The plant world is full of some really creative people, who not only care for a large amount of plants, but also create some amazing ways to display them—like terrariums. We love the idea of a microclimate for your plants inside of beautiful glass jars. They can be small and easy to create, or massive, with layers of beautiful plant life that can take a lot of time and effort.
Here are some of the most epic terrariums we found on Instagram—along with the creators who talked about their work.
From Bonsai Trees to Terrariums
Creator: Jesse Goldfarb, @teenytinyterra, from Toronto
“I started making terrariums in 2014. My wife had bonsai trees when I met her and they had grown wild! I trained them to look like bonsai again and then got bored of watching them grow and not having anything to do.
"I was given a book about terrariums and decided to try one. The next day I made two and then it just kept growing. A coworker saw me post about one and asked if I’d make her one. I said sure... I now run a side hustle running workshops showing corporations and their staff how to make terrariums.”
Goldfarb's terrariums are really cool and very detailed. They range in sizes and are filled with tons of different types of plants and some fun miniatures.
Goldfarb's 3 Tips for Creating a Terrarium
- Ask for help to get the right plants: Visit your local nursery and let them know your plan. They will ensure you only get plants that work well together. You don't want to mix plants that have different lighting and watering requirements. Cactus and tropical plants have specific conditions that they both need to survive and thrive.
- Size of plants: The best thing to do is look for plants that will stay small. “Some plants may be cute when you get them but they are just babies and will turn into monsters and overcrowd your terrarium. Plants will need space to grow in your terrarium so leave some room for them to stretch out and flourish.”
- Get the right tools: And if you’re looking to set up your terrarium toolkit, you’ll need: long tweezers “for adding plants into a vessel with a small opening,” metal chopsticks for moving things around, and a good crafting mat for your workspace.
Creators' Paradise at California Nursery
Creator: Anna and Serena from The Atrium at Orchard Nursery in Lafayette, CA
“There’s something very magical about being able to create a tiny world, encapsulated in any glass jar you can find.
"Before working at Orchard, making a terrarium felt inconceivable—all the layers, all the design that goes into such a small space. It is especially fun to make terrariums at work, because there is an inconceivable amount of supplies at your disposal—we get to choose from any plant we have in the store, root through our stash of colored mosses, crystals, pebbles, and my favorite, the box of seashells and pinecones. Making a terrarium feels like an achievement at Orchard: you have to demonstrate knowledge in the plants we sell, and prove to have an eye for design and detail,” they said.
Anna and Serena's 6 Tips for Creating Your Own
- Plants they often include: African Violets, Button Ferns, and Hypoestes.
- Watering frequency: For most terrariums, we recommend watering once a week or when the soil looks or feels dry at the top. Feel free to mist them every few days.
- Light: Make sure that it gets bright indirect light—direct sun will fry your plants, and too little light will cause slow decline.
- Opening a closed terrarium: You do want to remove the top to let the gas exchange for a few minutes a couple times a week.
- Swapping plants: Once your plants start getting bigger, you will have to prune or replace them.”
- Make activated charcoal your friend: Spread at least one inch of activated charcoal at the bottom of your terrarium container. This helps drainage and prevents mold, they said.
Creator: Ben Newell, @worcesterterrariums, of Worcester, England
Newell first started creating his terrariums about five years ago but really dove into them in the last two years. Like Goldfarb, he started with bonsai. “I became interested in bonsai through a book by Peter Chan. I have a tendency to obsessively study topics I’m interested in and I found bonsai to be truly fascinating. I spent a few days with Peter at Herons Bonsai Nursery in London in 2017 which was a great experience and one I learned a lot from. While terrariums and bonsai aren’t immediately linked I became hooked on these unusual horticultural niches and it was only a matter of time until I discovered the terrarium,” he said.
"I remember seeing photos of terrariums online and thinking that they looked incredible but there seemed to be a lack of good quality information available. My early attempts at building terrariums were disappointing as many of them failed but I persisted and eventually started to see improvements, which encouraged me to experiment even more.”
One of his terrariums that really stuck out to me was his fallen log. He used a large piece of driftwood and several plant cuttings to create this epic piece. Some of the plants inside are mood moss, lance fig, sword fern, and string of turtles. “I favour using cuttings when I build terrariums, and bar the ferns, I did exactly that here. I do this because the cuttings take a while to establish a root system and stay small while they do so; that means less maintenance in the short term. I find that plants stay healthier when they root directly into the substrate within the terrarium.”
Newell's Tips for Creating Your Own
- His preferred tools: Long-handled scissors and tweezers (which you can find in aquarium stores), regular sized scissors, a few chopsticks of varying lengths, a spray bottle, a large funnel and a microfibre cloth. You’ll also need a clear glass container with a lid,
- Soil selection: Get a good quality soil substrate. Newell uses “a mixture of coir, vermicast (worm droppings), sphagnum moss and lava rock."
- Drainage layer: Leca balls or lava rocks and “a piece of mesh to sit between the soil and drainage layer. This stops the soil from falling into the drainage layer," he said.