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made with love: found terrariums

by amym

There are lots of tutorials for terrariums floating around these days, but this one the terrarium turned on it’s head. Inspired by a pickle jar terrarium concocted by the warymeyers team, there are no fancy glass domes to buy and no scouring your local nursery for plants small enough to fit under them. In fact, there’s no buying at all. Everything you need is most likely located within a walk around the block, no matter where you live.

CLICK HERE for the full project after the jump!

What you’ll need:

– Empty clear glass jar with screw on lid
– A handful of scavenged moss with some extra soil attached
– A plastic bag

1. Keep an eye out for moss freely growing in your neighborhood. Even in New York I found some growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk with 3 minutes of looking. Just scoop a handful up and put it in a plastic bag on your way home.


2. Other small plants found growing outside can be used, too. Just gently loosen their roots and hurry home to plant to plant them, as they have a much shorter life span out of soil than moss.


3. Weed out any dead growth from you moss and carefully examine the soil if you’ve found it in an urban environment. I found cigarette butts and a safety pin inside my mine!


4. Thoroughly clean your jars and soak to remove the label.


5. On top of your jar’s lid, mound up some of your extra soil. Some terrarium guides say to use pebbles etc…. for drainage, but since we’re only really planting moss, which can grow on the sidewalk, mind you, it’s safe to skip it.


6. Place your moss on you lid, doming it a bit in the center. Now would be the time to add any other little plants, which you can just stick through the moss. Lightly water.


7. Gently wiggle your jar down over the moss and screw into place. The water level should be fairly self-sustaining after the first watering (depending on the tightness of the seal). If it looks a little dry, half unscrew the lid and run under the faucet for a minute.


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  • (As you can see I know nothing about plants and I am hoping that moss in a jar may be the first thing I can keep alive)

  • This is so smart! I love the look of moss and it is really easy to come by and sturdy – not like the plants that I purchased especially for my terrarium that died soon after I planted them. Great idea!

  • I made a couple of terrariums using moss that I pulled up from the driveaway a few months ago, except I never thought to turn the jar upside down. Looks much better that way!

    One thing I’d recommend is to add activated charcoal (found at any aquarium supply store) to the bottom layer, which helps filter the air and keeps it fresh.

  • this is gorgeous.. i love it and so simple to do and care for!
    Thank you for the tutorial.. i shall definately be having a go :) x

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been kicking myself for not downloading your terrarium primer at the old Domino website. I love this idea!

  • Although I’ve made some more elaborate terrariums, these are so sweet and simple that I want to make some! They would make a lovely little green gift for someone, too. Scouring my local nurseries for small-enough plants was exactly my problem last time… no more!

  • Thank you for this post! I have some moss in my backyard that would look much better in a pickle jar :). I can’t wait to make my own terrarium or 2 or 3.

  • I don’t think your air question is stupid, Adrienne. I would like to know how that works as well…..

  • Adrienne: I had the same question. It’s just logical to think that, right? Well, it turns out that the plants won’t last very long if it is 100% sealed. Terrariums work best if they have some kind of animal in them (like a frog). However, since I am planning on not having an animal, I’m going to experiment a little using a small straw (like a coffee stir stick) to refresh the air every once in a while. My idea is to open the jar very slightly, push the straw through the bottom, blow outany dirt that may clog and let the air circulate for a little bit. Maybe it’ll work?

    By the way, this is a rather scientific explanation, but one nonetheless that I found: http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/1999-08/935417556.Bt.r.html

  • i’m so glad you guys like them.

    As far as the air related questions go……..
    The seal on the bottom is not 100% air tight so it’s not as if no air will ever enter the terrarium. In fact, i’ve have terrariums that i’ve not opened for months and months.

    If you are concerned about circulation and wanted a terrarium that would be more of a “sure thing”, feel free to invert the jar so that the lid is on the top.

  • Canyou suggest something other than moss to be used down in Florida that will do well in our hot humid weather??

  • I made terrariums lastnight! That’s so funny.
    I went to the thrift store and found a bunch of old glass containers and then scrounged the yard for moss and other plants… they turned out so cute.
    I did choose glass with tops that were removable or could be left partially open so that I could adjust the amount of air over time. I’ve heard you kind of need to figure out what works best for each specific plant.

  • What are the light requirements for a moss terrarium? I assume it should not be in direct sunlight as moss is generally found in shaded areas, but does it require some light?

  • Aw, this is great! I actually remember a third grade science project that involved this exact project. Of course, after a while a couple rolly-pollies came out of hibernation and began eating a few of the sprouts inside, but I liked them.

  • I just did this last weekend! Only with the super cute and super inexpensive terrariums at CB2, but they don’t call them terrariums, they call them vases (I think) on their website, I found them in the store on the way to the Steppenwolf last weekend.

  • I love this project, I just made two of them!

    I’m curious as to the light levels too.. I put mine in partial sun to get some condensation going but I don’t know if that is a good long term solution.

    Also, my soil was a little dry so I put an ice cube in mine, so it could water itself after I closed it.
    (cute photos, too!)

  • Plants do not need oxygen; they require co2. Occasionally breathing on them or cracking the seal enough to let an exchange occur should be enough.

  • ah instant gratification!
    i was just itching for a nice (and cheap) project today.
    all it took was a quick rummage through the recycle bin and some backyard exploring, thank you!!

  • totally cute and easy to make… what if you punched a couple of holes in the lid to have circulation that way and maybe put it in a pretty plate instead of the lid? i will definetly try this…

    thanks for the awesome idea

  • I love all things creative but this is great. It is so good to use up old jars
    and what you find in your own neighborhood. This in an awesome gift idea too.

  • That’s not a stupid question Adrienne. Plants (including primitive plants like moss) both respire (breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide) AND photosynthesize (release oxgyen and absorb carbon dioxide.) Apparently, these “opposite” processes become balanced in the terrarium. There may also be tiny breathing critters that also contribute to the available carbon dioxide.

  • First of all, I like the project very much!
    About the question of air (I’m a plant biologist): plants take up CO2 from air and convert it in organic matter, and while they do that, they release O2. On the other side, they also breathe, so then they do the opposite process: take up O2 and release CO2. So it’s kind of a closed cycle. Normally they fix more CO2 than breathe, otherwise they couldn’t grow, so in a closed jar, with time, probably they will run short of CO2 and possibly they won’t grow very much, but I think they can survive for quite a long time.
    But if you’re worried about that, one possible solution will be putting a cork lid instead of the metal lid, because it will allow some air exchange.

  • This is a great idea! I think it would also make a cute kids project as well.

    A thought on the air, perhaps poking a couple holes in the bottom of the metal lid may bring some air in. Once the water soaks in, it shouldn’t leak.

  • Haha I just had to try this, maybe some pre-thought had told me to save some empty jars ;) And the best part, my 12-week phaléne-puppy had a real blast helping me to collect all the moss!

    Anyways I also would like to say THANK YOU to all of you for running this site!!

  • Love this!!! I have tons of extra jars because I thought I was going to make a bunch of jars filled with cookie ingredients, anywho that didn’t work out and now I’ll have something to do with them. Yay!

  • I love moss and terrariums but live in El Paso Texas. I do bot have moss any where. What to do? Sigh——–

  • thank you so very much!
    i just went off to college and i really wanted some kind of small, neat plant because my room’s a little on the small side. :D

  • Aww, I love terrariums so much. I made one that lasted for almost a year, and then I accidentally wasn’t thinking and left it outside where it died in less than a day :[ it was fun while it lasted though and totally free!

  • Aaw how adorable… lets dig up some plants and torture them to death for the sake of taking some pretty pictures… maybe a better idea would be to press the glass jar onto a plant pot to allow some air to move about.

    • pete

      creating terrariums from found plants is far from torturing them to death. plants are commonly transplanted and still survive and thrive.

      terrariums allow plants plenty of room to grow and move about, assuming you’ve picked a terrarium that’s appropriate to the size of the plant. we’re not suggesting someone shove a huge plant into a tiny pickle jar, but rather work with moss and other small plants that will grow to fit the container, not be stifled by it.

      there’s some great information on terrariums and appropriate plants right here: http://www.thegardenhelper.com/terrarium~plants.html


  • this is great, i’ve been saving all my glass and plastic containers all summer! i can’t wait to get these going! thanks for the post.

  • i love terrariums and i have made a few myself. however, removing naturally growing moss from anywhere other than your own backyard is detrimental to the surrounding environment and is also illegal in parks.

    it takes such a long time for moss to form and it is easy enough to buy from a nursery or online. you can also introduce unwanted pests into your home this way.

  • Pete: If you really want to torture some plants, here’s what you do: rip them out of the ground and take them away from their family FOREVER. Stick them in your refrigerator (brrrrr!!). Just when they start feeling safe in there, pull them out and SLICE THEM UP with a KNIFE! Then throw them all in a bowl together and douse them with olive oil and VINEGAR (that stings!). I like to also throw some BLACK PEPPER on them (that really BURNS!). Then you STAB them with a FORK (take that!!). Then stick them between your teeth and CHEW, CHEW!!! (Raarghh!) To add insult to injury, give them a BATH in your STOMACH ACID.
    For the final humiliation, turn them into POOP!

  • Anne, hahahahaha. love your comment.
    I’m house sitting out at a lake house for 3 weeks and I’ve been looking for an easy project to keep me busy. this is perfect!

  • Hi Grace,

    Just wondering how the terrariums are doing after a couple of weeks. I’m making a bunch for centerpieces for the cocktail hour at my wedding, but I got open containers from Salvation Army. Some tall skinny jars might round things out nicely, but I’m just wondering how they’re lasting…

    Thanks for any info!


    • hi tina!

      i don’t have this particular kind (though i’m sure amy will reply when she gets back in town this week) but i have a larger closed terrarium and it’s still kicking. the key is to keep it out of direct sunlight. a closed terrarium will bake to death if it’s in the direct sun too long.

      grace :)

  • Hi!

    I LOVE this idea; and immediately made one to the specs here; this was Sunday, today… parts are burnt, and the rest is moldy-HELP!


  • I really love your page!
    it’s full of beauty, intelligence and invention! I just enjoy and feel good!
    do u know… i love natur very much, and my room is full of any kind of plant. flowers , grass, moss, very tiny plants in small lab dishes and bottles
    good luck dear!

  • I made a teensy terrarium a few months ago. I’ve opened it up a grand total of two times to add the slightest bit of water, and it’s doing beautifully. No need to add holes for circulation at all.

    @nicole – maybe your jar wasn’t thoroughly cleaned before you started? Don’t give up. These things are so simple really. Just keep experimenting – there’s no such thing as a mistake, just steps along the learning curve.

  • Many many years ago( 40) we tried the same in another mode – we took big glasses or bowles and put tiny plant into them but did not close them – it worked wounderfully and we could raise those tiny plants to big ones so that we soon had to change the glasses.
    Today its not realy ossible because we have two cats and ne of them is rather curious and is eager to try everything that crosses his way so we turned to silk plants ;-))

  • i love this idea, but it seems to not be working for me. there’s condensation inside my jars…and leaving the lid totally cracked isn’t letting the moisture escape. i’m going to leave them be and see what happens, but i’m starting to think that the jars may need to not be upside down.

  • Just completed 2 terrariums today. I’ve been meaning to do this since I first discovered this post, but there was no moss to be found. Well, lucky me, my parking strip grew some gorgeous moss while I was on vacation. I used a Marshmallow Puff jar. Perfect size and shape for this adorable project.

  • I have to do a project on a terrarium. (am in 8th Grade)we have to leave it for 50 days and then write a 100 mark report on it. thanx for all your comments, really has helped!

    a wrod of advice.. i planted seeds, and my plants are all still alive, but my friends who planted actual plants, many of their plants have died from fungi or bacteria or whatever that ws already in the plants, whereas seeds dont contain this. is a beautiful idea for at home!!

  • LAURA:
    there must be condensation inside the jar, as this runs down and waters the soil, otherwise it would dry out!

  • I’ve been terrarium “farming” for about a year now – both moss and desert. The one problem that I have with the moss is that it will eventually (about a week) grow mold or begin to rot, which I assume was a problem with over watering. But then the next batch dried out. So now my last project is using Irish moss from the green house and shifting the jar. But, man, if there is any troubleshoot for white fuzzy moss growth, I could use it!

  • terrariums are fun to experiment with. I remember having a science class project involving one back in middle school. I don’t remember the project being quite as cool as the pictures on here though. Can these be scaled up into something like a 5 gallon culligan jug. Now that would be cool

  • I love buying or finding moss, placing it in my terrariums with my other plants and waiting to see what grows!

    BIP… are you using horticultural charcoal in your terrariums to prevent mold?

  • alright, I will try this as soon as I can. The charcoal sounds like a good tip by the way..well only one way to find out :)
    I’m slightly (no correction: heavily) addicted to this blog. I ♥ it!!!

  • Those are so cute. I made a found terrarium but had it right side up because the plants rapidly grew much too tall. I found all the plants on a rocky beach in New brunswick. Some grass grew too so i had to take scissors to it an trim frequently.

  • i’d love to do this, and thanks everyone for ideas and tips. now i just got to wait it out till summer for some moss to grow…..hmm….moss should be at about +3 degrees Celsius under a foot of snow so it’s probably still living and not dead. I could go dig some up when I go winter camping. now to find a glass blowing friend to make some nifty jars.

  • i just want to say i have 3 of these that i made that have been thriving for months! every few weeks i crak open the lid run a little water into it and tighten it back up. we will be making these as center pieces for our wedding & as take home gifts for guests.

  • I think I finally know what I’m going to do with those baby food jars I’ve been saving!! Great tutorial!! I’ve added this to my “Terrarium Tutorials & Inspiration” post today. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great idea, I love terrariums but after seeing Ms. Perfect (Martha) doing it on TV, I got scared of the cost and effort and ran the other way. You give me much hope:) I ROFLed after reading Anne’s comments and I am a vegetarian LOL!

  • Hello. When I saw this posted, I could not wait to capture moss and keep it alive within a jar and even have it grow. But now that I have created about 5 little moss terrariums roughly 3 weeks ago, they have all turned brown. I made sure that they got enough water, not too much and they were not in direct sunlight. I believe that they did not get enough oxygen. When opening the jars, it was quite unpleasant, the smell was awful.

    I love moss and hope that after a few trial and errors I’ll be able to sustain some moss. Did anyone else have the same problem and find a solution?

    • natalie

      did the moss turn a light brown and dry up- or a mushy, wet brown? i think it’s best to air on the side of under-watering or over-drying the terrarium, because it can normally bounce back with a little extra water.

      it might be that you need to leave the lid off the terrarium because of the light in your space. i’d consider leaving the lid open and letting the terrarium air out a bit in a space with bright, but indirect, light and seeing if that can sustain the moss.


  • In regards to the moss turning brown after a few weeks, there is a little bit of hick up with watering in this system. You see, moss dose not have a root system in the way that plants do. Water and nutrients are absorbed by the plant itself, IE water has to placed on top of the plant in order for it to absorb water.. Just watering the soil will do very little.

  • My word you people are so stiff and serious,dont be so negative,this is relaxing fun design ideas,not work,surgery or worldly political affairs, adjust,chill.

  • I love your terrariums and easy step-by-step instructions. Do you have any ideas about how to obtain moss during the winter? Can you buy it at a greenhouse or online? I’m craving some green in my apartment this winter. Thanks!

  • Awesome post!! Hi I am one of Japanese Bloger. Can I translate this great post from ENG to JPN??? If you will say “Yes”, It’ll be glad me. THX.

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