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Terrarium Design Basics

If you are adventuring into the world of making terrariums there are a few design basics that you should learn about. Of course you can just wing it and come up with some beautiful terrarium design ideas that make terrariums that are great. But if you know a few different rules of thumb you can make some really interesting terrarium designs.



Some Terrarium Decisions to be made before you start

  • Before starting your terrarium you have to consider what kind of terrarium you want to make. By kind of terrarium I mean are you looking to make a desert theme, a garden theme, a carnivorous plant theme or just something plain and basic? This is part of the design process.

  • What size terrarium do you want to make? A terrarium can literally be any size you want from a thimble to a 50 gallon drum or larger.
  • Where will the terrarium be placed when it is done? This is an important question because the placement of the terrarium has an impact on the size and on the types of plants. The level of sunlight or artificial light will help to determine which plants are suitable.
  • What kind of budget are you allotting for the terrarium?


Okay, lets get started designing a terrarium

The first thing you should have in mind is the theme of the terrarium. Then secondly you should decide on the size of the terrarium. Once you have these two factors you can start to design your terrarium. Now you should get a few blank pieces of paper and start doing some sketches of how you might envision your terrarium to be. The important thing to think about is the aesthetics of the plants and how they are laid out. Don't select plants that are all the same size and same color. This makes for a rather boring layout. The beauty of the terrarium is not just in its being miniature but also in its variety of look. A general rule of thumb is to use an odd number of plants like 3, 5, 7, or 9. This tends to make a more appealing layout.

When you are designing your terrarium also think of it in terms of height. There are three distinct levels to a terrarium and you should consider all three. First there is the ground cover. Will you use some kind of a moss or a creeping plant to nicely cover the ground? Will you be placing rocks or other small items on the ground?

The second layer is the mid layer. This layer is often the thickest part of the terrarium and one of the most important things to think about when it comes to this layer is not to hide anything. If you have a variety of plants it is easy for things to get hidden in this layer.

The top layer is often what we first see when looking at a terrarium so you may consider how your plants will flower and display color into this layer.

The Design is not set in stone

One thing I like to do when I am making a terrarium is to set a few of the plants loosely into the soil then step back and take a good look at them. If you place them loosely in the soil you can easily pluck them out and rearrange them until you find an arrangement that you like. Move them around and try different arrangements based on color and height of the plants.

Going the extra mile

One of the most fascinating things about terrariums is the limitless possibilities when it comes to designing them. You can do just about anything you can imagine from adding a waterfall, lights or even small animals. But if you are going to be doing any of these things remember that you have to consider them right from the beginning before you even start building your terrarium.


Want to see some pictures and drawings of a large terrarium I made? This will give you some good ideas on how to design your terrarium. The Ultimate Terrarium. This also includes a tutorial with pictures that takes you through the design process.


Premium Kit for Small Terrarium (Succulent, Cactus, and Fairy Garden)

Perfect kit for a first time terrarium gardener or to give as a gift. Provides the exact amount of the specific "ingredients" necessary to build a thriving small terrarium. Will work for closed terrariums, open terrariums, fairy gardens, as well as with succulents and cactii. Kit includes terrarium potting soil, activated charcoal, two different sizes of semi-polished river rocks, shag moss, and complete but easy to follow step-by-step instructions. The ingredients supplied are in the following approximate amounts: 9 oz. soil; 8 oz. small river rocks; 8 oz. larger river rocks; 1 oz. activated charcoal; 1 oz. sheet moss. Great for anyone wanting to set up a terrarium without having to go and find all the different pieces separately. Please note that the kit does NOT include a container or plants. Please also note that this kit is for a SMALL terrarium. We recommend using a mason jar if you are making a closed terrarium or a container with a 4 - 6" diameter if you are making a succulent or cactus terrarium.