Make your own terrarium today – and keep it alive!

While Scott and I are the first to admit that we could be considered bona fide “black thumbs,” we also feel that no room is complete without a touch of greenery. Many plants have had an untimely death under our watch, but we’ve been working really hard to remedy that! So far, we’ve had a budding snake plant take over my home studio, and most recently, we’ve managed to keep a handful of terrariums healthy. Three cheers to that!

completed terrarium


Terrariums are one of my favorite ways to bring life into a room. Their tiny footprint is great for a smaller space, but a cluster of them together looks stunning as a centerpiece. Maintenance is low on any terrarium, but we’ve found that open-air terrariums have the longest shelf life in our home.

Once you’ve picked up your supplies, you’ll typically have enough to create several vessels—making great hostess and birthday gifts!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A large vessel, such as a wide vase or low ceramic planter
  • Rocks for drainage (we use aquarium pebbles)
  • Horticultural charcoal, which can be found at nurseries or purchased online
  • Cactus soil
  • Succulents
  • Fun accessories
  • A small gardening trowel or spoon

terrarium supplies

For this terrarium, I picked up a glass vase from a local thrift store. I filled the vessel about ¼ full of rocks, and then topped that with a thin layer of charcoal.

The rocks provide drainage, while the charcoal helps to keep your soil fresh and mold-free. Be mindful of the soil you use, which will depend on the plants you choose. I used cactus soil, which is ideal for succulents.

I slowly filled the rest of my vase, making sure that the soil was deep enough for my 4″ potted plants. This is something to remember when you’re choosing your terrarium container as well!

diy terrarium

With the soil loosely filled in, I carefully arranged my succulents until I liked the way things were looking. I used a small spoon to fill in more soil as needed, and then I lightly packed things down to keep everything in place.

diy terrarium

I gave the entire terrarium a soft watering. I did this only to get the top layer of the soil damp, moving the water quickly across the surface to prevent overwatering any areas. If you’re using a glass vessel, as I did, you might notice that the soil will look darker where the water has reached. You’ll know you’ve overdone it if the rocks get wet.

watering terrarium

When the plants were taken care of, I was able to move on to the best part—accessorizing! I used a few dried “billy balls” for height and patched over the exposed areas of soil with ground covering preserved. The best part? I popped in a toy dinosaur for a dose of humor. (We don’t take ourselves too seriously around here.) Have fun with this part; terrariums are not only beautiful to look at, they can also hide a few surprises. You’ll be sure to have a conversation starter on your hands!

terrarium with dinosaur

I’m proud to say that not only has this terrarium been happily living on our dining room table for weeks, but our succulents have been growing! Since the initial watering, I’ve placed a few ice cubes on the soil (about once every 1½ – 2 weeks) which reduces the urge to overwater. Sticking your finger about an inch below the surface of the soil will also let you know if your terrarium is ready for a small drink.

completed terrarium


When choosing plants for your terrarium, I would highly recommend speaking with someone at your local nursery. They will be able to help you pick out plants that work with your light, setting you up for success!

For more fun tips and tricks on Kim’s home renovation journey, check out her blog Yellow Brick Home.


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