Everything You Need to Know About Terrariums or Mini-Ecosystems

I recently learned how to make a terrarium (also called mini- ecosystems) and I can’t stop! I love everything about making terrariums and see what a good project this is for kids of all ages and families to do together.

Terrarium plants planted in large mini ecosystem glass jar - Kids Activities Blog
Let’s plant our own terrarium garden!

Why Plant a Terrarium Garden

I have loved plants for my entire life. I think my love of plants started as a kid in the garden with my grandmother.

Living in Texas, now, I’ve found the heat and climate to be really rough on my favorite plants. It’s hard to foster a love of plants in my children when none of us are terribly blessed with a green thumb!

Terrariums are able to conserve water and keep plants humid no matter the weather outside! This makes them very hands-off and low maintenance compared to most indoor planters or outdoor gardens. Terrariums even work for when you get too busy to remember to water the plants every day. 

This article contains affiliate links.

Three large glass jars sit together. They are filled with layers of rocks and soil, and filled with beautiful plants. One has a small bonsai tree!
You can make so many different sizes of terrariums at home!

What is a Terrarium?

A terrarium is a small semi or fully enclosed garden. Most terrariums are small enough to be fit into large bottles or jars, but some can be as big as a display shelf! A good terrarium is a fully functional micro-ecosystem. Their natural ecosystem means that they are low maintenance.

A terrarium is like a little green house you have in your home. The mini ecosystem functions on water cycle, so it is a really great opportunity to introduce earth sciences to young ones.

Sunlight enters through the glass and warms the air, soil and plants the same way that sunlight coming through the atmosphere warms Earth’s surface. The glass holds in some of the warmth, just as Earth’s atmosphere does.

NASA, Terrarium Mini-Garden
A little kid uses tweezers to put decorations into their succulent terrarium.
Easy to make and easy to learn from makes terrariums a fun family activity, around here!

Make Your Own Terrarium

It is really easy to make your own terrarium, at home. We recently showed off the adorable growing Dinosaur garden.

One of the benefits of planting your own terrarium is you can decorate it in any way. I like the idea of taking inspiration from fairy houses.

Types of Terrariums

Nearly all terrariums are made out of glass. This allows light in, but also traps moisture released by the plants. They can be flat panels that are attached to one another or single pieces of glass such as a vase or jar.

1. Tropical Plant Terrarium

Glass is the most common type of terrarium is used to keep delicate exotic plants safe and humid. Tropical plants can be very difficult to care for outside of the humid environment and natural ecosystem of a terrarium. 

Here are a few of our favorite clear glass tabletop planters you can use for a terrarium container:

A child's hand holds a succulent above a glass vase, ready to plant it in their terrarium
This cute little succulent is very easy to take care of. A low maintenance terrarium is our favorite!

2. Succulent Terrarium

A succulent terrarium is perhaps the lowest maintenance version of a terrarium that exists! Succulents thrive best when left alone in a sunny place.

This makes them extra perfect for short attention spans. They require minimal watering and typically grow so slowly that they do not often need to be trimmed or repotted.

Related: Not ready for live plants? Make a felt succulent garden.

Succulents do not do well in closed terrariums. An open terrarium for succulents is still absolutely gorgeous! I have plenty in my decor!

Here are a few of our favorite open terrariums that work great for succulents:

Small glass terrarium is filled with moss and tiny plants.
Moss Terrariums are also very low maintenance and plush!

3. Moss Terrarium

This variety of terrarium is also low maintenance, like the succulent terrarium. It is much more vibrant and green, though.

The moss grows slowly and is very happy in most types of light. Keep in mind, it needs to be watered often with distilled water.

Here are some of our favorite moss varieties that work great in a terrarium:

A wonderful work around, here, is the type of Terrarium I’ll talk about next…

This terrarium is completely sealed. Inside, the plants stay alive and healthy due to the natural ecosystem. This terrarium is full of moss and ferns.
This terrarium is completely enclosed.

4. Closed Terrarium

A closed terrarium is truly the lowest maintenance way to go. Seriously, just set it up, make sure it isn’t too wet or dry, and go! Find a spot in your house for it to live and be admired!

You water a closed terrarium one time, and then close it. After that, the water cycle takes over. Condensation forms on the glass as the plants breathe, and that water then waters the plants so they continue to live.

Here are a few of our favorite closed terrarium systems:

Planted Terrariums You Can Buy

Don’t have the time to build your own terrarium? That is completely ok!

You can enjoy the beauty and education of a ready-made terrarium from TerraLiving! They make and sell beautiful glass terrariums that already have their own established ecosystem! So, within their wide variety of sizes, you’ll be able to find a fully planted terrarium that you love!

Mini-ecosystems are a wonderful and educational decoration. Here are some of my favorite terrariums from TerraLiving:

This enclosed glass ecosystem from TerraLiving is full of happy plants. This terrarium has white upright designs supporting the plants.
This is a slightly bigger closed terrarium from TerraLiving called Apex!
This large glass terrarium is full of moss, even on the walls! The Vertex Zero from TerraLiving is absolutely gorgeous.
And this enormous beauty is the TerraLiving Vertex Zero

Kids Terrarium Kits

I actually prefer the regular terrarium kits over the kids terrarium kits because they seem overly commercial when just growing a mini garden is pretty awesome all on its own! The benefit is the kids terrarium kits come with everything you need to get started, so it might be the best bet for a gift or your very first ecosystem.

Here are Kids Terrarium Kits we like:

Easy Terrarium Kits

If you are looking for everything needed to make a fun and educational terrarium for kids and the whole family, these are some of our top picks for you. They include:

  1. pea gravel for draining
  2. activated charcoal for removing toxins
  3. organic soil
  4. moss
  5. decorations
  6. pebbles
  7. seed mixes that sprout in several days

Here are a few terrarium kits we like:

Have you ever had a terrarium? Tell us all about it in the comments!

4 Comments

  1. Hi, Rachel! Actually, I’ve got a newer blog than the one you visited. It’s way prettier! 🙂
    There are lots of good ideas on this blog. I’m going to subscribe right away.

  2. alice price says:

    Hi, great blog. you can never have too many ideas for preschoolers….
    preschool advice

  3. alice price says:

    Hi, great blog. you can never have too many ideas for preschoolers….
    preschool tips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *