Terrarium Types and Construction

Terrarium Types


  • Mixing plants is easy, close grouping looks lush,
  • Made with popular house plants, easiest to create


  • Most naturalistic, forest floor or cool woodland area,
  • Ferns, moss, moisture-loving plants
  • Banked areas and different levels
  • Most effective in rectangular aquarium, but can be achieved in others


  • No cover because that would be too moist
  • Desert setting, dry sandy soil, rocks and dried branches
  • Water cycle not in effect, so it needs to be sparsely watered

Terrarium Construction


  • Plastic is worse than glass because it fogs up and water does not run down the sides
  • A hole would fix this problem but we lose humidity, moisture balance, and easy maintenance
  • Glass is much heavier than plastic, and much more fragile


  • In nature, moisture that does not evaporate or become absorbed by the plant, falls into the subsoil
  • Drainage makes sure the plants roots are never submerged¼ in to ½ in gravel
  • Pulverized feather rock or pumice stone to reduce weight, hard to find in small quantities
  • ⅓ drainage and ⅔ soil mix in depth, not volume


  • Horticultural grade charcoal
  • Absorbs odors and keeps planting smelling sweet
  • For very small terrariums (3in diameter) omit gravel and use charcoal as drainage

Soil Separator

  • Keeps the soil mix from falling into the drainage layer, which would render it useless
  • Barely touches the sides of the container
  • Must be made of synthetic material as organic material will rot out
  • Porous enough for water to flow through and fine enough to hold back soil particles
  • Fiberglass drapery material, nylon stocking, discarded curtains, old dress material, rustproof metal screening are all good options

Soil Mixes

  • Sterilized potting soil, not special, “general purpose potting soil” or “house plant soil,” NOT garden soil
  • Peat Moss- loosens the soil, make more moisture-retentive, roughage for plant roots
  • Sand- do not use beach sand, but lake sand is okay, can be a substitute for perlite in desert environment
  • Humus or leaf mold- woodland and desert mixes
  • Limestone- not needed in woodland, strongly advised for desert, “sweetens” the soil as it lowers the acidity
  • Bone meal- desert, provides phosphorus nutrients

Recommended Soil Mixes

Successful Terrariums by Ken Kayatta

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