Magical Fairy Garden Terrarium Guide (For Kids & Adults)

DIY doesn’t get more playful than a fairy garden terrarium – a perfect blend of horticulture and magic. 

Magic alone won’t make this project a success; you’ll need to bring your green thumb too. After all, by definition, a terrarium is an enclosed ecosystem, which brings it’s own challenges. 

And if you’re doing this project with kids, not only will it keep them busy, but it’s a great way to incorporate a science lesson. Hello, water cycle.

This article will take you from start to finish, from ideas and inspiration to the technical necessities and an over-the-shoulder step-by-step guide. 

So without further ado, let’s do it.

Bippity boppity boo!

Fairy Terrarium

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Fairy Garden Ideas

In an enchanting world of endless imaginative possibilities, it can be challenging to narrow down just what kind of scene you want to create and what accessories you’ll need to achieve that.

Perhaps you want to incorporate fairy figurines, or you might want to build a tiny home to attract real nearby fairies?

There are no hard and fast rules here; essentially, it’s yours to construct as you wish. And it doesn’t need to be fairy specific if you don’t want it to be – you can stick your dinosaur figures and lego people in if you desire!

Here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • A cute fairy house. Even just a tiny door built into a mound of earth looks fantastic.
  • Use gravel or coloured sand to create a pathway or pebbles to make stepping stones.
  • Fairy garden furniture – I’ve seen some beautiful miniature picnic benches.
  • Little signs, fences and lamps (not electrical!).
fairy garden sign
Nothing says fairy garden like a dedicated sign! (Image credit: fairysmallthings on Etsy)
  • How about a wheelbarrow, a fishpond or even a tiny water well?
  • Miniature woodland animal figurines.
  • And lastly, take inspiration from your favourite books and films. These days I can’t scroll on Instagram for two minutes without seeing a Hobbit terrarium.

You can find all sorts of fairy garden miniatures available for purchase; just be sure to check that they’re waterproof.

👉 Shop Fairy Garden Accessories on Etsy.

How to Make a Cheap Fairy Garden – DIY Accessories 

If you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, don’t have the budget for a figurine set, or can’t resist a thrifty project, you might want to create the accessories yourself. 

Enter my newfound love: oven-hardening modelling clay.

A genius substance with infinite options that makes it possible for you to create your dream fairy garden accessories exactly how you want them for a fraction of the price.

Win-win.

mushroom-inspired fairy house made with polymer clay
I made an adorable mushroom-inspired fairy house that I’m incredibly proud of.

I’ll admit that fairy-sized projects can be a little fiddly, but it was worth it for me. And if you’re doing this project with your kids, it’ll keep them entertained a little longer, right?

I found this YouTube video extremely helpful in nailing the basics.

👉 Shop Oven Clay on Etsy.

DIY Fairy Garden Supplies

Ultimately there’s a lot of scope for you to put your personality into your project, but some things will be the same for every project.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A glass container with a lid. It could be something as simple as a glass jar or a thrifted vase. If your container doesn’t have a lid, you can easily get inexpensive custom perspex lids online. 
terrarium glassware
I grabbed my terrarium glassware from IKEA.
  • Your plants. More on this in a moment.
  • Substrate. Any fluffy, chunky tropical plant mix should do the trick nicely. Unfortunately, potting soil is too dense for most terrarium plants and wouldn’t drain well enough or allow the roots to breathe.
terrarium substrate mix
My substrate mix is super light. It has coco coir as a base and plenty of supplements like pumice, charcoal and bark. 
  • A spray bottle for watering. Pouring water into a closed system is a quick way to drench the whole thing and water-log your plants’ roots; a spray bottle makes it much more manageable.
  • Your fairy ornaments. Obvs.
  • Optional: drainage material. While I haven’t opted for a drainage layer in this specific project, it can be a useful failsafe to protect your plants from overwatering. A simple layer of aquarium pebbles or leca is all you need; it can be very beneficial if you can be a little heavy-handed with the hydration!
terrarium leca
These clay balls make great drainage material.

Fairy Garden Terrarium Plants

Now it’s time for the exciting stuff… Choosing your plants. 

For a closed fairy terrarium, you’ll need plants that enjoy high humidity. Also, depending on the size of your container, it’s easier to stick to miniature varieties and cuttings. 

I like to make sure I have something from all four categories: ferns, foliage, vines and moss. 

By the way, moss is what makes any terrarium project really pop and I use it every. Single. Time. I recommend using a clumpy moss like Cushion Moss or Mood Moss. They grow in tufts, so they are much easier to work with and look fluffy and full. 

You can peruse our Definite Guide to Closed Terrarium Plants, the Terrarium Plant Index, and our guide to Small Terrarium Plants at your leisure for help with this. 

In the end, I went with a Lemon Button Fern, a Peperomia albovittata ‘Piccolo Banda’, Ficus pumila and some Cushion Moss for my project.

👉 Shop our terrarium plant picks on Etsy.

bowl of terrarium plants
The container I’m working with is tiny – so my plants need to be too.

How to Make a Fairy Garden – Step by Step

1 | Create Your Base (Optional Drainage Layer & Substrate)

Just like constructing a house, with terrariums, you need to begin with the foundation and build from the ground up.

If you’ve chosen to use a drainage layer, pour the material in first. Around an inch in height is enough to collect any excess water. 

Now, grab your substrate and pour that in too. 

adding terrarium substrate
I use a little trowel to keep my hands clean (usually in vain!).

How deep you create the layer depends on how big your plants’ roots are. 

I almost always sculpt my substate to create a slope – it’s far more interesting visually and creates a dynamic sense of scale.

sloping terrarium substrate
The plants I’m using have quite shallow roots, so my substrate layer measures up at around 1 inch at its shallowest and around 2.5 inches at its highest. 

2 | Place Any Larger Fairy Accessories

Any larger pieces (or any wood or rocks you might be using) will anchor your substrate, so it’s best to place it in sooner rather than later and plant around it. 

sloping terrarium substrate
My fairy house is hollow, so it took quite a bit of rearranging the substrate to support it properly. 

Doing it in this order will make your terrarium more stable and help you get an idea of the scale early on. 

terrarium substrate plus miniature fairy garden figure
I’m pleased with how this turned out; it’s like the mushroom house is built into the land!

3 | Plant Your Terrarium Plants

At long last, it’s time to get your green thumb out.

First things first, grab your spray bottle and give the substrate a little spray.

spraying terrarium substrate plus miniature fairy garden figure
Damp substrate is far easier to plant in (imagine trying to make a sand castle out of dry sand).

Then it’s time to plant. 

I recommend going in with the largest plants first; it’s much easier in the long run.

fairy garden terrarium
I started with my Lemon Button Fern.

Create a little depression with your finger or a terrarium tool and pop your plant’s roots in. 

Then smooth the substrate around the roots to nestle it in nicely.

fairy garden terrarium
This Peperomia will look fabulous in my fairy garden. 

4 | Add Moss

Eyeball what size space you’d like to cover and break off an appropriate clump. Trim off the brown excess with scissors, holding the green part together tightly with your fingers. 

trimming moss for fairy garden terrarium
Pro tip – smaller clumps are easier to manage than bigger ones.
moss for fairy garden terrarium
A perfect little tuft of moss!

Place your moss where you’d like. If you have them, aquascaping tweezers can really help to make the process more precise.

You can cover the whole of the exposed substrate or just stick to a few mounds.

fairy garden terrarium
Honestly, my cushion moss isn’t the healthiest, but I had some leftover from a previous project and wanted to use it up.

5 | Finishing Touches

Let’s complete the look.

Now is the time to add any smaller fairy ornaments you might be using. I used a couple of scrabble pieces to create a step to the house (seemingly a great way to make use of the dodgy letters).

They ended up molding over so I’m not sure I’d recommend this exact approach but terrariums are always an experiment!

fairy garden terrarium
A little slate tile would look great here, but this was the best I could find last minute.

Finally, I added my Ficus pumila. It roots up readily in humid conditions, so it doesn’t need to be planted. I just lay a cutting on top of the substrate and leave it alone to work its magic over the coming weeks.

ficus pumila for fairy garden terrarium
I love how much of a wild woodland look this plant gives my project!

And there you have it – a cute fairy garden to be proud of.

Give it a little spritz with water and pop the lid on. It’s much easier to add water than it is to remove, so go easy! The substrate should never look wet. You can always add a few sprays in a week or so when it has settled. For more guidance, check out our guide to watering terrariums.

Put it in a spot that gets plenty of bright indirect light, and enjoy your new magical statement piece.

fairy garden terrarium
I’m so happy with my miniature fairy garden.

Voila!

I hope you’re happy with your fairytale creation. Did you do this project with kids or by yourself?

Let me know in the comments. I don’t have children, but this playful project brought out the big kid in me.

How about a woodland terrarium next?

Till next time! x

1 thought on “Magical Fairy Garden Terrarium Guide (For Kids & Adults)”

  1. Bobbi Jo Kellogg

    Sweet! You gave me a great idea 💡 for something cool with just a little twist! I am planning to make a ‘theme ‘ terrarium for a friend, and they love the show ‘The Walking Dead ‘. If I were to make my own figures from bakable clay,I could make a ‘Walking Dead ‘ garden for my friend! What a challenge to think about! Better get busy!

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