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diy project: sprout home terrarium how-to video!

by Grace Bonney

when it comes to gardening, i’ve got a pretty black thumb. so i’ve always been intrigued by the idea of terrariums- those little glassed in worlds where plants seem to thrive within their own self-contained environment. but after a few unsuccessful tries, i gave up on being able to create and sustain my own indoor terrarium. that changed a few weeks ago when i received a beautiful terrarium as a birthday present. i was hell-bent on getting this one to work so i headed straight for the experts- sprout home. i’ve been a fan of sprout for years and was thrilled when tassy from the brooklyn shop (click here to see her lovely bklyn home) offered to share her easy how-to tips for creating and managing your own terrarium.

not only was the process easy, but once i saw someone break everything down, i realized that this was THE perfect project for anyone who wants a little green space in the city. terrariums are inexpensive, easy to manage and, if you know the right steps to making one, perfect for anyone with small spaces- or a black thumb like me.

thankfully tassy invited me back to film the making of a terrarium from the ground up, and shared her expert tips for terrarium creation and care. i hope you’ll enjoy her how-to video as much as i did, and that you’ll be inspired to pick up your own terrarium and try one at home. if you like the vessels you see in the video you can buy them right here (scroll down for all the options shown in the video), or try creating your own using a found vessel or something you have laying around the house.

thanks so much to tassy and everyone at sprout for their help with this video. and to julia for the birthday gift that inspired this project!

*if you have any questions for tassy, please leave them in the comment section below. she’ll answer them as a group later today!

music from the video: “at the beach” by the amazing avett brothers. if you haven’t checked them out, click here. they’re fan-tastic.

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  • love it. i’ve been wanting to make one for so long. ever since i saw the terrariums on your site during the holidays (the popsicle stick names)! i almost bought an amazing one at the brooklyn flea last week, but decided it would be even better if i made it myself…. now, with these easy instructions… I WILL! Thank you, Sprout!

  • Emily

    They’re pretty much the same as this one, but have a top (mine is closed)

    I’ll let tassy answer this further, but these were the tips she gave me:

    – when u finish building your terrarium, leave the top off for about a week to let it air out

    -once the top is back on keep an eye out to see if it needs watering- you want to maintain about 25% humidity in the container


  • Yesss…can’t tell you how incredibly happy I was to see this post! One quick question…what kind of plants do best in terrariums?

  • I love Sprout Home! I just bought some succulents from them a few weeks ago and have been wanting to go back for more.

    I made a couple of small moss terrariums a few months ago and just had to dump one of them out because the moss had turned brown. Now that I have some good tips I might just try it again. Thanks!

  • so great! i watched in HD too, slick ;) i’m gonna make a terrarium for our little flat with no outdoor space, it’ll be perfect. thanks for a super video!

  • Tassy is too adorable! I popped over to her home, so pretty!!! Seems like terrariums are making a comeback…I’ve always wanted to do one but have been afraid of the mold factor. But I see that charcoal goes in and must help that??? Thanks for such a detailed video, great for someone who only grows Air Plants (embarrassing! )

  • yay! Thanks so much for the tutorial, mostly for the beautiful inspiration from the terrariums in the shop :) I’ve a giant bell jar for a while now, just waiting for a little plant community to move in… but since I’m in SoCal, I’m afraid it might be a bit of a sauna in there!
    How would tillandsias do in a closed terrarium? I’m a succulent buff, but also a black thumb, so I’m afraid of putting anything more drought tolerant in… suggestions?

  • Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have been wanting to start one for a long time, and was inspired by a friend who just started a couple. I better go find a pretty jar now…

  • I’m so glad you took the time to create this video! Terrariums are so beautiful and I’ve been wanting to make one for a while now, but I also have a black thumb. I’ve read plenty of how-tos, but seeing it done really makes it seem attainable. Thanks so much!

  • Thanks for all the comments and to Grace for making the video.

    Here’s some additional info on terrariums–

    Closed Terrariums – these should be placed where they will receive bright light, but no direct sunlight. If placed in direct sunlight, the temperature inside the container rises and literally cooks the plants. Also avoid placing terrariums on top of radiators. Closed terrariums should rarely if ever need water. A newly planted closed terrarium should be allowed to air out for about one week. This will allow excess moisture in the soil to evaporate. After the cover is placed back on, maintain a condensation level of about 25%, if more- take the cover off for a day or two and wipe the sides of the container. It can take a few months to find the right balance of moisture in a new terrarium so don’t get discouraged. Other than watering, the potting techniques are the same for open and closed terrariums.

    Plants for Terrariums – First decide whether you want to place the terrarium in high or low light. If high light, choose cacti and succulents including jade, aloe, borro’s tail, earth stars, echeveria, haworthia, and sedums. High light terrariums must be “open” otherwise the temperature will get too hot for the plants. Recommended plants for lower light terrariums are ferns, mosses, fittonia, ivy, pepperomia, dracaena, and hypoestes.

    Bell Jars – I love bell jars and have had good luck with tillandsias and ferns in them. I recommend putting the tillandsia on a bed of polished stones or reindeer moss. It looks really cool! You’ll still have to take it out and soak it 1-2x per week, then allow it to dry before you put it back in the bell jar. With ferns, just check the condensation on the sides of the container, if more than 25%, take the lid off for a couple days. Prune off any dead or decaying foliage and try to keep the leaves from touching the sides of the container if possible. You should rarely have to water the fern, maybe 1x month and keep it out of direct sunlight.

  • Love the terrarium idea, but I love Tassy’s dress even more! Can you tell me who the designer is and/or where I might be able to find it?

  • I have a question for Tassy: I have a closed terrarium that I am growing fittonia (nerve plant) in. The plant needs to stay pretty moist or else I find that it starts to droop and shrivel, but when it’s moist and covered I notice that little mini roots seem to be sprouting from the plant (like from the stems, where it’s not in the dirt). Is that OK? It seems weird. I’d appreciate any advice…

  • I adore sprout home, and love the terrarium trend. And as Tassy mentioned above – using bell jars over ferns is wonderful – it looks so romantic/mysterious, and it’s the only way I’ve been able to keep delicate ferns alive!

  • Thank you so much for this! I’ve been interested in making one for the last few months, just haven’t got around to it. This definetly gives me some motivation! My mother has this amazing antique aquarium that I’m hoping will work for one.

    Much like this one: http://www.antiquesat30b.com/30baqua.JPG

  • Grace, this was a fantastic video — thanks to you and Tassy! I’ve been wanting to get a terrarium for my desk for a long time, and now I finally feel confident that I can make one. And I just moved to Williamsburg so I’m totally headed to Sprout for supplies!

  • thank you so much for this video! I have had NO luck trying to grow plants in and around my house because there is very little sunlight, and I think I have found the solution here :)

  • oh this is great I have wanted to make a terrarium since I was a kid and never have. now that I know what to do I have not excuses.

    Thank you so much for this post

  • Hi Tassy-
    My questions is about water marks on the glass. I tried one years ago and it was perfect and so cute at the beginning but it got uglier over time. I seem to remember what bothered me was keeping the inside of the glass clean. What do you do about water spots from dried condensation on the inside?

  • A thousand thank yous for this tutorial. It’s cristal clear ! I wanted to have a terrarium in my new house, and that’s going to happen !

  • I love this idea! I killed everything in a terrarium I made a while ago, and now I know why. Thanks for the instructions!

  • Fittonia question – Yes, fittonia’s are very vocal about needing water. The nice thing is that they usual perk right up after a good watering. I’m not sure exactly what the mini roots are. Could they be flower spikes? Or maybe fungi? Any way you could email a picture?

    Water marks – I would try wiping down the condensation w/ vinegar and a newspaper. If that doesn’t work you might want to let the terrarium air out more so that there isn’t any or very minimal condensation. This is harder to do in a closed vs. open terrarium and you may have to leave the top off semi-permanently. If that doesn’t work, bring back the antique-look! :)

  • my friend took me to sprout when i visited her in september! i fell in love! thanks so much for the tutorial!

  • wow! i have a glass bowl just for this, (and i was going to toss it) where can i find small moss tho fit it? i actually live in TX. dont see much of it at a garden store. Do you ship out things?
    thanks! hope to visit soon.

  • Maria – try using irish moss. It’s an outdoor moss that should be available at most garden centers. You can also ask for selaginella – an indoor moss in ruby red, blue peacock, or gold. Currently Sprout Home does not ship live plants. Good luck!!!!

  • This is so cute, my friend Ditte just made a few closed ones with different sorts of moss and i loved it. One question: Can you also put fungi in it? i see you mentioned it before but i’m not sure whether to actually use them.

  • oooo perfect idea! But where do you get the charcoal? Is this activated charcoal?


  • i bought a terrarium from anthropology but it is very small. my hand doesnt fit in the top hole. can i put seeds in the soil, or what do you suggest?

    • hi rachel!

      i have the same one, it’s pretty tough to work with. try using a dixie cup to transport soil/coat/etc into the main part of the terrarium.

      i’m not sure if seeds will work, i did a quick google search and didn’t see anything saying you could or couldn’t….sorry. i’ll ask around.


  • hey rachel and grace- you can definitely use seeds in a small terrarium, but unfortunately you won’t be able to transfer the plant once it has grown a little and will be super difficult to work with them if the hole is really small.

    A fun project to do with seeds is to use toilet paper rolls, fill them with potting soil, sprinkle the top with a few seeds and spray with water. You can arrange them on a tray. Once they are about 4 inches tall you can transfer them outside by just planting them right in the soil. :) ok sorry about the long response.

  • Regarding Amy’s previous comment… “I tried one years ago and it was perfect and so cute at the beginning but it got uglier over time. I seem to remember what bothered me was keeping the inside of the glass clean.” Alot of traditional terrarium-ists (?) encourage you to gently water the plants by running the water down the inside of the bowl so as not to upset the soil. But this means the glass gets streaks over time which can reduce visibility and look a bit grubby. I find it better to use a shot glass and stick your hand in the terrarium til you’re just above the plants, then gentle pour the water on the plants. That way the water does not upset the soil by being poured from a great height, and you avoid dirtying the terrarium container. I recently did a post referring to this which you can find on Rat in my Kitchen’s blog.