Terrarium how to make

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar: The Ultimate DIY Terrarium Guide

How to Make a Terrarium Jar? Terrarium building, Terrarium making & Best plants for Terrarium

Terrariums have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to bring a touch of nature into our homes and offices. These miniature ecosystems, housed in glass containers, offer a low-maintenance and visually stunning way to enjoy the beauty of plants. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a complete novice, creating a terrarium can be a fun and rewarding experience. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the art of making a terrarium in a jar, from the basics of closed jar terrariums to step-by-step instructions for building your own.

The Basics of Closed Jar Terrariums

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

Closed jar terrariums, also known as self-watering terrariums, are a type of terrarium that is sealed off from the outside environment. This unique design allows for the creation of a self-sustaining ecosystem, where the plants can thrive with minimal maintenance.

What is a Closed Jar Terrarium?

A closed jar terrarium is a small-scale, enclosed garden housed within a glass container, typically a jar or a mason jar. The sealed nature of the container creates a humid, controlled environment that mimics the natural ecosystem of a forest or a tropical habitat. This allows plants to thrive with minimal watering and care, making terrariums a popular choice for those with busy lifestyles or limited outdoor space.

The Benefits of Closed Jar Terrariums

Closed jar terrariums offer several advantages over traditional potted plants or open terrariums:

  1. Low Maintenance: The sealed environment of a closed terrarium reduces the need for frequent watering, making them an ideal choice for those with busy schedules or forgetful plant owners.
  2. Self-Sustaining Ecosystem: The closed terrarium creates a self-sustaining ecosystem, where the plants, soil, and water cycle work together to maintain the optimal growing conditions.
  3. Ideal for Small Spaces: Terrariums can be created in a variety of sizes, from small jars to larger containers, making them a great option for homes, offices, or any space with limited room for a traditional garden.
  4. Unique Aesthetic: Terrariums offer a unique and visually appealing way to display plants, adding a touch of nature and creativity to any space.
  5. Educational Opportunity: Building and maintaining a terrarium can be a fun and educational experience, especially for children, as it allows them to observe the natural processes of a mini ecosystem.

How Does a Closed Terrarium Ecosystem Work?

How do Terrariums work?

A closed terrarium ecosystem is a self-sustaining system that mimics the natural cycle of a forest or tropical environment. The key components of this system are the plants, soil, water, and air, which work together to create a balanced and thriving environment.

The Water Cycle

In a closed terrarium, the water cycle is a key component of the ecosystem. When the terrarium is sealed, the water within the system is recycled through a process of evaporation and condensation. As the sun's heat warms the soil and the plants, the water in the soil evaporates and rises, condensing on the cool glass walls of the container. The condensed water then drips back down, providing the plants with a constant source of moisture.

Nutrient Cycling

The soil in a closed terrarium acts as a nutrient reserve, providing the plants with the necessary minerals and organic matter for growth. As the plants absorb these nutrients, they release waste products and dead matter back into the soil. This decomposition process is carried out by microorganisms in the soil, which break down the organic matter and release the nutrients back into the soil, creating a continuous cycle of nutrient replenishment.

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Exchange

The plants in a closed terrarium engage in photosynthesis, a process in which they use carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to produce oxygen and glucose. This oxygen is then released into the air within the terrarium, while the plants absorb the carbon dioxide released by the plants and microorganisms. This exchange of gases helps to maintain a balanced and healthy environment for the plants to thrive.

Temperature and Humidity Regulation

The sealed nature of a closed terrarium helps to regulate the temperature and humidity within the system. The glass walls of the container act as a barrier, trapping the warm air and moisture inside, creating a microclimate that is ideal for the selected plants. This controlled environment helps to prevent the plants from drying out or experiencing extreme temperature fluctuations, which can be detrimental to their growth.

By understanding the key components of a closed terrarium ecosystem, you can create a thriving and self-sustaining miniature garden that requires minimal maintenance.

What You'll Need:

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

To create a terrarium in a jar, you'll need the following materials:

Choosing The Right Plants for Terrarium:

Selecting the appropriate plants is crucial for the success of your terrarium. Consider the following factors when choosing plants:

  1. Lighting Requirements: Select plants that thrive in the amount of light available in the space where you'll be placing your terrarium. Some plants, such as succulents and cacti, prefer bright, direct sunlight, while others, like ferns and mosses, prefer low-light conditions.
  1. Plant Size: Choose plants that will fit comfortably within the size of your container. Opt for small, compact varieties that won't outgrow the space.
  1. Compatible Plant Species: Ensure that the plants you select have similar growing requirements, such as water and humidity needs, to create a balanced ecosystem.
  1. Variety and Texture: Include a mix of plants with different shapes, sizes, and textures to add visual interest to your terrarium.

Some popular plant choices for terrariums include:

  • Succulents (e.g., echeveria, sedum)
  • Ferns (e.g., maidenhair fern, button fern)
  • Mosses (e.g., sheet moss, cushion moss)
  • Miniature orchids
  • Air plants (e.g., tillandsia)
  • Miniature African violets


The container you choose for your terrarium is just as important as the plants. Look for a clear glass container, such as a mason jar, a fish bowl, or a specialty terrarium container, with a tight-fitting lid. The container should have a wide enough opening to allow easy access for planting and maintenance.

Potting Soil:

Use a well-draining, nutrient-rich potting soil specifically formulated for use in terrariums or indoor plants. Avoid using regular garden soil, as it may be too dense and heavy for the closed terrarium environment.

Decorative Elements:

To add visual interest to your terrarium, consider including decorative elements such as:

  • Pebbles or small stones
  • Driftwood or branches
  • Figurines or miniature objects
  • Charcoal (to help filter the water)


Gather the following tools to help you create your terrarium:

  • Small trowel or spoon
  • Tweezers
  • Spray bottle
  • Scissors or pruning shears

Open Vs Closed Terrariums:

There are two main types of terrariums: open and closed. The key difference between the two lies in the level of air circulation and water management.

Open Terrariums:

Open terrariums are not sealed and allow for more air circulation and evaporation. This means they require more frequent watering and maintenance, as the plants are more exposed to the surrounding environment. Open terrariums are suitable for plants that prefer drier conditions, such as succulents and cacti.

Closed Terrariums:

Closed terrariums, on the other hand, are sealed off from the outside environment, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem. The sealed nature of the container traps moisture, allowing for less frequent watering and creating an ideal environment for moisture-loving plants, such as ferns and mosses.

The choice between an open or closed terrarium depends on the specific plants you want to include and the level of maintenance you're willing to commit to.

Caring For Your Terrarium:

Caring for a terrarium requires a delicate balance of watering, lighting, and maintenance. Here are some tips to help you keep your terrarium thriving:

  1. Watering: In a closed terrarium, the water cycle is self-sustaining, so you'll only need to water it occasionally, if at all. Check the soil moisture and water only if the soil starts to dry out.
  1. Lighting: Place your terrarium in a spot that receives the appropriate amount of light for the plants you've chosen. Bright, indirect light is generally best, but consult the specific needs of your plant selection.
  1. Maintenance: Regularly prune and remove any dead or dying plant material to maintain a healthy, balanced ecosystem. You may also need to occasionally wipe down the inside of the glass to prevent condensation buildup.
  1. Air Circulation: Open the lid of a closed terrarium occasionally to allow for air circulation and prevent stagnation.

By following these guidelines, you can create a thriving, low-maintenance terrarium that will bring a touch of nature into your home or office.

See our terrarium care guide here

Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Terrarium in a Jar

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

Now that you've gathered all the necessary materials, let's dive into the step-by-step process of creating your own terrarium in a jar.

Step 1: Moss Gathering and Prep

  1. Collect Moss: Start by gathering a variety of moss types from your local park, forest, or even your own backyard (if it's free of pesticides and pollutants). Look for different textures and shades of green to add visual interest to your terrarium.
  1. Clean the Moss: Once you've collected your moss, gently rinse it under running water to remove any debris or soil. Be careful not to damage the delicate moss strands.
  1. Prepare the Moss: Tear or cut the moss into smaller pieces, roughly 1-2 inches in size. This will help the moss establish itself more easily in the terrarium.

Step 2: Preparing Moss

  1. Soak the Moss: Place the prepared moss in a bowl and add enough water to fully submerge it. Allow the moss to soak for 30 minutes to an hour, this will help rehydrate the moss and prepare it for planting.
  1. Drain the Moss: Gently drain the excess water from the moss, being careful not to damage the delicate strands.
  1. Fluff and Loosen the Moss: Use your fingers to gently fluff and loosen the moss, creating a more natural, textured appearance.

Step 3: Putting Together a Jar Terrarium

  1. Add the Base Layer: Start by adding a 1-2 inch layer of small, clean pebbles or rocks to the bottom of your container. This will aid in drainage and prevent waterlogging.
  1. Add the Charcoal Layer: Sprinkle a thin layer of activated charcoal on top of the pebbles. This will help filter the water and keep the soil fresh.
  1. Add the Soil Layer: Carefully pour a 2-3 inch layer of well-draining potting soil over the charcoal. Gently smooth the surface.

Step 4: Build Your Terrarium

  1. Plant the Moss: Begin by placing the prepared moss pieces onto the soil, arranging them in a natural, organic-looking pattern. Gently press the moss down to ensure good contact with the soil.
  1. Add Your Plants: Carefully place your selected plants into the terrarium, arranging them in a visually appealing way. Ensure that the plants are positioned at the appropriate depth and that the soil is firmly packed around the roots.
  1. Incorporate Decorative Elements: If desired, add small stones, pebbles, driftwood, or other decorative elements to enhance the overall aesthetic of your terrarium.
  1. Mist the Terrarium: Using a spray bottle, lightly mist the plants and moss to provide them with the necessary moisture.
  1. Seal the Terrarium: Carefully place the lid or seal on the container, ensuring a tight fit to create the closed ecosystem.

Step 5: How to Display and Care for Your Terrarium

  1. Choosing a Spot: Place your terrarium in a spot that receives the appropriate amount of light for your selected plants. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can cause the terrarium to overheat.
  1. Ongoing Maintenance: Monitor your terrarium regularly, checking for any signs of over- or under-watering. If needed, mist the plants lightly using a spray bottle. Prune any dead or dying plant material to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
  1. Adjusting the Environment: If you notice any issues, such as excessive condensation or drying out, you can make adjustments by opening or closing the lid to regulate the airflow and humidity.
  1. Enjoying Your Creation: Take the time to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of your newly created terrarium. Observe the changes and growth over time, and enjoy the calming presence it brings to your space.

Decorating and Personalizing Your Terrarium

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

One of the joys of creating a terrarium is the opportunity to personalize and decorate it to suit your style and preferences. Here are some ideas to help you add a unique touch to your terrarium:

Miniature Accessories

Incorporate small, whimsical accessories, such as:

  • Tiny figurines or animals
  • Decorative stones or pebbles
  • Driftwood or branches
  • Shells or sea glass

These small details can help create a sense of scale and enchantment within your terrarium.

Themed Designs

Consider creating a themed terrarium, such as:

  • A lush, tropical-inspired design
  • A desert-themed terrarium with succulents and cacti
  • A miniature forest scene with ferns and mosses
  • A fairy garden with tiny, whimsical elements

Choosing a theme can help guide your plant selection and decorative choices, resulting in a cohesive and visually stunning terrarium.

Lighting Effects

Enhance the ambiance of your terrarium by incorporating small LED lights or fairy lights. These can be placed strategically within the terrarium to create a cozy, inviting atmosphere, especially in low-light areas.

Personalized Labels

Add a personal touch by creating small labels or tags to identify the plants or decorative elements within your terrarium. You can use chalkboard paint, engraved wooden tags, or even handwritten labels to customize your creation.

By incorporating these decorative elements, you can transform your terrarium into a unique and meaningful piece that reflects your personal style and creativity.

Understanding the Watering Needs of Your Terrarium

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

One of the key factors in maintaining a healthy and thriving terrarium is understanding the water cycle and how to properly water your closed ecosystem.

The Water Cycle in a Closed Terrarium

In a closed terrarium, the water cycle is self-sustaining. As the sun's heat warms the soil and plants, the water in the soil evaporates and condenses on the cool glass walls of the container, eventually dripping back down to the soil. This continuous cycle of evaporation and condensation helps to maintain the ideal moisture levels for the plants.

Monitoring Soil Moisture

Regularly check the soil moisture in your terrarium to ensure it doesn't become too dry or waterlogged. The soil should be lightly moist, but not saturated. If the soil appears dry, you can mist the plants lightly with a spray bottle to replenish the moisture.

Watering Frequency

The watering frequency for a closed terrarium can vary depending on factors such as the size of the container, the types of plants, and the environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.). As a general guideline:

  • Small terrariums (under 1 gallon): Water every 2-4 weeks, as needed.
  • Medium terrariums (1-2 gallons): Water every 4-6 weeks, as needed.
  • Large terrariums (2+ gallons): Water every 6-8 weeks, as needed.

Signs of Over- or Under-Watering

It's important to monitor your terrarium for signs of over- or under-watering, as both can be detrimental to the plants' health.

Signs of Under-Watering:

  • Wilting or drooping leaves
  • Drying or curling leaves
  • Soil that is completely dry to the touch

Signs of Over-Watering:

  • Yellowing or rotting leaves
  • Fungal growth or mold
  • Waterlogged soil

If you notice any of these signs, adjust your watering routine accordingly to maintain the optimal moisture levels for your terrarium.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Terrariums

How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

While terrariums are generally low-maintenance, you may encounter some common issues during the life of your miniature ecosystem. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you address these problems:

Fogging or Condensation

Excessive condensation on the glass walls of your terrarium can be a sign of too much moisture or poor air circulation. To address this:

  • Open the lid for a few hours to allow for better air flow.
  • Prune any dead or dying plant material to reduce moisture levels.
  • Adjust the watering schedule, reducing the frequency if the soil remains consistently damp.

Plant Diseases or Fungal Growth

If you notice any signs of plant diseases or fungal growth in your terrarium, it's essential to take action promptly to prevent further spread. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Remove any affected plants or leaves to prevent the disease from spreading.
  • Increase air circulation by opening the lid slightly or placing the terrarium in a well-ventilated area.
  • Adjust the watering schedule to ensure the soil is not staying excessively moist, which can promote fungal growth.
  • Consider using a fungicide or natural remedies like neem oil to treat the affected plants.

Pest Infestations

Pests such as aphids, mites, or fungus gnats can sometimes find their way into terrariums and cause damage to the plants. Here's how you can address pest infestations:

  • Inspect your terrarium regularly for any signs of pests, such as tiny insects or webbing.
  • Remove any affected plants and isolate them to prevent the pests from spreading.
  • Use natural pest control methods like introducing beneficial insects or applying insecticidal soap to eliminate the pests.
  • Ensure proper hygiene by cleaning the terrarium and removing any decaying plant material that may attract pests.

By addressing these common issues promptly and taking proactive measures to maintain a healthy environment, you can ensure that your terrarium thrives and remains a beautiful addition to your space.


How to Make a Terrarium in a Jar The Ultimate DIY Guide for Terrarium Building
Terrarium jar

Creating and caring for a closed jar terrarium can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, allowing you to bring a little piece of nature indoors. To make the most of your terrarium journey, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Experiment with Different Plant Combinations: Explore various plant species and textures to create visually appealing terrarium designs. Mix and match different colors, shapes, and sizes to add interest to your miniature ecosystem.
  1. Attend Workshops or Join Terrarium Communities: Joining terrarium workshops or online communities can provide valuable insights, tips, and inspiration for your terrarium projects. You can also connect with fellow terrarium enthusiasts to share experiences and learn from each other.
  1. Share Your Creations: Don't hesitate to showcase your terrarium creations on social media platforms or with friends and family. Sharing your passion for terrariums can inspire others to explore this creative hobby and appreciate the beauty of nature in a confined space.
  1. Continue Learning and Experimenting: Keep expanding your knowledge about terrariums by trying new plant species, experimenting with different designs, and learning about advanced techniques like creating specialized ecosystems within your terrarium.

By following these recommendations and staying curious and engaged in the world of terrariums, you can cultivate a deeper appreciation for nature and unleash your creativity in a unique and sustainable way.



In conclusion, building and caring for a closed jar terrarium is a delightful and fulfilling activity that allows you to create a self-sustaining ecosystem in a compact space. By understanding the basics of terrariums, choosing the right plants, and following a step-by-step guide, you can successfully build your own miniature garden enclosed in glass.

Remember to personalize and decorate your terrarium to reflect your style, monitor and adjust the watering needs of your plants, and troubleshoot common issues to maintain a healthy environment. With dedication and creativity, you can enjoy the beauty and tranquility of your terrarium for years to come.

So, gather your supplies, select your favorite plants, and embark on the journey of creating your own closed jar terrarium. Let nature inspire and captivate you as you nurture a miniature world within a glass container. Happy terrarium gardening!

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