27 September 2011

Make a Terrarium

 Last year, we brought Kaia's faerie garden inside for the Winter for her to enjoy and care for. This year, with the addition of new plants, it will need to stay outside under the snow to do well. By Spring, her garden wasn't looking so hot anyway. So instead, we decided to make a terrarium for her to keep through the snowy season. We looked up a whole bunch of information and tutorials, and this is how we ended up making ours. 

You will need:
•A Watertight Container With Lid
•Activated Carbon (Or Activated Charcoal)
•Sand (Optional)
Soil (Or Other Substrate)
 •Mosses (We Also Used Lichens)
•Decoration (Also Optional)

We found our glass containers at the craft store. You could use a corked jar, a food canister, or simply use a canning jar. Anything that will hold water and can be closed will work. Start by putting in a good layer of gravel, about ½ to 1 inch deep. This will provide drainage and help keep your plants from being overwatered. Eskaba came to check what Kaia was doing and find out if she can eat it. The chicken is not necessary for the successful building of your terrarium.

Add a light layer of activated carbon to the top of the gravel. Put in enough to spread over the gravel, but it doesn't have to completely cover it. This terrarium got a little extra dose because I was trying to take a picture, and Kaia dumped it all in. Woops! We found our activated carbon at the pet store, where it is normally used for fish filters. It removes impurities from the water, and ours needed to be rinsed before being used. You should wash your hands thoroughly after handling it, which is why I put it in little cups for Kaia to use. We also spread a layer of sand over the top of the carbon, for more filtration and drainage, but I saw many examples which did not use any.

Next, put in a layer of soil, or whatever substrate you chose. I like the look of soil, but moss does not really need it. Mosses absorb all their nutrients and water through their leaves, not through their roots, which are simply used to anchor the plant. You could instead use stone, woodchips, or even brick. Pat it down gently, then begin adding your mosses, (and lichens if you have them.)

We collected our mosses and lichens out in the woods, and if you do, try to take note of what kind of light your plants are growing in. Different types of mosses have different tolerances to sun. Most prefer a dappled shade, like that of the woods, but if you are collecting yours under full sun, it may need more light than other types. Once you've arranged your plants as you like, add your decorations. I made a few simple things out of polymer clay with toothpick stakes baked in. Kaia wanted a couple bunnies and a few mushrooms. I've seen other people use charms, beads, rocks, little figurines or toys, etc. Be creative, and use what you like!

Put your lid on...

 And enjoy! Little Katalin loves it as much as her big sister.

Keep your lid on, moss and lichens will dry out very quickly. Your terrarium will fog up and evaporate in a natural rhythm, but if you believe yours is too wet, leave the lid off for 15 minutes or so. You will only need to water it once every two or 3 months. Give it one or two light sprays with a spray bottle, some people use an eye dropper. Take care not to overwater, most plants can much easier survive too little water than too much, so if you are not sure, err on the side of less. If it seems to be drying out, you can always add a little more.

Kaia's terrarium was the second we made, the day before we made one for a friend of Kaia's. We had quite short notice to her Birthday party, as her friend realized that, while she'd invited Kaia, she'd forgotten to let us know the actual date, and gave us a call that morning. This was a sweet little gift to whip up in a hurry, and it, along with a packet of polymer clays for her to continue creating on her own, was very well received by an 11 year old Birthday girl. I made a little fawn for her terrarium, and a sprinkling of mushrooms as well.

Unless, as I pointed out earlier, you collected your moss under full sun, you will want to find a place to keep your terrarium in indirect or filtered sunlight. It does need sun, but too much will fry it quickly.

I would love to see any terrariums you create! Kaia already wants to make more, and I already picked up a few more glass containers. I suspect that, in addition to making a few as Christmas gifts, (because, yes, I am working on those already, oh my!) that we will also be adding to our own collection. I love them as much as the girls, they are just so sweet.


  1. How enchanting!!!!! Oh, the moss!!
    Thanks so much for entering the Fairy Garden Competition and congrats on being a winner :-)
    I'm so excited for your little on the get the toadstool stacker... it's so cool!
    Can you email me your address to pass on to Beccijo... my email is vined@ymail(dot)com.
    Thanks for joining in - hope you'll be back next year :-)
    Blessings and magic,

  2. Thank you! We can't wait for the stacker, either, it is so cute! I'm so happy to have been a part of your wonderful competition.

  3. Your terrarium turned out great, I love the little mushrooms and animals inside. I grow moss all through my garden, and really enjoy it, this terrarium is right up my alley! I love that the chicken got in on the action- how fun!! ~April

  4. What a sweet terrarium. We made one in a mason jar the other week, and it was so much fun. I hadn't thought of them for Christmas presents, though... I love it.

  5. Your terrarium is adorable. My little one wants a "fairy science" theme for her birthday party this year and I thought a terrarium might make a nice craft for the kids.

    Can you share any ideas on where to find the miniature animals and mushrooms? I've looked around and am just stumped.


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