Learn all about the essential materials needed for building a terrarium, including containers, soil, plants, and tools. Discover where to find these materials and how to create your own miniature ecosystem in a glass container. Start building your beautiful terrarium today!


Terrariums are a popular DIY project that allows plant enthusiasts to create miniature ecosystems in a glass container. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardener, building a terrarium can be a fun and rewarding experience. But before you get started, it’s important to gather the right materials. In this article, we’ll explore the essential materials needed for building a terrarium, including the types of containers, soil and substrate, plants, tools, and where to find them. So let’s dive in and discover everything you need to create your own beautiful terrarium!

Choosing the Right Terrarium Container

The first step in building a terrarium is selecting the right container. There are various types of containers available, each with its own unique style and functionality. Here are some popular options:

  1. Mason Jars: Mason jars are commonly used glass containers for terrariums. They are budget-friendly and easy to find, making them perfect for small terrarium projects.

  2. Wardian Cases: Wardian cases are glass containers specifically designed for terrariums. They usually have a hinged lid that allows for proper ventilation while creating a humid environment.

  3. Demijohns: Demijohns are large glass containers suitable for larger terrarium projects. They come in transparent cylindrical shapes or curved shades of green, adding visual interest to your terrarium.

  4. Geometric Terrariums: Geometric terrariums have angular metallic frames with sleek glass panels. They often have a contemporary design and are available in different shapes and sizes, such as pyramids and hexagonal chambers.

  5. Big Vases: Large glass vases can also be used as terrarium containers. They provide ample space for plants to grow and create a stunning visual impact.

  6. Fish Tanks: Although not specifically designed for terrariums, fish tanks can be repurposed as terrarium containers. They offer a larger space for creating a lush green paradise.

When choosing a terrarium container, consider the size and shape that suits your space and the plants you want to include. Ensure that the container has a wide enough opening for planting and maintenance.

Selecting the Right Terrarium Soil and Substrate

The soil and substrate used in a terrarium play a crucial role in providing the necessary nutrients, drainage, and moisture retention for your plants. There are several options available, each with its own advantages:

  1. ABG Mix: ABG mix, or Atlanta Botanical Garden mix, is considered the gold standard substrate for terrariums and vivariums. It is a precise blend of tree fern fiber, peat moss, coco fiber, charcoal, and orchid bark. This mix provides excellent water retention and drainage, making it suitable for a wide variety of tropical plants. You can find pre-mixed ABG mix or create your own blend.

  2. Natural Soil Mix: Natural soil can be used in terrariums but needs to be sterilized to mitigate the risk of introducing unwanted fungi and pests. It is recommended to steam or bake the soil before use. Natural soil should be mixed with other components like perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.

  3. Potting Mix: Commercial potting mix is a convenient option for terrariums as it provides aeration, drainage, and moisture retention. Look for a potting mix suitable for indoor plants. Avoid using potting soil that contains fertilizers or synthetic ingredients, as it can cause nutrient imbalances in the closed terrarium environment.

  4. Alternative Substrates: If you prefer a peat-moss-free variation, there are alternative substrates available. Coconut coir and sphagnum moss are commonly used as substitutes for peat moss. These options are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

When choosing a soil mix, consider the specific needs of your plants. Some plants, like succulents, require well-draining soil, while others prefer more moisture retention. Research the soil requirements for the plants you plan to include in your terrarium.

Selecting the Right Terrarium Plants

The plants you choose for your terrarium will depend on factors such as lighting conditions, humidity levels, and the size of your container. Here are some popular terrarium plants to consider:

  1. Air Plants (Tillandsia): Air plants do not require soil and can be placed among other plants or displayed in a soil-less container. They are perfect for open terrariums that provide good air circulation.

  2. Ferns: Ferns, such as the Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum) and Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), thrive in humid environments with filtered light. They add a touch of lush greenery to your terrarium.

  3. Succulents: Succulents, including Haworthia, Echeveria, and Jade plants (Crassula), are well-suited for open succulent terrariums. They require bright light and well-draining soil.

  4. Mosses: Mosses, like Sheet Moss (Hypnum), Cushion Moss (Leucobryum glaucum), and Reindeer Moss (Cladonia), are excellent for closed terrariums. They thrive in high humidity and low light conditions.

  5. Carnivorous Plants: If you want to add some intrigue to your terrarium, consider carnivorous plants like Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) or Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes). These plants require high humidity and prefer bright, indirect light.

  6. Peperomia: Peperomia plants, such as Peperomia obtusifolia and Peperomia caperata, are ideal for terrariums. They come in various leaf shapes, colors, and textures, adding visual interest to your miniature garden.

When selecting plants, ensure they have similar light and humidity requirements. Consider the size of your container and choose plants that will remain small or won’t outgrow the terrarium. It’s also worth considering the maintenance requirements of each plant and how they will interact within the enclosed environment of the terrarium.

Essential Terrarium Tools

To build your terrarium, you’ll need a few essential tools to help with planting and maintenance. Here are some tools you may find useful:

  1. Tweezers: A pair of long steel aquascaping tweezers will help with planting, placing moss, removing leaves, and holding plants.

  2. Digging Tool: A long spoon or fork, or a miniature telescopic rake and spade, can be handy for digging depressions and moving substrate around.

  3. Scissors: Standard household scissors or curved aquascaping scissors will be useful for trimming plant foliage or making precise cuts.

  4. Brush: A soft-bristled brush, preferably an angled one, can be used for dusting off plants and cleaning up the terrarium.

  5. Mister/Spray Bottle: A regular spray bottle will allow you to establish a healthy water cycle and evenly distribute water.

While these tools are essential for building and maintaining a terrarium, there are also non-essential but handy tools you might consider, such as a funnel/scoop, secateurs (anvil secateurs are recommended), plant glue (superglue), and grow lights.

Where to Find Terrarium Materials

Now that you know the essential materials needed for building a terrarium, you may be wondering where to find them. Here are a few places to consider:

  1. Online Marketplaces: Platforms like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay offer a wide variety of terrarium containers, terrarium supplies, live terrarium plants, and accessories. It’s recommended to look for local sellers who specialize in terrarium materials.

  2. Terrarium Specialty Shops: Some specialty shops focus on terrarium supplies and offer a range of containers, soil mixes, plants, and tools. These shops may have knowledgeable staff who can provide guidance and recommendations based on your specific needs.

  3. Local Garden Centers: Visit your local garden center or nursery to find a selection of terrarium materials. They may have a dedicated section for terrarium supplies or offer advice on suitable plants and containers.

  4. Craft Stores: Craft stores often carry various glass containers, decorative elements, and tools that can be used for terrariums. They may also offer guidance on terrarium-building techniques.

When purchasing materials, consider the quality, price, and sustainability of the products. Choose reputable sellers who prioritize environmentally friendly practices.


Building a terrarium is an enjoyable and creative DIY project that allows you to bring a piece of nature into your home. By selecting the right container, soil and substrate, plants, and tools, you can create a miniature ecosystem that thrives in its own microclimate. Remember to choose suitable plants based on lighting and humidity requirements, and consider the size and shape of your container to accommodate their growth. With the right materials and a little creativity, you can design a beautiful terrarium that adds a touch of greenery and tranquility to any space.


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