maidenhair fern (Adiantum), string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus), Chinese money plant (pilea peperomioides), donkey’s tail (Sedum morganianum).

cacti terrarium Decorator's Notebook shop

Best cactus plants for terrariums: pincushion cactus (Mammillaria), ball cactus (Parodia), fairy castle cactus (cereus tetragonus), zebra cactus (Haworthia), spider cactus (gymnocalyceum).


Watering tips: Water your terrarium only when the soil feels try. Place your terrarium in the sink, water and allow all the excess to drain away – terrarium plants should never sit with their roots in water. Always place glass and metal framed terrariums on a waterproof surface or coaster to avoid damp damaging woodwork. Succulent plants and cacti will need water far less frequently as they store water in their leaves and prefer dry conditions. Follow these simple rules and your terrarium should keep looking fresh and healthy for many months!

The lovely terrariums in this post are all from Decorator’s Notebook. If you’ve been inspired to create your own mini indoor garden, check out the terrarium collection here and get growing!

[Photographs: all © Joe John for Decorator’s Notebook]

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