How To Set Up A Terrarium



A terrarium is basically an indoor, miniature garden that is landscaped much like an outdoor plant or flower bed. They’re usually plastic containers that have a lid or covering, but can be made of glass. Terrariums contain several different types of plants instead of just one.

You can purchase many different types of terrariums, some are even just oversized bottles or fish bowls. You can use any type of container that you want as long as you can put a covering over the top of it. Many people use fish aquariums, the choice is up to you. Just remember the smaller the container the fewer plants that you can have.

Terrarium plants need to be compatible with each other. Since they’re in the same container you can’t really give one more water or more light than another one. So, try to make sure that all of the plants have the same water and lighting requirements. And, also try to choose plants that are slower growing and will be a little smaller than the height of the container when full grown.



Any plants, rocks or wood that you use inside the terrarium should be inspected for any type of disease or pests. The terrarium will create a tropical like atmosphere and will be a breeding ground for any insects that are present. Rinse any rocks or wood thoroughly in hot water before using them.

The way that you set up a terrarium is just as important as the plants that you use. Choose a good quality potting soil to avoid any organisms being in the soil. Your plant bed will have four separate layers and the first three layers should all be level and even.

The first layer is of course for drainage. You can use small gravels, pebbles or even coarse sand to provide adequate drainage. You will want to have at least a inch thick layer and depending on the size of the terrarium you may need as much as three inches of drainage.

For the best results it’s recommended that you apply a layer of activated charcoal on top of the gravels. You can use the same type that is used for aquariums, the charcoal will help filter fumes out of the terrariums air that are produced from decomposing organic matter.

For the third layer you should spread a thin layer of sphagnum moss over the charcoal. The moss will prevent the soil from sinking down into the bottom layers. Without the moss most of the soil will just fill up the gaps between the gravels that you used for drainage and your plants roots won’t have enough soil to survive.

Finally, you’re ready to add the soil to the terrarium. A good potting soil is all that is needed, but if you’d like you can purchase soil that is made specifically for terrariums. The only difference is usually that the terrarium soil will have some added sand or drainage, which you can add yourself.

If you feel that you need extra drainage in the soil, add two parts soil with one part coarse sand and one part humus. You won’t need to fertilize the plants for quite some time, the soil will contain enough nutrients to last the plants for a long time.

Always use builders sand, never use any sand from a beach, the salt content will kill the plants. And, if your terrarium is going to be a desert garden with lots of cactus, use more drainage in the bottom and add more sand to the soil.

Written by Connie Corder for, Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *