When it comes to terrarium building, there’s nothing quite like getting your hands dirty. However (for your own sanity) there are some tasks that you will definitely want to use a terrarium tool for.
Trust me, you can only attempt to squish your hand in so many ways.
This list is really a series of essential tasks and functions that every terrarium builder encounters, but using these terrarium tools makes these tasks a lot faster and easier!
So, before you drop your plants for the 100th time and find yourself ready to throw your creation out the window – do yourself a favour and pick up a few things from this list.
Essential Terrarium Tools
1. Tweezers (The Grabber)
The Grabber is the most important tool for building terrariums.
It’s what’s going to help you pick up and place your various plants and landscape items.
It’s especially important for terrariums with narrow openings that you can’t fit your hand through, but even open terrariums are much easier with the added dexterity of a precise grabbing tool.
In my opinion, the best grabbing tool is a pair of long steel curved aquascaping tweezers, like this inexpensive pair on Amazon.
They’re nice and long so you can reach the bottom of a terrarium with a narrow opening, and the curved tips are great for planting as you can slip them under branches and such.
The cheaper pairs of tweezers will all do the job, but they don’t transfer the grip very well. Sometimes l have to pinch quite hard to grab something delicate.
Chopsticks will work in a pinch (pun intended) and can be effective for lifting bulkier things that you can’t fit tweezers on, but you’re going to need some skill operating them in a small space and lifting heavy objects.
2. Fork (The Raker)
I actually use a miniature telescopic rake, but a long fork will achieve a similar effect.
Super useful for moving dirt around in tight spaces, levelling out the growing medium level and generally manoeuvring bigger objects.
If you’re trying to move heavier objects like rocks around in really tight spaces, it can be easier to drop them in and drag them around rather than trying to grab and place them neatly.
3. Spoon (The Digger)
Spoons are going to help you dig spaces for your plants, add or remove objects and they’ll be the best tool for mixing/distributing materials in your terrarium.
I like to use a cocktail spoon like this one as it’s long, durable and they often have a “muddler” on the end which can be great for pushing down plants or soil.
Just don’t go making any cocktails with it afterwards…
I also have a small telescopic spade that I got from the same set as the rake, but the flat head isn’t nearly as useful.
4. Scissors (The Trimmer)
Terrarium plants are selected for being small, but they often still need a trim to get them down to size (and keep them that way).
A good pair of long scissors like these aquarium scissors will serve you well.
The curved ones are perfect for precision trimming and getting the right angle if you’re trying to trim moss down flat.
5. Mister/Spray Bottle (The Life-Giver)
When watering terrarium plants, it’s essential that water is distributed evenly (and ideally) as delicately as possible.
Otherwise it’s like blasting your miniature plants with fire hose. You’ll literally blow them away.
In the past I’ve used a mister (otherwise known as a spritzer or atomiser) as it’s very gentle and there’s no risk of overdoing it.
Though to be honest, I found it to take too long to properly water a terrarium of any significant size (like 30+ sprays – exhausting). It’s still useful for spraying solutions though, I spray chamomile tea occasionally to prevent mould.
These days, I use a regular spray bottle most of the time. Just don’t have it set to jet spray…
6. Funnel (The Targeted Dropper)
Funnels can be a really useful tool when making a terrarium.
Not just so you can ensure you get everything in your terrarium and not over your floor (even though that’s great) but also you can be really targeted in how and where you add the messier components.
For example, if you want to add an even gravel top dressing, you can direct it slowly around your terrarium, instead of dumping it all in the middle.
A funnel with a long and slim neck will provide the most accuracy.
If you can’t find a funnel, a fanned out piece of paper will at least ensure everything goes inside the terrarium.
7. Brush (The Cleaner-Upper)
Brushes come in handy during your terrarium build when you’ve finished placing everything and need to tidy it up.
I’d recommend a soft bristled brush is for cleaning plants and delicate surfaces.
I found this handy brush in a hardware shop (it was literally called the “Handy Brush”). Like the curved scissors, the angled head makes it great for reaching around corners and under branches in a terrarium.
Any old paintbrush will do though, as long as it’s clean!
Non-Essential, but Really Handy Terrarium Tools
Terrariums often mist up, and too much condensation can be a sign of overwatering.
A microfibre towel is the best way to keep your terrarium glass clean and to remove excess condensation – without leaving unsightly fibres on the glass.
Sometimes, your scissors just won’t cut it (sorry, I’ll stop).
If you’re using dried logs or branches in your hardscape, you’re probably going to need to do a fair bit of trimming before they’ll fit properly in a terrarium.
The thing is, the best types of wood for terrariums are usually hardwoods. Meaning they’re super tough. If you’re using the likes of grapevine wood or manzanita wood – you’re going to need some serious terrarium pruning tools to cut them i.e. secateurs.
Anvil secateurs are the best tool for the job. They have a blade on one side and flat plate on the other, giving them less precision but far more power.
This pair by Fiskars is inexpensive but effective.
People are often surprised to hear that I glue plants and mosses.
It’s not always necessary, but it’s a great way to add a new dimension to your planting. Especially if you’re experimenting with different rocks and branches.
Superglue seems like a harsh chemical that would be harmful to plants, but superglue is 100% safe to use on plants.
The gel based ones are the best for terrariums as they’re more precise and a lot less messy.
I’ve been using a random cheap aquarium glue, but any cyanoacrylate based glue should work. I hear good things about this Gorilla Super Glue Gel.
Terrarium Tool FAQ
Absolutely! Every terrarium is unique, and sometimes you need to fashion some custom tools for the job. Attaching forks and spoons to bamboo rods is an easy way to get some extra long terrarium tools.
Yes, I have seen terrarium tool kits available online. Though many are quite basic and they’re often far too chunky to be of much use.
Over to You
Are there any terrarium tools that I’ve missed?
Different projects will throw up new challenges and new potential tools to overcome them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear of any tools that you find really helpful.