How to build a terrarium

Published on 12 April 2018 by Castle Towers

Tips for crafting a fairy-sized garden that will take home decor and nature learning to new levels. 

Ranging from small hanging baubles containing tiny desertscapes to large sealed globes housing mini tropical ecosystems, terrariums bring the outdoor world into indoor spaces in a visually captivating, almost magical way. They’re also wonderfully low-maintenance (lifting the lid and pruning every now and then is all that’s required), and ideal for those without the room to keep large house plants.

Building a miniature garden like this is not only rewarding for grown-ups who might not normally consider themselves green-thumbed, it is also a great tool for teaching children about the water cycle, how living organisms interact and why we must care for the planet.

Seeing condensation on the sides of a sealed terrarium will help them understand how water evaporates up when the plants are warmed by the sunlight before precipitating back down, for example. The distinct layers in a terrarium, starting with the bedrock-like pebbles at the bottom, can inform their understanding of geology too.

You can use almost any glass or plastic container for a terrarium, though a fishbowl, glass jewellery house or vintage-style jar like those available at Sheridan, Adairs, Kmart and Lincraft work especially well. Once you’ve decided whether to create a closed terrarium (for which humidity-loving plants such as ferns are best), or a partially open one (suited to dry-weather plants such as succulents), you’ll need to gather your supplies and pick your plants.

For a long-lasting terrarium that looks shop-bought you will need to get hold of some dried sphagnum moss and activated charcoal (not the barbeque kind), as well as potting mix and pebbles from your local garden nursery. Mini gardening tools and an eyedropper for watering can come in handy, but a spoon, tweezers, nail scissors and small spray bottle will also do the job.

Popular plant choices for a tropical terrarium include button ferns, African violets, nerve plants, jewel orchids and pink polka dot, whereas cacti, air plants and red-edge succulents fit well together in one that is open to the air. When you’re happy with the arrangement of your plants, your young helper can have fun adding accessories such as plastic animal figurines from Target or Casey's Toys

For a step-by-step guide to building a terrarium that you and your little one can enjoy for months to come, download our handy activity sheet.

To get you child started building their own mini succulent terrariums these school holidays, bring them along to our workshop on Tuesday 24th April. Places are limited so book now for just $5, and let the good times grow.