So, school is out and suddenly your kids are wanting your full attention 24/7.
Eek, what do you do?
We know a book or TV show will only keep them entertained for so long… but what about a full-day crafts project with incorporated games and environmental science skills?
Plant terrariums are a wonderful project for older children with a curious mind or a crafty hands. They’re an opportunity to explore their creativity, learn some key scientific principles, and of course get their hands dirty!
From a terrarium building point of view, we’ve kept this project as straightforward as possible. So don’t worry if you’re thinking “I don’t have fancy tools or plants”.
Trust me, you won’t need them.
We’ll mostly be using tools and materials from around the house, and we can be flexible with the plants. Using houseplant cuttings, plus foraged ferns and foliage from your local walks – we’ll make a lovely plant terrarium with minimal fuss.
Throughout this project we invite you and your children to customise it as much as possible. Truly, make this project your own!
*Quick note, this project doesn’t quite follow our usual terrarium best practices. In order to create a project that anyone can do with their household items and local environment, we’ve had to utilise some things that are less than optimal for terrarium longevity.
Step 1: Gather Your Essential Terrarium Supplies
Today, we’re building a super simple plant terrarium (so there’s no need to jump on Amazon) but there are still a handful of supplies that you will need to form the base of the project.
A Container (Glass or Plastic)
Almost any clear container can be made into a terrarium.
Honestly, the container doesn’t have to be anything fancy. There’s a good chance you already have something in the house.
Glass is preferable, and something with a wide opening will make it much easier. You can use mason jars, fishbowls, lanterns, jugs, vases. All sorts!
Most of these things are readily available from supermarkets, so you should still be able to grab something as you get your groceries.
If you don’t have anything lying about you can browse the range on Etsy here.
A clear plastic should work fine too. Cutting a large plastic bottle in half or using a Tupperware box are both options if you’re really stuck.
Ideally, you’ll want your container of choice to hold at least 0.5L of volume. To give yourself some wiggle room and space to fit in some fun stuff.
It can be done smaller if you stick to only moss. There’s an option for everyone!
In keeping with this build using only what’s available in most peoples houses and gardens, we’re recommending pretty much any kind of standard potting soil/mix. If you keep a garden, you’ll probably have a bag of the stuff somewhere.
A tropical substrate mix would be best, but this stuff will get the job done.
Alternatively, you can take soil from your local environment. It makes the longevity of the terrarium a bit of a gamble – as native soil will have its own unknown composition – but if you bake it in the oven for 20 minutes you can kill any nasty bugs and bacteria.
Finally, you’ll need some sort of rocks, pebbles, or beads at the bottom of your terrarium.
Anything that’s large (ish), water-resistant and doesn’t fit together. As the spaces between them help form a reservoir for the excess water to drain into.
We happened to have some smooth black gravel, but literally any rocks you can find will do just fine.
You can grab a cheap bag from Etsy here.
Step 2: Pick Your Plants
Here we’re going to decide on which plants to use based on what’s available to us. Ideally, you’ll want to pick a small selection of plants that are:
- Easy to plant and look after.
- Don’t grow too big.
- Prefer the higher temperatures and humidity that a terrarium creates.
- Also moss. Always. Honestly it’s what really makes a terrarium pop!
*Optional* Plant Foraging Activity
Terrariums are a slice of nature in your home, and finding your own plants adds that extra special touch to a project.
Your local flora is going to differ wildly depending on where you live, so we can’t get super specific on recommendations if you’re to source it naturally.
But, as a general rule, ferns are almost universally suitable for terrariums. Almost all of them prefer indirect light, warm temperatures and a high humidity.
Vines can be a good choice. We’ve got lots of English Ivy around, so a rooted cutting from a small plant was our target.
Moss is very adaptable too, and many species will successfully adapt to life in a terrarium.
If you can’t get your hands on any new or native plants, don’t fret. You may well have some suitable houseplants that you can take cuttings and new plants from.
If you have the likes of Golden Pothos, Fittonia, Philodendron, Boston Ferns or an Arrowhead Vine, you’re in luck. *Just bear in mind that these will eventually grow to the size of a full-on houseplant.
So be prepared to trim it later down the line!
We took a cutting from our Golden Pothos, and separated our Fittonia to get a new small plant.
Also, don’t pick succulents. Sorry, I know they’d be easy (everybody has
one many) but they’re not a normal terrarium plant. Trust me.
Check out the Terrarium Plants section if you need any more guidance.
Step 3: Pick a Terrarium Theme
Now, we’ll set the scene by picking a fun theme for our terrarium. We’ll be using all kinds of bits, bobs and household knick-knacks in our designs. So you can really run with this!
Whether it’s a scene from their favourite kids book (hello Harry Potter), TV show (Pokemon?) or an entirely new creation – anything is possible. How about an underwater scene with shells and sea glass? Or if you’ve got toy dinosaurs lying around, recreating Jurassic Park is always fun.
We chose a pirate/seaside theme! We’ll be running with this one so you can see what household objects we put to use in our design. Stay tuned.
Make a list of all the fun elements you want to put in your terrarium, and set your kids loose to find objects they can use.
Here’s some easy examples for our pirate theme:
- Sand (play sand is fine to use as a top layer)
- Shells, pebbles or interesting rocks.
- Jewels (plastic diamonds)
- Spirit Miniatures (for message in a bottle)
- Netting (from orange bunches)
- Coins or bottle caps (booty!)
- Keys (if you don’t need them…)
- Chest (ring boxes)
- Ship (toys?)
Prepare Your Theme Elements
Bearing in mind we’re two 20-something and 30-something adults (that don’t have children) we have a surprising amount of crafty things in our small flat…
So we’re sure you can do better!
A lovely ornate ring box was transformed into a treasure chest full of gems, gold and booty!
Rae created an amazing little fishing net out of marbles, thread and the netting from a bunch of clementines. Very thrifty.
We found a cute gin miniature that was perfect for out message in a bottle element. If that means you have to have a little drink… oh no?
You can take these mini crafts so far. Why not “age” your message in a bottle by staining with a tea bag like we did.
We decided a treasure map would look better than a message, so this is the final result! This will be going into the bottle for the final step.
Using a bit of driftwood we found (make sure it’s super dry), we attached a collection of shells and nautical themed trinkets.
Step 4: Build Your Terrarium
Now, the real creative fun starts! We’ve assembled all of our plants, theme objects and essential terrarium elements. Now we put it all together to create the masterpiece.
Step 1: Layer it up
Alright, it’s time to get our hands dirty.
First we make the drainage layer by adding your pebbles to the bottom of the glass container. You’ll want it at least a couple of inches deep to work properly.
Next you add your soil.
The depth is going to depend on what plants you buy (and how big their roots are) but anything over 3-4 inches should work fine.
Try not to pack the soil down, just gently shovel it in and even out the top surface with your hand or a flat brush
Step 2: Plant it up
Now we add our chosen plants.
I’m sure you all know how to put a plant into soil… but just in case you don’t.
It’s easy, simply dig a small depression into your soil, lower your plant’s roots into the depression then gently pack the soil around the roots.
Then we finish by adding any sheets of moss on top of the soil to cover any areas of exposed earth.
Step 3: Bring Your Theme to Life!
Here we bring the theme to life by adding all of the elements that were foraged for earlier. There’s no rules, just let the creativity run free.
Here’s how ours turned out.
We think it turned out great. How about you?
It’s full of vibrant colours and interesting trinkets, and the plants are just enough to draw the whole thing together.
Let us know how yours turns out in the comments!
Step 5: Final Notes
Now that we’re finished. Here’s a few tips and guidelines to getting the most out of your new creations, and how to make sure they last as long as possible.
Open or Closed?
Many terrarium plants prefer a warm, humid environment. So sealing it off is a great way to create those conditions.
If you have a lid, perfect. If not, I like to simply cover with cling film (Saran wrap?) then snip around the edges till you get a nice neat seal.
Light & Water
Your terrarium will probably do best somewhere in the house where it receives plenty of bright, indirect light. Direct light can scorch the leaves and dry out many terrarium plant species.
It’s best to spray your terrarium down with a water bottle that has a soft spray function. You want to saturate the soil, but not leave it soggy (here’s my guide to watering terrariums).
If your terrarium is closed up, it’ll may last months without needing a water. Or if you leave it open, check weekly.