Terrariums: The Little Gardens that Could

I love to garden and I am fortunate to have a little land with patches of sun. Not everybody is so lucky but, if you have a window with some indirect light for 6 - 8 hours, you can have a little garden of your own.

Making a terrarium is like making lasagna, creating layers for drainage, possibly soil, and your specimens. Once you decide what plants you want to grow, you will know whether your terrarium needs to be closed to contain moisture or open, soil-less and mostly dry. If you decide to grow something with height, like a small tree or fern, you will need a tall container. Likewise, short plants will require less height. 

Because I like to experiment, I decided to create both a wet and a dry terrarium.

For my wet terrarium I went for a walk in a friends' wooded lot and dug up a small fern, a small a maple sapling, and bit of moss. I also determined that I would need a tall, sealable jar for the wet terrarium.

For my dry terrarium I used air plants that get knocked off local trees during windy days.

I also collected jars, some old aquarium gravel, and larger rocks to create good drainage and root aeration for both terrariums. I tried to collect and recycle as much from supplies I found lying around the house, shed, and yard. 

First, I made a wet terrarium with my moisure loving plants. Then I made a dry terraruim with plants that do not require soil or frequent watering.

Wet Terrarium

supplies1. Assemble supplies: jars, gravel, soil, plants, interesting objects. Interesting objects are those pretty stones, fake reptiles, objects to add some fun and color.


tall jar2. Beginning with tall jar for the 'wet' terrarium, I gently place large rocks along the bottom.


3. I also added an additional layer of aquarium gravel on top of the larger rocks.tall jar gravel


tall jar moss4. Some books suggested a filtration layer between the gravel and the soil. I chose to use spanish moss since it is in abundance in our area and free.


5. In this image I have added an inch of soil and tucked in the moss and the fern.plants in the jar

I watered it until 1/4" of the bottom is filled and sealed the top. I will watch it over the next few days for condensation on the glass and let it air out. If not, I will touch the soils to make sure it is slighly damp.

This terrarium will require monitoring to make sure it gets enough water and light. It has too much water if there is too much condensation on the glass. If that happens, remove the top to air it out.  You want to make sure it does not get direct light, but 6 to 8 hours of indirect light is best.


Dry Terrarium

dry terrarium supplies1. In a short, wide jar, I place a couple of inches of aquarium gravel. You can also use found pebbles. 

I have assembled an old chunk of wood, and an aerophyte which fell from the treetops during a windstorm. Aerophytes are plants that get their nourishment from the air. They frequently anchor themselves upon trees.  A second aerophyte I found on the ground and added it to the terrarium.


dry terrarium with supplies in jar2. I placed the chunk of wood on top of the gravel and nestled both aerophytes alongside the wood. Then I placed a few fun items like a plastic lizard and some nice crystals.  This terrarium may want a water misting once a month. It will also require some filtered light.


terrarium displayBoth terrariums are now on display at the High Springs Library along with the books I used to research this project. I will list the books below.


These are the beautiful books I referenced for this project. Some give detailed descriptions on plants, others provide great detailed description on assembling terrariums. Others provide a fanciful interpretation of creating artistic assemblages.


Posted by JoanneT on February 23, 2021