How to Make a Winter Terrarium

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Create a beautiful winter terrarium and bring a touch of green into your home. Discover how to make, grow, and maintain your own microworld in a glass container.

Glass Fern Terrarium

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Bring a spring green into your winter home with an easy to-make, grow, and keep-alive winter terrarium. 

A beautiful microworld that thrives and grows in a glass container. With simple maintenance and well-chosen plants, 

When the winter chill, rain, sleet, and hail keep you indoors, longing for the green of the outside world, it’s time to make winter terrariums.

As a child, I was fascinated by a gift my parents received from the Gangi family, long-time friends. It was a living terrarium that, for some reason, captured my imagination.

I’m unsure if it was the miniature plants, micro stones, sculptures, or beautiful see-through glass that let me peer into another world.

Today, I’m still in love with terrariums and am finding all kinds of ways and containers to make them.

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Succulent Winter Terrarium

Apparently, I’m not alone in this terrarium fascination.

The New York Times ran an article about a resurgence of these miniature gardens and said,

“Part of the appeal of building a basic terrarium is that it does not require a great deal of gardening know-how. While regular house plants can demand considerable attention, terrariums offer a bit of nature — and the sense of calm it can confer — in a contained, easy-to-care-for way. And once a closed terrarium reaches a state of equilibrium, in which there is neither too much moisture in the container nor too little, it can more or less sustain itself.”

Bare Trees Covered in Snow

Winter is a Great Time to Make Terrariums

I live in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not sure if it’s our cold, rainy, and dreary days so infamous in Seattle, but come January, I find myself seeking out every greenhouse I can find.

While I thrive in this wetter, cooler coastal weather, another part of me loves breathing that warm, humid greenhouse air. Fortunately, in Seattle, we have several choices, one of which is the Volunteer Park Conservatory, which has an amazing array of orchids, ferns, palms, and other exotic plants. If you haven’t visited, do it on a rainy day … it’s such a breath of fresh air, literally. Just stay clear of the giant Venus Fly Trap!

Most year-round nurseries have greenhouses or greenhouse showrooms. It’s truly invigorating.

A terrarium is a bit like a micro greenhouse, which makes winter the perfect time to create one at home.

Top view of elements needed to make a winter terrarium.

What You Need to Make a Terrarium

A glass container: Ideally, choose a closed glass container. This will encourage the humidity your plants need to thrive.

An assortment of indoor miniature plants: Choose plants that thrive in high humidity and lower light, such as tropical ferns, mosses, Selaginella, Peperomia, Cryptanthus, and air plants. Want more suggestions? Here are 15 plant ideas for your terrarium.

Potting Mix: Use good quality soil specifically formulated for indoor container plants.

Gravel or Pebbles: Bagged pea gravel can be found at plant nurseries or the garden section of box stores. 

Horticultural Charcoal: This can be found at most box stores and nurseries.

How to Make Terrariums

Deposit a base of pebbles or gravel about an inch thick (a must for drainage), followed by a thin layer of horticultural charcoal and then a layer of potting soil. Nestle your selection of plants neatly into the soil so the roots are covered and any leaves, petals, and stems do not touch the glass. Add other touches if you’d like! After all, a terrarium encases a miniaturized world of unusual landscapes and plants. It offers the ideal terrain to place toys and figurines-like our teeny-tiny tortoises and foxes-for added whimsy.

The Base: Layer into your glass container about an inch of gravel or small pebbles, followed by a thin layer, 1/4 to 1/2 inch, of horticultural charcoal. Finally, add a layer of potting soil.

The Plants: Here’s where your creativity will shine. Nestle a selection of plants into the soil to cover the roots. Martha Stewart advises ensuring that leaves, petals, and stems do not touch the glass.

Then she says, “A terrarium encases a miniaturized world of unusual landscapes and plants. It offers the ideal terrain to place toys and figurines like our teeny-tiny tortoises and foxes for added whimsy.”

Find a home for your winter terrarium, a spot with diffused light.

How to Care and Water a Terrarium

Since terrariums act as miniature greenhouses, condensation will form on the walls of the inner glass. If too much forms, move the terrarium to a spot with less light or remove the top for several hours. 

Water in the plants and foliage. 

Use a mister to help settle the soil. Streams of water will dislodge loose soil, creating a mess. If possible, try to avoid misting the foliage.

Mist until the soil is evenly saturated. Once that happens, the terrarium will begin to create a self-sustaining environment, especially with closed terrariums.

Winter Terrarium Ideas

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