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.
The meaning of terrarium is a clear container with soil and plants that can be accessed through an opening to tend your mini garden. The transparent walls also allow for light and heat around the plants to create a water cycle allowing a constant water supply.
Related: How to make a terrarium
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
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.
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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:
- Tiny Geometric Decorative Terrarium Cube that is a modern decoration in itself!
- Larger Potter Glass Six Sided Terrarium that looks a little like a green house.
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:
- Set of 3 mini glass geometric terrarium containers for miniature fairy garden in gold.
- Hanging pyramid terrarium with stand in gold.
- 6 inch Pentagon Glass Geometric terrarium with open top in gold.
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:
- Treasure Super Fairy Garden Assortment Moss and Lichen for your mini ecosystem.
- The texture on this live Terrarium moss assortment is lush.
- Live Lichen Assortment is full of color!
A wonderful work around, here, is the type of Terrarium I’ll talk about next…
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:
- Celosia flower terrarium with zero care!
- Closed Aquatic ecosystem in a pod shape.
- Miniature orchid terrarium in 4 inch tall jar.
- This really cool terrarium bottle planter comes with tools.
- This Glass terrarium can create an open or closed ecosystem.
Make your own Small Terrarium
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.
Mini Ecosystem 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:
Kids Mini 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:
- Light Up Terrarium kit for kids with 5 dinosaur toys – educational DIY science project.
- Creativity for Kids Grow ‘n Glow Terrarium Kit for Kids – science activities for kids.
- DIY Light Up Terrarium Kit for Kids with Unicorn toys – build your wonder garden.
Easy Terrarium Mini 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:
- pea gravel for draining
- activated charcoal for removing toxins
- organic soil
- seed mixes that sprout in several days
Here are a few terrarium kits we like:
- Easy Grow Complete Fairy Garden Kit – Includes all the supplied needed for making an enchanted and magical fairy garden.
- Terrarium Starter Kit for a DIY succulent terrarium for adults and kids.
More Unusual Plant fun from Kids Activities Blog
- Make a macrame plant hanger
- Have you heard of Sprout pencils? You can plant a pencil!
- Make your own sugar skull planter
- We love these self watering dinosaur planters
- Growing beans from bean soup? We are in!
- Potato planter bags are super cool
Have you ever had a terrarium? Tell us all about it in the comments!
Mini Ecosystem FAQs
Your mini ecosystem terrarium can last for months with the proper care! To ensure the longest lifespan possible, avoid direct sunlight and provide the proper airflow and moisture. Regularly clean out any dead plant material.
Examples of micro-ecosystems include terrariums, aquaponic systems and biospheres. These ecosystems rely on a balance of different species to remain healthy and promote a thriving environment for all. A micro-system is a closed environment that consists of a variety of species interacting with each other in a self-sustaining way!
To allow the self-contained ecosystem of a terrarium to function properly, you will need several things to keep it self-sustained. You will need the right balance of humidity, temperature, light and air quality. To achieve this the key components are:
The soil is where the roots of the plants will grow while water is needed to keep the soil moist and provide hydration for the plants. The rocks are a drainage system for the plants. You will need proper lighting to keep the ecosystem in balance.
Kids can use an ecosystem jar to study how different organisms interact with each other and help each other stay alive! Ecosystem jars are a great way to observe the effects of a closed habitat and see how when one element is disturbed, the entire ecosystem will suffer.
You can buy terrarium plants at your local nursery or online. We found a big variety of terrarium plants on Amazon (https://amzn.to/3wze35a).
You can find the perfect place for your terrarium at home or in the classroom by considering the following:
1. Avoid direct sunlight which can cause your terrarium temperature to rise too quickly and dry out the soil.
2. Avoid sources of heat & A/C like radiators and vents which can vary the terrarium temperature too much and result in drying of the soil.
3. Avoid busy spots that might be disturbed by children or pets.
4. Find a place where you can easily observe your terrarium!