How to Make a Mini Terrarium: 5 Tiny Terrariums to Try Today

It’s typical of humans, really. We’ve managed to encapsulate the beauty of nature’s ecosystems and house it inside a little glass world, so what do we do next? 

Make it even smaller!

In many ways; the tinier a terrarium the more intriguing it becomes. Not only does it become cuter (smaller = cuter) but the science becomes more fascinating. 

In how small a space are we still able to replicate some sort of self-sustaining ecosystem? 

We’ll not only answer this question and more, but show you exactly how to do it. But first, let’s get started with some miniature terrarium inspiration!

Tiny Terrariums

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Five Miniature Terrarium and Micro Terrarium Ideas 

You’ll notice we’ve differentiated between mini and micro terrariums. 

Now, this isn’t a scientific distinction but on the grand scale of terrarium size, it’s important to have some delimitations. 

Miniature terrariums refer to those that are small enough to be called such while still housing room for all of the ecosystem essentials seen in larger terrariums (layering, plants, etc). Whereas their micro cousins are the truly teeny tiny that maximizes minimization while still retaining a striking beauty. 

We’ll start at the larger end of our truly unscientific scale and move down towards the titchy depths. 

1 | Bottle Terrarium

Patron tequila bottle terrarium.

The key to any handmade or upcycled terrarium is keeping your eyes peeled for any goodies lying around your house that could contain or enhance your design. 

The old tequila carafe I’m using today is a perfect vessel in which to create something new. Used booze bottles are a perfect choice for a bottle terrarium as they’re usually quite sturdy and give you a good reason to polish off a drink or two (as if you needed another reason, you hound!) 

There’s enough room in here to house the ecological essentials and the shape of the neck is a bonus; it’s so slim that moisture will easily be retained inside even without a cork stopper. 

2 | Candle Terrarium 

Candle planter/terrarium.

Now, this one is probably more accurately described as a planter. Though, we didn’t want to leave out a whole sub-genre of the terrarium world when considering puny possibilities. 

Candle holders or small vases are another common household item whose relative depth and open top make the perfect basis for a desert terrarium. 

Some colorful layering and a simple succulent or cacti goes a long way to make a gorgeous addition to your mantlepiece. 

If you’re interested in the best practices and care guide for the above, please check out the articles on How to Make a Desert Terrarium or the DIY Succulent Terrarium Guide.

If you want to create some funky sand layers as I have; ensure the gravel layer onto which your sand is being poured is fine enough that it won’t let the sand pass through. 

If you’re using black gravel for your base, use black aquarium sand first so that your subsequent layers remain crisp.

3 | Spice Jar Terrarium 

Spice jar terrarium.

Old jars are another household staple. This could be something that once held herbs, spices, sauce, or as in our case today: pesto. 

Personally, I love the shape of these sorts of jars as they allow you to create a 360º design. 

You could use a mottled stone or a twisting twig at the center of your terrarium and still have room enough for some plants and moss. 

These jars often come labeled, but some hot water and some steel wool will make short work of it. 

If you’re feeling crafty you could even paint the screw-top lid to personalize your design even further. 

Given how often one goes through pesto (that’s not just me, right?) you could create a whole range of these terrariums – each glass jar with a different design on the lid and inside!

4 | Mason Jar Terrarium 

Mason jar terrarium.

When one thinks of a mason jar your mind may jump straight to those big containers of cookies or spaghetti (if they did, check out our mason jar terrarium guide!). 

I on the other hand think of these little swing-top olive oil bottles that are a common – and never unappreciated – terrarium gift. They’re similar in size to our spice jars, though they can come in such a variety of interesting shapes the vessel alone really adds something to the look and feel. 

And as well, these containers are seldom acquired individually – you’ll often have a few to play with. 

As we’re working in a smaller space you’ll want to consider reducing the volume of each of your components. 

If you’re going for a mossarium design (that means moss only, folks) you could cut your gravel layer completely and simply enter in and pat down some soil on which your moss can rest.

You can even compact the soil at an angle or up the side of your glass to establish a vertical aesthetic. 

5 | Tiny Jar Terrarium 

We’ve now truly departed from the miniature and are diving deep into the experimental waters of the micro terrarium – something so small you’ll need that extra touch of ingenuity. These little jars are available in most craft and hobby shops as well as being readily available online, too. 

So, let’s talk ideas.

You could insert your classic layering levels and go for a moss-based design or even have little Ficus fronds growing inside. We however have gone for two separate designs to really highlight the possibilities. 

Moss micro terrarium.

First, we have the moss terrarium. For this, we’ve taken and cut up some hydrated forest or sheet moss and carefully placed in just enough to keep it luscious while also allowing light to pass through so you still see all those wonderful greens.

A little water inside of this one every now and again if it dries out and you’re good to go. 

Secondly is the super popular mini marimo moss terrarium bottles.

Marimo moss terrarium.

So simple to make and I think one of the more elegant ways to show off your marimo moss balls.

All you need to do is pinch off a small bit of marimo from a larger ball, gently roll it up into a ball shape once more and poke it down into your container.

Fill this up with filtered water and you’ve done it! Just change the water every couple of weeks and you can enjoy to your heart’s content. 

BONUS:  The Nano Terrarium

Nano terrarium.

We couldn’t help ourselves.

There’s really not much to say about this other than it is really, really, really small. All you need is to find a bit of moss, a tiny little piece of corked glassware, and cuteness automatically ensues. 

Nano terrarium for scale.

Tiny DIY Terrarium Kit: What You’ll Need

Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired to make a tiny terrarium (or a hundred), so now it’s time to look at exactly what you’re going to need to create your terrarium. Just know that depending on your setup, not all of the below are necessarily essential.  

#1: Glassware. Although we’ve given some examples above these are far from an exhaustive list. Be creative. Once you start looking for terrarium vessels, you’ll find them everywhere. An old pickle jar, coffee decanter, fish tank, bottles… the possibilities are endless. 

#2: Plants. Well, duh! We’ll get into more depth on your best options below… 

#3: Moss. An infinitely popular addition to most closed terrarium setups. Perfect to create wild grasslands or a rainforest aesthetic.

#4: Substrate. It’s up to you which substrate to choose from, whether you’re using a pre-made substrate like the classic ABG mix, or creating your own. Each potential ingredient has its benefits – read more about it in our article on the best substrates to use in your terrarium.

#5: Drainage material. This is to create a layer of pebbles, gravel, sand, or Leca which will act as a drainage layer to prevent your terrarium from becoming oversaturated by allowing excess water to pass through your soil, preventing root rot.

#6: Tool Kit. For a tiny terrarium, my recommendation is for you to have on hand:

  • A paintbrush (use the end for creating holes and the brush for cleaning the glass and patting down soil).
  • A pair of tweezers (a great aid in placing your plants).
  • A water mister (to water your terrarium).
  • A funnel to prevent a substrate mudslide.

* Bonus Activated Charcoal. There’s a little bit of contention when it comes to whether activated horticultural charcoal is essential. Some incorporate it into their drainage or substrate layers, others layer it separately, and some ignore it altogether. Personally, I prefer to include a layer as its filtration capabilities are undeniable and it has the potential to add years of life to your ecosystem. – Shop activated charcoal on Etsy.

* Bonus Sphagnum Moss. Arguably not an essential yet very popular among terrarium creators. This again can either be considered a separate layer or incorporated into your substrate. Its water retention properties aid in nurturing your plants and promoting an aerobic environment. – Shop sphagnum moss on Etsy.

* Bonus Springtails. Want to turn your terrarium bioactive? Add in a colony of springtails. These beneficial terrarium insects will keep clean your system.

Top Tiny Terrarium Plants

Finding the right flora to befit your tiny ecosystem can be tricky.

Generally, it’s quite hard to find suitably small plants in plant nurseries or garden centers. But, before we get into that let us quickly talk about what kind of plants you’ll want in your terrariums. 

Plants that prefer higher humidity and evenly moist, well-drained soil will be your go-to for almost any closed terrarium setup. They will tend to prefer indirect lighting, too. 

You can peruse your options in our Terrarium Plant Index (just make sure to avoid the “large” category for obvious reasons), our Ultimate Guide to Terrarium Plants, and be sure to check out our guide to Small Terrarium Plants too!

Now, let’s talk sourcing. 

Buy Miniature Plants

I know I said it’s uncommon to find the right size plant in a nursery, but they’re readily available online if you know where to look!

There are plenty of micro ferns and baby plants, sometimes even sold together in a terrarium-ready group. We’ve curated a selection of our favorite tiny plants on Etsy – some less than two inches in size and quite inexpensive.

If it’s tiny succulents and cacti you’re after for an open terrarium you won’t have any issue finding them, they’re very common.

Propagate from Larger Plants

You can always use a small cutting from a larger plant!

It’s one of the easiest ways to get a good-looking plant at the right size. I, for example, have a healthy Pilea peperomioides that is popping out babies like there’s no tomorrow.

Baby Pilea by the dozen.

Each time a new one pops up it’s either getting split and housed in a new pot or joining some other plant pals in a new terrarium design. 

This method is very inexpensive, though it does require you to have healthy plants and quite possibly may only be possible at the right time of year. But, if you know what you’re doing it’s a no-brainer. 

How to Make a Miniature Terrarium DIY

Taking care of your tiny terrariums couldn’t be simpler. As always, I recommend taking your chosen plants into consideration and carry out research on their specific care requirements. Though, closed terrariums generally prefer the following conditions:

  • Mid-high indirect light. This means a sunny room but no direct sunlight onto the terrarium.
  • High humidity. This should be achieved simply with an initial light watering and / or misting, and then with a closed lid, your terrarium will self-regulate its water supply. 
  • Evenly moist, well-drained soil. To achieve this I recommend ensuring your soil is moist to begin with but that your drainage layer isn’t soaked with water. It can be a tricky balance to strike, so just be gentle with your watering. 
  • Keep away from sources of artificial heat. This means radiators, heaters, and hobs. You don’t want your plants to cook now, do you? 

Now it’s Your Turn!

Which tiny terrarium build have you chosen for your next project? Let us know in the comments!

Make sure to join the Facebook group if you have any questions, and of course, we can’t wait to see your creation on Instagram.

Oh, and if you need some inspiration for your next build – check out our Terrarium Ideas post.

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