Fit for a gnome: Tips to make your own terrarium garden!

Recently I needed to come up with a birthday present for a friend–in a jiffy.  A friend I had no idea what to get. A friend who doesn’t like chocolate so homemade brownies or toffee were out of the question. But a friend who likes plants.



Then it hit me, terrariums are kind of A Thing right now.




2 terrariums west elmImage via West Elm




They’re such A Thing, in fact, the other day I saw a fake one (real glass housing artificial succulents submerged in resin-sealed soil) in HomeGoods. For $50!!!



Why, right? Why when you can make a real one yourself for next to nothing.




One that’s alive and beautiful, like a mini indoor-garden for your coffee table or desk.





Three terrariumsImage via West Elm




So, the idea sprung. I would make her a terrarium.




And this is how I did it…





Empty vase




Begin with a clean glass vase (square or round, but on the squatty side with a large, open mouth you can fit your hand through). Alternately, you could use a mason jar or a round, glass goldfish bowl.




Vase with rocks




Add a 1″ layer of pebbles, 1/4″ in size or smaller. Option: you can spread a layer of sheet moss atop the pebbles to soak up any excess water and prevent soil from falling through the pebbles.




vase with dirt




Sprinkle 2-3” of potting soil*—the depth should be determined by the length of your plants’ roots—onto the pebbles (or onto the layer of sheet moss atop the pebbles). Tip: Add activated charcoal pieces (found at nurseries) to your soil to help fight fungus.


*(Potting mix formulated for succulents and cacti is available as most nurseries.)




Succulent terrarium





I used succulents unearthed from my garden, but small specimens of ferns work well, too. Once I positioned the plants, I submerged their roots into the soil and placed clumps of reindeer moss here and there on top of the soil and in between the plants. Not only does the moss assist in containing moisture, but it is another interesting bit of greenery to add to the mix.






Succulent terrarium and artThe staged succulent terrarium. (Pre-gift wrap.)






Fish bowl terrarium





I was so inspired, I made one for myself, too, using ferns foraged from the yard and a fishbowl that had just been taking up valuable space in the garage.  Feel free to add a Lilliputian-sized figurine. (Can you see the bronze wolf standing in mine?) Note: If you add any items from the beach, such as sea glass, driftwood or shells, be sure to thoroughly wash away any residual salt first.







Terrarium SB magIn situ.





Water your new mini indoor garden once a week and mist every few days if using ferns or other small plants such as shown above. A succulent terrarium only needs to be watered once or twice month. PS, The vase in the background was a recent HomeGoods score. It’s ceramic covered in real bark and was calling my name at $9.99. I was worried moisture might seep through causing the bark to peel off, but I’ve had it in use for three weeks now and so far, so good!








Terrarium on spool tableThe overall effect.




Bear in mind we’re just about to begin our remodel when you notice the spool side table above. I salvaged it from a job site, stained it using a mixture of hot water and instant coffee granules, and sealed it with water-based polyurethane. Yes, I know it’s is a total throwback to 60s/70s decor. Where’s my milk crate bookshelf, right? Or maybe I could have a milk crate ottoman! Just kidding. (I think.) But what’s old is new-ish and it was free and while it likely won’t be our forever side table inside the house–in the future, it might work on the patio–for now, I like its funkiness and it’s already so rustic I won’t worry if someone forgets to use a coaster before setting down a glass–good thing since that someone will likely be me!







Row of plantsOur coffee table. I told JB it’s starting to look like an overzealous botanist lives at our house. And a fan of ostrich eggs (me!).





A final note: terrariums can be placed indoors anywhere there is enough indirect sunlight such as on a side table or coffee table in a living room, on a kitchen counter or as a centerpiece on a dining room or entry table, on an office desk, or a bedside table. In other words, they look good almost anywhere!


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2 Comments on Fit for a gnome: Tips to make your own terrarium garden!

  1. RSB
    May 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM (6 years ago)

    You are sooo correct. I had a spool table in 1967!! Very creative with the terrarium!

    • Kisha Gianni
      May 29, 2014 at 11:19 AM (6 years ago)

      Thanks! Maybe it needs some rope on the base…to make it super 60s/70s! 🙂


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