I am nine kinds of domestic. I cook. I bake. I knit. I organize. I feed and water my cat. I feed and water my children. I like doing laundry. I fold clothes—even fitted bed sheets—masterfully. I even sew. But I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life. And yet, when I’m in the midst of thriving greenery, (which obviously doesn’t happen in my own home) a measure of calm comes over me for which I’m grateful. If only I could nurture a plant successfully. Perhaps if I found a plant that was self-watering… Enter the terrarium.
Partially or fully enclosed, the terrarium is—amazingly—semi-self-regulating, creating a dynamic exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide, evaporation and condensation. If you’re planting cacti, succulents, or air plants, you’ll want your vessel to be partially open, but for moisture-loving plants (like ferns, mosses, baby’s tears, fittonia peperomia, sanseveria, or schefflera) you can seal the lid. Most terrariums require little more than some rocks, sand, crushed charcoal, and soil, plus plants! The first DIY terrarium below, from Apartment Therapy, offers a great overview of how to create and care for a classic terrarium. The ones that follow offer fun twists on your basic setup. Each and every one gives you ideas for how to bring a little bit of nature indoors—with lots of creativity and little to no effort. Even I can handle this!
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Clover
Apartment Therapy gives step-by-step instructions on how to create a beautiful terrarium, whether you choose plants that prefer an open or closed environment. No matter which one you choose to make, read through the tips here to give you a good understanding of the general needs for this type of planting. I love the way both Apartment Therapy and Yellow Brick Home take a beautifully serene miniature composition and add a little humor with the strategic placement of a little dog molded of plastic or wooly mammoth figurine hiding within its foliage. This is a great one to do with kids because together you get to create a tiny fantasy world to host a favorite toy or two.
2. Quiet Beans and Gold Leaf
For a strikingly serene composition, minimal maintenance, and a minimalist aesthetic, borrow a tip from Houzz and create a gilded glass bowl using gold spray paint. Simply fill your low-pro bowl with white beans and prop an epiphyte (air plant) within. Simply take your air plant out once a week to soak in water for a few hours, then get back to the business of being a hipster in your chic surroundings.
3. Rock & Bowl
I love the way this terrarium from The Clean Slate showcases rocks collected from various adventures. Fish bowls are the vessel of choice here, and since they’re open to the air they’re best for succulents and cacti. The smooth surface of the spherical glass gives you an unobstructed view of the plants within, which is also ideal for showing off special rocks or shells uncovered anywhere from your backyard to a beach half a world away.
4. High Tea
T2 cheekily calls this DIY the tea-rrarium. While I tend to have an allergic response to puns this bad (who me? “Rock & Bowl” was darn clever!), the cuteness of this teapot cum terrarium cannot be denied. All it takes is a little soil, sand, and some texturally and tonally complementary miniature succulents. Thought it’s closed on top with a lid, the opening at the spout will allow enough air in to keep these plants happy.
5. Magnetic Minis
Convert recycled spice tins to magnetic mini terrariums with this simple DIY from Ruffled. With just a little gravel, a few air plants, some moss, and a couple common tools, you can create a one-off magnet that’s completely unique—or a righteous fridge-side vertical garden that puts your show-off neighbor’s living roof to shame.
Have you ever had success making a terrarium? Do you have a favorite trick for making them last?