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How to Make a Terrarium

Summer Craft: How to Make Terrariums with Kids

By Chris Jordan

If there were a superpower for killing perfectly lovely plants, it would be mine. So when I saw all these terrariums out at stores and in catalogs I thought, hey I can do that! They are self-contained, so for the most part self-watering. How adorable! It’s own little ecosystem.

Even better, it is a project that the kids could be involved in from picking out the plants to doing the actual planting. And the end result is something that looks nice on display in the house.

If you are like me, at this point in the summer you are looking for things to occupy your kids and burn some of those daylight hours.  This project did both of these things and provided a nice little science lesson on self contained ecosystems.

How to Make a Terrarium

Step One:
Collect large glass containers with lids you already own or purchase some. The jars I have came from Hobby Lobby and were purchased around the Christmas holidays to use as decorations. That store has great sales if you are willing to wait. I have also seen giant glass cookie jars with glass lids at stores Target and Walmart. As an aside, I have seen these giant cookie jars in these stores and wondered why anyone has that many cookies in their house. I would have to hide that many cookies from my children not display them.

I discovered during this process that you need the jars to be larger than you think. I have seen photos on the Internet of tiny little jars being used with tiny little plants and I have come to the obvious conclusion that those were made by tiny little elves.

Making a Terrarium

The terrariums look best when the top of the plant hits about the 1/2 to 2/3 mark inside the container. So you will want to keep this in mind when purchasing both the containers and plants. Also keep in mind the diameter of the bottom of your jar if you would like to use more than one plant per container.

I think the tallest jar in the above photo turned out the best and would be the size I would purchase if I was going to make another one. The two smallest jars were way too short to produce a visually appealing final product. But this did not stop my daughter from cramming plants into them.

Step Two:

Plants for making a terrarium


Purchase your plants. Just as the jars need to be larger than you think, the plants need to be smaller. Don’t make the mistake of just looking at the part of the plant that is sticking up out of the ground. You need to take into account the roots of the plant. Plants need roots to survive. I know you are thinking right now, ‘Really, Chris? I must have missed this lesson in second grade science!’ But trust me, I have a friend who made a couple of these after seeing mine and she said the same thing about forgetting to take into account the root system.

Choosing plants for a terrarium

I read the labels on the plants to try and determine which plants would work best in a jar. I picked plants that seemed like they would be hard to kill.

Step Three:

How to Make a Terrarium Tutorial: Adding rocks to bottom of vase

At the bottom of your jar you are going to want to put a layer of tiny river rocks. This helps the excess water drain away from the soil. And I like the way it looks in jars, providing texture and weight at the bottom of the jar.

Step Four:

How to make a terrarium tutorial: adding soil

Pour in your potting soil mix. Use the pots that your plants came in as a guide for the depth of soil that you need.

Step Five:
Put your plants inside your jar. I had visions of having several types of plants on one jar, but none of my jars were wide enough to accommodate more than one.

How to Make a Terrarium Tutorial (adding plants and soil)

My daughter planted this one completely by herself. I am not sure why or how dirt got on top of the leaves, but even this plant is still thriving. If this happens to you, water the plant so the water washes off the leaves and then keep the lid off the jar until the soil mostly dries out. On the face of the sun where I live, this only took an afternoon to accomplish.

Step Six:
This is Spanish moss.

How to make a terrarium tutorial: adding moss

You can put this Spanish moss around the plant on top of the soil. I did this because I liked the way it looked and thought it gave it a more finished and lush appearance, but I think it also helps to keep the soil moist. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want.

Making a terrarium

In case you weren’t aware, this is definitely an outdoor project. I began doing this inside at the kitchen table, it was probably 120 degrees outside on this day, but very quickly brought the whole operation outside. “‘Tis better to sweat than to yell at small children about being messy,” I always say. Actually I never say that, but like all parents I do try to eliminate unnecessary annoyances. So take my advice and do this project outside.

Step Seven:

DIY Terrarium craft

Water your plants a little bit and put the lid on your jar. Find a place for your terrarium to live where it will get sunlight, but not too much direct sunlight.

Terrariums displayed on a table

I love the way that the terrariums turned out. One of my sons even made a terrarium to give to his girlfriend because he thought it was so “cool.” So far mine are doing really well in an area that has a lot of diffused sunlight. And, by “really well” I mean that it has been three weeks and I haven’t killed any of them yet. If you knew my track record with plants, you would be duly impressed.

Find More Summer Crafts Here:

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, they...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is a teen now.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.


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This look great! Do you ever need to water them, or are they truly self-supporting? 

13 Easy & Fun Gardening Crafts Kids Can Make

[…] Wondering what plants to put in your DIY terrarium? Succulents are incredibly hardy and come in all sorts of gorgeous varieties. This might be a good first start. You can always add other plants over time. Source […]