Open air terrariums are best for succulents and one of the easiest (and fun) terrariums to make.

Terrariums are a creative way to while away the winter while waiting for spring. The fun part? Anything goes. Closed or open terrariums, air plant terrariums, succulent terrariums, fern terrariums or fairy garden terrariums. Add surprising elements to your enclosed garden-like bridges or pebbles for pathways, small cottages, and swings, or go natural with twigs and moss. It’s a garden enclosed in glass that captivates our imaginations.

How to Make a Terrarium

Terrariums can be any size. Small for office spaces, like these succulent ones that require little care. Great Secret Santa gifts.

  1. Pick your container. Do you want closed or open? If you love your succulents, go with open. They need air circulation and less humidity, or they will rot. If you love that sealed-off, secret world of closed terrariums, then choose plants that can survive in higher humidity. Also, consider the location of your garden when picking your container. Near the heat registers? Near a west-facing window, or an east one? Succulents love the direct sun, ferns love indirect light.

  2. Gather your materials: You need a potting mix (unless you’re doing air plants), sand, charcoal, moss, colorful rocks, plants, and any additional fun items you want to add.

  3. Sand, colorful rocks and moss are for aesthetics. The sand and rocks can be layered in first to add interest, or to top of the design. These layers can be like lasagna. Layer as deeply as you want, with as many layers as you want, for interest. Then layer in the charcoal. Charcoal is used for two things: Purification and reservoir. Purification is for the smell, the reservoir will hold the water. The charcoal is a necessity. The third layer is the potting mix, but before adding it, place a coffee filter between the charcoal and the mix. This avoids the inevitable trickling down of the soil into the bottom layers. The brown recycled coffee filters are great for this.

This enclosed terrarium is a self-sustaining environment. It should not need watering, but if you see condensation build up on the glass, it’s time to open the roof and allow it to air out, drying out a bit.

Use colorful blue stones or sand to create the illusion of water.

4. Pick your plants and plant! For enclosed terrariums use ferns that like high humidity and add pileas, strawberry begonias, peperomia, fittonia, and others. For succulents, choose hens and chicks, small jades, echeverias, and more. The choices are insane with plants; there are so many.   
5. Add moss, pebbles, or sand to cover. Then get fun. Add gnomes like above, or twigs and sticks, form a pathway with small flat stones. Get creative and make the enclosure enjoyable.
6. Watering: Enclosed terrarium rarely, if ever, need watering. If you see condensation increasing on the glass, it’s best to remove the lid and let it air out for a few days. It is likely too wet. For your succulent terrariums, less is best with watering. The soil should dry out completely between watering. The idea is that terrariums are self-sustaining. After the initial work, it’s pure enjoyment.
7. Location. For succulents pick a sunny window, they prefer more direct sun. Please remember that the glass doubles the heat, and even succulents can fry. For your enclosed terrariums, a bright, indirect light (east-facing) window is best. 

We have all the supplies you need and all the help. So get creative. Winter doesn’t have to be plant-free. Enjoy! 

Written by Cinthia Milner is the garden coach and blog writer for B.B. Barns Garden Center.

BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.