The wonderful thing about the terrarium hobby is that there are so many ways to be creative and conjure original and beautiful work.
It is a niche that lies at the intersection between nature, art, and science.
It is, therefore, a field ripe for experimentation and one in which new ground is broken constantly.
So, I thought a good idea would be to compile some of my favourite ways to innovate your designs with these eleven unique terrarium ideas.
Whether you find an idea you would like to emulate or another that serves as inspiration – there is a little something for everyone on this list, so stick around.
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11+ Cool Terrarium Ideas
1. Tiny Terrarium
A fun, readily accessible way to enjoy the terrarium craft is to experiment with tiny terrariums.
Just how small can you go, you ask? As small as possible!
You may consider using old spice jars, olive oil bottles, apothecary jars or miniature vials.
Although a tiny terrarium sacrifices volume and some detail, they can be created much quicker and are easy to fit inside the nooks and crannies of your mantelpieces or worktops.
You may wish to honour a single type of moss or insert a few small plant cuttings to bring your design to life.
Either way, the same fundamental terrarium principles apply when creating a miniature garden.
> Read more: 5 tiny terrariums you can build today.
2. Moss Terrarium – AKA Mossarium
Someone who hasn’t dipped their feet far into the botanical pool will probably pay little attention to the tiny green wonders that adorn our forests and streets.
For those initiated, such as yourself, moss becomes un-unnoticeable.
Verdant and fluffy, moss is the most vital component one can include inside a terrarium. It transforms the misshapen and dull into the full and vibrant.
It can even be the sole inhabitant of a terrarium – used to create the texture of luscious hills and deep groves.
This, we call the mossarium. A celebration of the underappreciated bryophyte.
Learn how to put moss at the centre of your design, take proper care of it, and reap its aesthetic delights.
- Read our article on how to build a mossarium.
- Read our article for the full 101 on terrarium moss
- See terrarium moss on Etsy.
3. Sand Art Terrarium
Layering different substrates within a closed terrarium is one of the most popular methods to create a proper foundation for your flora.
One of those substrates, at least, will need to provide the function of drainage.
Be it Leca, aquarium gravel or sand – any are suitable to relieve your roots of excess water.
Sand, however, has a secondary function.
There is another art form that has found itself intertwined with the terrarium hobby.
If layered carefully, one can use various colours of sands to create beautiful works of art within the layering of the terrarium itself.
It is therefore an entirely separate allure that exists within your beautiful ecosystem.
It takes a little practice, and you need to be careful about overwatering (vigorous watering can upset your patterns) but with a little time and patience, you can add an entirely new layer of artistry to your work.
4. Foraged Terrarium
For many, the fun in building terrariums lies in solving challenges and being resourceful. So what better way to build a terrarium than by using materials around you?
The key to a good foraged or native terrarium is to find and use elements that are close to hand.
Starting with your glass container, for example, I recommend something like an old spice jar, mason jar or whiskey bottle to get you started.
Once cleaned out, you can begin filling the container with your layering materials.
These materials can be found in your home/garden in most cases.
A shallow layer of gravel should be easily sourced from the outside world. Old BBQ charcoal can serve as a charcoal layer, and regular potting soil can certainly serve as your substrate.
Additionally, in many cases plants and moss can be sourced legally and sustainably from your local environment.
- See our article on DIY foraging terrariums (it’s aimed at families but the principles still apply).
5. Open Terrarium
If you’re used to building closed terrariums, this is an entirely different ball game.
Visually striking and somewhat easy to build, a open terrarium (perhaps more accurately referred to as a planter) is a lidless glass container that typically hosts cacti and succulents in place of tropical plants.
And while simple to construct, they have completely different care requirements to a closed terrarium and ensuring their longevity can be tricky.
All of which can pose an exciting new venture to tropical terrarium old-hands.
Not to mention if you’ve run out of spots with bright indirect light, this terrarium will gladly sit in full sun.
- See our article on how to make an open terrarium.
- See our article on how to make a desert terrarium.
- See our article on how to make a cactus terrarium.
6. To-Scale Terrarium
Terrariums are a way to encapsulate life, a way to create a living world.
And no, that’s not an exaggeration.
The self-sustaining systems inside terrariums operate exactly as do our very own ecosystems on earth.
A wonderful way to give your terrarium more of that worldly feel is to design a to-scale scene inside.
You could create a cave terrarium, a mountain terrarium or a ravine terrarium.
Hardscape is gong to be your best friend here. Using terrarium wood and rocks will sculpt your landscape and create your natural elements in miniature.
There are a few things one needs to pay attention to, such as the size of plants used and the positioning of your decorative rocks to ensure a satisfying a realistic visual.
Other than that, I would say this is one of the most accessible ways to quickly elevate your design towards something eminently impressive.
7. Terrarium Lamp
To best enjoy your magnificent micro-world, the right lighting is paramount.
Conventional methods of lighting up your scene are all well and fine, but a terrarium lamp is something quite different and particularly stunning.
Moreover, the low-level light can serve as support for your terrarium, providing enough light to keep your ecosystem healthy – dependent on the bulb.
It will take a little bit of technicality but not nearly as much as you may expect.
You can find premade jar lamp kits in which you can create a terrarium, or if you’re feeling savvy and would like to make something more original you can totally DIY it.
8. Hanging Glass Terrarium
When I mentioned innovation in the field of terrariums your mind most likely considered what was inside the terrarium.
There are however many ways to zhuzh up the container itself and its placement.
There’s no reason a terrarium needs to stand solemnly on a flat surface.
You can in fact purchase a hanging terrarium container just as you can a potted plant. Or if you’re looking for two DIY projects in one, you can carefully construct a sturdy macrame harness to house your terrarium from up high.
The advantages of a hanging terrarium primarily are aesthetic. It allows light to pass through easily thus creating a gorgeous display in an area of your choosing.
They can too free up some surface area, especially if you’ve gone a little terrarium-mad and your partner needs some space to chop onions.
Alternatively, a more accessible terrarium option is hanging air plants within your terrarium with a little fishing wire so that it looks like it’s levitating. Magic!
9. Herb Terrariums
Now, I’ll be honest with you.
As of the time of writing I have yet to experiment with herb terrariums.
However, I have seen it done, and there is something exceptionally exciting about the prospect of growing your produce within a terrarium.
Not all garden herbs will thrive within a closed, humid environment but many annuals, such as basil and chamomile, can.
You can of course place propagated cuttings inside a terrarium environment, or you may want to attempt growing them from seed.
The great thing about a terrarium is that it can act like a greenhouse – magnifying light and ensuring a consistently humid atmosphere – which is ideal for many herbs.
10. Bioactive Terrariums
Turning your typical tropical terrarium bioactive is an exciting way to fully realise the self-sustaining potential of your ecosystem.
While it sounds like a gigantic feat to pull off, it could be something as simple as adding isopods or springtails.
These tiny detritivores are incredible composters.
They feed on decaying organic matter within your ecosystem and return nutrients to the soil that plants can use.
Another option for a larger closed terrarium would be the humble earthworm.
While performing the same duties as the springtail and isopod, the earthworm will also aerate your soil over time – ensuring oxygen can reach your plants’ roots.
- See our article on bioactive terrariums.
- See our article on terrarium insects.
- See springtails on Etsy.
11. Terrarium Furniture
We’ve come to the final frontier, terrarium furniture.
As someone who makes terrariums for a living, I quite often get suggestions from my friends and people I’ve only just met.
These people, upon discovering I make terrariums for a living, will often spawn miraculous suggestions one after another.
‘OOH, you could make a terrarium table!’
‘OOH, you could make a terrarium in a window!’
‘OOH, you could make a coffee pot terrarium!’
And, well, you can see where this is going.
The truth is you can make a terrarium out of just about anything that is a sealed or semi-sealed container that has some sort of transparent surface.
With that in mind, if you’re crafty, the possibilities are literally endless.
While some suggestions are more insane than others (terrarium car comes to mind), there are many great ones out there that have yet to be discovered.
There you have it!
They don’t need to be taken individually; you could well combine them.
For example, a tiny foraged and bioactive terrarium is quite possible. Heck, stick it on a hanger and you’re really on to something.
The point is, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s nature that we’re celebrating, and the essence of that beauty is variety, not uniformity.
Have I left anything crucial off this list? If you’ve tried one of these ideas, or you have one of your own, comment below and let me know.