Updated: 9-Sep-2019

Bring nature into your home with these natural ingredients for a great terrarium and an unspoilt ecosystem. Make it look good from the start and you won’t have to fuss about it later – that’s the beauty of a terrarium. Well, I suppose that’s one of the beauties of a terrarium.

A terrarium is a closed environment that can go on for months unattended. It thrives on neglect. You’re creating your very own unspoilt environment where one process feeds into another and it all takes care of itself.

All a terrarium needs is a little indirect sunlight. A closed terrarium doesn’t even need watering. Moisture inside the container evaporates from the plants and soil and condenses on the inside of the container. The condensation then rolls down the sides and re-moistens the soil. If you keep a terrarium sealed the cycle continues for months without watering.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and you can get all these ingredients online.

7 natural ingredients for a great terrarium

  1. The biggest element in any terrarium design is the container. This is where a bad design choice has the biggest impact. You’ll find a huge selection of shapes and sizes on Amazon or look on Etsy for something a little more individual. As for materials, if you want a natural look then stay away from plastic…

    glass terrarium

    Large geometric glass terrarium, 28cm high on Amazon

  2. These terrariums by Thai Gifts build the container around a natural element. The glass container is moulded around a piece of driftwood to create an organic display that looks good on it’s own even without adding plants.

    Melted-glass-on-wood bowl

    Thai Gifts works closely with natural elements
    so each piece is unique and price varies.

    Moulding glass around a piece of driftwood is well beyond the skills of most people but we can achieve a similar effect to Thai Gifts by setting our terrarium into one or two pieces of Mopani wood. This is a gnarled and decorative hardwood that is less prone to rot (so it’s perfect for the moist conditions inside a terrarium too).

    mopani wood

    Mopani wood from Amazon

  3. If you’d like to hang up your terrarium (these are called aeriums) then by all means go ahead and use a chunky natural rope rather than synthetic threads.

    hanging glass terrarium

    A hanging glass terrarium on Amazon by Garden Trading

    Ropes and fibres aren’t just for suspending things. A natural rope is the perfect element to coil around a terrarium and ‘tie it into’ a natural scene rather than leave it sitting stark against a tabletop.

  4. Choose plants suitable for the environment you’re creating. If you create a less humid environment with an open container your terrarium is a good place to grow succulents and cacti. For a closed terrarium choose plants that can tolerate the humid low-light conditions, and look for small plants that won’t come in contact with the glass walls.


    A collection of 30 sedum plants available from Amazon

  5. One of the best natural ingredients for a great terrarium is moss. This little plant is so varied and decorative that it deserves it’s own category. Forget the plastic option beloved of aquarium-owners. Moss loves the humid low-light conditions in a terrarium. You can create a moss terrarium filled with nothing but moss or you can grow it as ‘background vegetation’ alongside other plants.

    The practical difference between moss and other plants is that you may find it growing in your back garden – take a look at this tutorial to gather your own or find it on Amazon.

  6. One of the most appealing aspects of a terrarium is the distinct layers of charcoal, gravel and soil seen through the glass.

    Place a layer of activated charcoal as the base layer to help with drainage and control musty odours within the terrarium. Above the charcoal place a layer of soil suited to the type of plants you grow – this is one of those moments in life where you have to read the instructions to find out what works best… For the top layer(s), use contrasting sizes and colours of gravel for decorative effect.

    terrarium layers kit

    A kit from Amazon with the main layers for filling terrariums.
    Contains grit, activated charcoal and organic soil

  7. Ornaments have oodles of kitsch appeal sure to add a fun dimension to your design.

    But here lies a little problem for the plastic-aware among us. Most of the cutest ornaments are made of plastic or resin. This is a problem if you’re concerned with the effects of plastic on the environment – yes, even a tiny plastic figurine goes against the grain for eco-conscious minds. If this is you, all I can suggest is wading through terrarium ornaments till you find something made of ceramic. Or how about a tutorial to make your own terrarium ornaments with clay?

    ceramic mushrooms

    Sweet little ceramic mushrooms from Amazon

So take the natural route for a strong impact. As you can see, a terrarium is one area where there’s no need to settle for plastic options if you’re looking for low maintenance. You can choose from a wide range of natural ingredients for a great terrarium that takes care of itself. And feels good too.

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