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HOW TO: Build Your First Terrarium

How To Build Your Own Terrarium | Brindley Studio | Brindley Faile


Terrariums may seem like too much for self proclaimed black thumbs but if I can do it, I promise you can too! Building your first terrarium is quite simple once you know which ingredients and components work best. My boyfriend and I enjoyed an impromptu date night at Highlands Brewing in Asheville after I saw a Facebook Event by my favorite plant shop being hosted there, offering to teach you how to build terrariums. Flora Asheville is a wedding service as well as an adorable plant and coffee shop with many varieties of house plants for sale covering every surface. At the workshop we were walked through the process and encouraged by the simplicity. We will be making many more!

Terrariums are a unique way to home your plants because they have their own watering system. You will still need to water the plants but only a table spoon or two every few weeks. I will include aftercare at the bottom of the instructions. A terrarium system is based on water being recycled which comes from the plants and soil. This water vapor collects on the walls of your container and trickles back down into the soil. Isn't nature fun?! Here's how you can make your own.


- open glass terrarium
- well draining soil
- activated charcoal
- gravel
- 2 small, low to medium light, 2" plants
- mood moss


  1. It's a good idea to make your creation over a tray or baking sheet with edges so you don't end up with dirt everywhere.
  2. Start with your gravel. You will need enough to fill the base of your terrarium to about an inch deep. Ours took roughly 1 cup of gravel each. Because there are no drainage holes in your terrarium you will need this base layer for draining extra water to prevent root rot. You can layer the gravel flat or opt for an angled incline so that the plants and moss in the back of the container are higher than the front. This will give the terrarium depth and fullness. To do this, hold your container at an angle tipped away from you while you pour in the gravel or move the gravel around with your fingers to achieve the desired angle. Leave enough space above the gravel in front of the opening of your container (if its opening is on the side) so that you will be able to add a soil and moss layer.
  3. Next add fast drying soil to completely cover the gravel in a single layer, just enough to cover up all the rocks.
  4. Then sprinkle activated charcoal across the soil layer.
  5. Repeat with a 2nd layer of soil and then charcoal and then a final layer of soil. The total soil/charcoal layer needs to be deeper than the base of your 2" plant's root ball, around 2" deep. Pat down the soil.
  6. Now select a moderate pinch of your moss with roots and spritz it heavily with water, or soak it under water if you don't have a spray bottle. Don't worry about getting the moss too wet, the wetter the better. Place a layer of moss in the back of the container and press it firmly into the soil. Once you've got the back layer how you want it to look you can add your first plant.
  7. Plants that are slow growing and small will thrive best. I opted for a Silver Nerve Plant in the front and a Parlor Palm in the back of my oblong terrarium. Jerad went with a colorful Croton in the back of his spherical container and what I think is a Cryptanthus bivittatus (Starfish Plant) in the front but I'm not positive. See below for more plant suggestions.
  8. Remove your 2" plant from the pot and begin to massage the root ball and shake off excess dirt. Don't worry about loosing a lot of soil from the root ball, you want to get the roots loose a free to move around.
  9. Dig out a spot in the back of your container with your fingers to place the plant. Don't be afraid to split your plant in two parts or move the stems around to arrange how you prefer. I ended up spreading my ferns into a line rather than a center grouping and split my front Nerve Plant into two separate parts. The base of your plant will need to be deep enough so that the roots are not sticking up above the soil.
  10. Once positioned, fill in with soil and place moistened moss around sides of your back plant and press firmly into soil.
  11. Now position your front plant and dig out holes to place it. If you selected a vine plant, angle it towards your opening so it can grow to hang down. Play around with positioning to see what you prefer. Once positioned and filled in with soil fill in any gaps with moistened moss to cover the remaining soil surfaces.
  12. All done! Admire your creation, aftercare instructions below.


Be careful to not sit your terrarium in direct sunlight, the glass will act as a magnifying glass and burn your freshly transplanted plants. Most open terrariums will need plenty of diffused sun however, so find a place set back from a window to display your new creation.

When the soil feels or looks dry add only 1-2 tablespoons (yes TABLESPOONS) of water. Due to the lack of a drainage hole you will need to be mindful of not overwatering. You can also get a spray bottle to spritz the plants instead of pouring in water. Average watering cycles will be about 3-6 weeks in between watering depending on the season - less frequently in the winter, more in the summer.

Trim dead leaves as your plants grow and trim back plants that attempt to outgrow their space in the Summer/Fall.




Want to have your own date night or #treatyoself moment? Head to Flora Asheville's Facebook Page to see their current and upcoming events.


Share your own creations with me, I would love to see if you gave terrariums a chance yourself! Tag me in your terrarium pics on instagram @brindleyy. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to give this project a try and if you'd like to see more plant related content on my blog!

Cheers, Brindley


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