HOME & GARDEN: DIY terrariums make great holiday gifts | Home & Garden

A century-old trend of bringing nature inside during the winter, terrarium gardening has had a revival gardeners as of late and would make an excellent gift for the holidays.

The invention of terrariums is attributed to English Botanist, Dr. Nathanial Ward. He used a closed bottle filled with tiny ferns and grasses growing in soil in order to observe a hummingbird moth chrysalis. Once the moth emerged, he continued to watch how the ferns and grasses continued to grow for four years, during which time he never opened the bottle to add water.

Although most gardeners today are building an open system, without a lid, requiring some water but not as much as a normal houseplant. These open system ecosystems provide for ample creativity by building a mini landscape but also require minimal care.

Any transparent container can be used as a terrarium. Glass and plastic are the two most common mediums. Besides bottles, commonly used items are fish bowls, fish tanks, jugs, jars, or light bulbs.

Terrarium Supplies: Open glass container, soilless media (not the stuff in the backyard, but the stuff you buy in a bag), 2-3 small succulent or tropical plants, ornamental knick-knacks or trinkets.

  1. Fill soil at least ¼ the depth of the container or as deep as the root balls of the plants you have chosen.
  2. Add either all succulents, or all tropical—do not mix and match as each have different light, temperature, and moisture needs! You might need skewers, pipe cleaners, and long-handled tweezers depending on the size of the container’s opening. When placing plants, don’t let the foliage touch the sides of the container and wipe any debris off plants with a clean paintbrush.  
  3. Water with a mister or add small amounts of water at a time with a spoon. In the beginning, the roots are small and the entire media does not need to be saturated.
  4. Add whimsy! Reflect your gift-recipients interests with fun or meaningful trinkets placed among the plants. Clean any figures, toys, glass, pebbles, or ceramic structures with an alcohol or 10% bleach solution and allow them to dry. Dried flowers or wood may also add to the story.