DIY Terrarium

November 12th, 2010

A few weeks back when I was working with the jet-setting and uber talented Laure on a now wrapped make-over show, we made some succulent plantings to use as little green bits of awesome styled up on coffee tables or credenzas or wherever. It was super fun making them and I thought they looked fantastic.

Now, just a little while ago, I went to San Diego to hang out and shop a bit and ran into a ton of terrariums and succulent plantings in all the high-end vintage shops for hundreds and hundreds of dollars (seriously, I saw one for $350, no joke). The pricing seemed totally outrageous, but I still loved the look. How hard could it be to make a few thrifty versions to throw around the house?

Answer. Not very hard at all.

Supplies :

+ Glass Containers (I found mine at the thrift store for just a couple of bucks a pop)
+ Palm & Cactus Mix
+ Decorative Rock (I used Lava rock, because that was really the only small rock option at Home Depot for some reason)
+ Succulents and Cacti (Again, I kind of just grabbed what was at Home Depot)

I boned up on some tutorials around the web that said you can put charcoal in the bottom layer to battle any smell issues. I did not do this since I forgot. Some folks say yes, some say no – we will see how that pans out.

First, I put some of the lava rock on the bottom to act as a drainage layer.

Second, I put the Cactus and Palm soil mix in and made some little planting areas. This is not rocket science, but it is kind of dirty.

When planting remember:

+  Ruff up the roots a bit to let the plant know it’s out of its pot.
+  Plant it at the same depth it was growing in the pot.

Once the soil was ready, I planted a trio of itty-bitty plants while adding a bit of extra soil to secure them in place.

To finish it off I just added a layer of lava rock to the top.

Bam. Done.

Succulent and cacti plantings achieved! I cleaned up the glass and gave them a little water.

The thing I like about these type of succulent plantings is that they’re very low maintenance. They tend to need a bit of neglect and sun, both of which I can provide in spades.

For now they are chilling on the big bad burl in the living room. Eventually, they’ll find their forever home somewhere else in the homestead…someday…

So, to wrap up:

DIY skill level? Super Easy.

Cost? Less than $50.

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  1. Ryan on 11/12/2010:

    Those are frigging sweet. Yes I have seen those outrageously priced things around town. What stores do you visit in SD? But anyways very cool DIY. Like the cone shaped one the best. Oh and pro burl.

  2. jackie on 11/12/2010:

    Yeah they’re mad cool on the burl.

  3. Heela on 11/12/2010:

    Oh how cool! Thanks for posting this! I just realized I have a glass fish bowl of glass ornaments laying around somewhere…now I know what to do with the bowl!

    By the way, the burl is beginning to grow on me…I like a little more each time I visit this site. 🙂

  4. Stephanie on 11/12/2010:

    Those are grrreat! (tony the tiger voice)

  5. Dan on 11/12/2010:

    That’s pretty cool. Yet another thing I’ll have to keep in mind for when my fiancee and I are on our feet again. =)

  6. bianca on 11/12/2010:

    those look great lady!
    however you skipped one step. activated charcoal!
    they should be fine regardless. i love the vessels. nice score. those vessels will usually cost you a pretty penny even at wholesale prices. make sure they get plenty of sun.
    nice work! 🙂

  7. Shilo on 11/12/2010:

    Looks great!
    How did you plan the ones in the conical container? Is the opening large enough to stick your hand through?

  8. Jaime (Design Milk) on 11/12/2010:

    Cool keep us posted how well they survive — probably well in your climate. Unfortunately here in NJ they would be dead in a week.

    Activated charcoal is also a good additive as Bianca suggests above.

  9. Ashley on 11/12/2010:

    I know terrariums are all the rage across the design blog world, but they are still really cool. I am hoping to get my act together and make mine (with the guidance of my 1973 copy of ‘The Terrarium Book’), but my apartment is sorely lacking the necessary light. I think I’m screwed…I’ll just live vicariously through your terrarium successes.

  10. KeLLy Ann on 11/12/2010:

    We did small ones with my son’s class last year.
    They had a blast!

  11. Modernsauce on 11/12/2010:

    Awesome! I can kill a plant so much as look at it so terrariums seem like a great alternative so people like me with black thumbs and tiny wallets. DIYers unite!

  12. Becky on 11/12/2010:

    These are great. We’re actually thinking of making these for the office, so I’m really glad you provided a DIY version! Now if only I can find some amazing glass bowls …

  13. Karin on 11/12/2010:

    I LOVE the way the three of them look on your burl table. Leave them there (please?).

  14. Sarah on 11/12/2010:

    Where did you find the giant glass bowls?

  15. Cheryl on 11/12/2010:

    I’ve never had any problems with mine smelling. Seems like that would only happen if they get too damp…which would kill the plants anyways.

    Also, I LOVE the fingery looking plants that you found.

  16. kate on 11/12/2010:

    oh man these are rad. I need to make some when I get to LA because they seem quintessential Cali.

  17. Dan on 11/12/2010:

    I’m totally copying this at some point, I don’t even care that it’ll be the 920349874354th time. I want.

  18. AMANDA on 11/12/2010:

    I WANT the triangle bowl! I do have a stupid shallow round glass bowl. I’ll use that, but it’s not going to be as bad gl-ass as these. Exiting temper Terrarium…

  19. Coletta on 11/12/2010:

    thank you for giving my a project! i am here at my moms in boring ass missouri now and this will give me some memories of california and keep me busy since i am unemployed and bored out of my mind!

  20. Eric Oltersdorf on 11/12/2010:

    I have created a number of these types of terrariums and they look great. I do have a suggestion for a problem you’ll eventually run into. Even with the activated charcoal you’ll still have pooled water and eventually mold n green slime going up the sides of the glass. Not a great look.

    The solution is to drill drain holes in the bottom of the glass. There are drill bits specifically made for glass. Put a piece of tape over the point of entry and go slowly to not crack the glass.

  21. Fiona on 11/12/2010:

    Whooaa back up the bus there. You’re doing a tv makeover? Nice one.

  22. my little apartment on 11/12/2010:

    looks good, dude. I’ve had one w/succulents on my coffee table for a month or two and it’s getting saaaaaad. I think I need to re-pot w/cacti.

  23. Anna on 11/12/2010:

    oh ye-ah! looks real good. I feel a weekend project coming on.

  24. Justin on 11/12/2010:

    very nice! dig the arrangement + thanks for the helpful tip.

  25. Jessica on 11/12/2010:

    Amazing. Period.

  26. erin@designcrisis on 11/12/2010:

    Were you working on Hoarders? Please say you were working on Hoarders… I’m obsessed.

    And I like your terrariums very much.

  27. Tonia on 11/12/2010:

    I have a few of glass containers similar to yours & vowed that I would make some terrariums a year ago. Yours look fabulous!

  28. Megan B. on 11/12/2010:

    How very Hemet with the succulents. Love them!

  29. Ryan on 11/12/2010:

    I want to make a terrarium but then keep reading that they need lots of light. My office gets almost no light since it’s in the interior with windows to more interior. But i was looking at some succulents at the discount grocery where I buy my toothpaste and at only $3 a pot I figure I could afford a >$20 experiment.

  30. Casey on 11/12/2010:

    I literally just did one of these for my dorm room. Home Depot and Salvation Army, how I love thee.

  31. julia wheeler on 11/12/2010:

    they should be fine without the activated charcoal but you’ll probably find you need to re-do them in a year or so because you’ll get some green gooey algae growth crap in there. these look awesome though! did you go to klassik while you were down here? tell me next time you’re coming down and i’ll send you my super secret amazing thrift spot!

  32. Catherine on 11/12/2010:

    o m g. i love times a million. will be copying you pronto.

  33. Summer on 11/13/2010:

    I have about a dozen succulents and I’ve done a lot of trial-and-error. If you happen to run into problems, here’s a couple of thoughts that may help. For some reason, The Home Depot’s succulents are in peat moss which holds too much water. I pretty much have stopped buying succulents from them for that reason. The peat moss doesn’t come off the roots unless you wet it. However, succulents are susceptible to fungus through their roots (esp. with water introduction). So, you don’t want water plus root-breakage to be a combination. I’ve been told by a wise, old succulent seller near me that when you plant/transplant succulents, not to water for awhile because the roots inevitably break when planting and succumb to fungus. If you have trouble with the Depot plants, maybe try a garden center that doesn’t use peat moss for the soil mix and wait a week or two to water after planting.

  34. Sue on 11/13/2010:

    okay, more about the show…..but in the meantime, now I know what to do with my huge brandy snifter

  35. The Glossy on 11/13/2010:

    amazeballs! my burl arrives tomorrow…v. excited:)

  36. tracy on 11/13/2010:


  37. Tami on 11/13/2010:

    Burl tables + terraria = perfection

  38. DWC on 11/13/2010:

    Looks fantastic on the burl!

  39. runtymom on 11/13/2010:

    I absolutely love the color of the fireplace brick in the one photo! I have been looking to paint the hideous white brick in our old home. If you can tell me the brand paint and color I would be ecstatic. I have searched thru your past posts but did not find mention of it so forgive me if I’m an idiot and missed it. Thanks again!

  40. Karin on 11/13/2010:

    Totally agree with my darling namesake: LOVE the three of them on the burl. Please keep them there! Must dash now, am on my way to storage room to excavate old fish bowl…

  41. lovely*retro*house on 11/13/2010:

    I wonder if ikea has similar shaped bowls on the cheap…?

  42. Juli on 11/13/2010:

    Hmmm these do seem awfully easy. Thanks for the tutorial! I have plenty of plant neglect over here, but sadly zero direct sun. One day!

  43. Tamara on 11/14/2010:

    Greetings from Vancouver BC! It’s cold up here right now and originally being from SoCal, I live vicariously through your blog! I miss that desert.

    So, instead I try to remind myself and the other depressoids up here, that sun DOES exist!

    You might enjoy checking out my similar project pics below. Fun stuff.

    So here’s a shout out to those lovely little succulents. Your terrariums are awesome and so personalized. Now if I could just shove my nose in to a huge bush of creosote I’d be one happy lady.

  44. Jen on 11/14/2010:

    strong work. the room was craving some green.

  45. Sarah on 11/14/2010:

    This is amazing!

    I used to make crude messy terrariums as a kid, and I’m delighted to see the much more aesthetically pleasing grown up version.

    This is a DIY I’ll be doing for sure!

  46. Tamoto on 11/14/2010:

    Niiiiiiice. I bet with a little neglect these will do great. Maybe the lava rock will prevent water pooling, most terrariums have smaller rocks that dont allow as much evap. keep us updated, Im curious to see how the pencil plant does indoors. They look really,really good.

  47. Design Elements on 11/14/2010:

    looks great!

  48. Jen@BloggersAbode on 11/14/2010:

    Love this! On my way to Goodwill now to snatch up some glass containers. This will be a perfect b-day gift for a friend this week.

  49. jenn on 11/15/2010:

    Great diy! I’ve been thinking the same thing about the price of terrariums, but at the same time was a little freaked to try it myself. I’m definitely bookmarking this page 🙂

  50. Jojo on 11/15/2010:

    I was wondering if you know any carrier who can ship terrariums? I just started a terrarium business. It’s really doing great except that I can’t ship them. A lot of my clients are from all over the country and I can’t send my big terrariums.

  51. Jen@BloggersAbode on 11/15/2010:

    I did it! Made a few actually. Thanks again for the great idea! It was seriously an awesome Sunday being outdoors on the patio making these. xoxoxox

    See here –

  52. Elise Lowerison on 11/17/2010:

    These terrarium bowls look fabulous on your driftwood coffee table. I came across your post this afternoon while browsing interior design blogs and the topic of window treatment selection was very interesting to me. It is true that you must dress your windows appropriately to bring out their true beauty. Thank you for writing and as a special thanks to you and your readers, I would like to offer a 20% off coupon using this code upon checkout: BLG20.

  53. Michelle on 11/18/2010:

    I’ve always wanted to do one of those terraniums hopefully they will be exempt from my freakish plant killing powers. I have been known to kill succulents previously. Seriously. Nice work 🙂

  54. Catherine on 11/23/2010:

    I have been planing a terrarium project for ages – thanks for the tutorial! I feel really confident that I can DIY it now! I’ll be linking back to this page when I blog my own results.

  55. Kim & Joe San Diego on 01/04/2011:

    What up Brick Haus?!! I made a couple of these and gave them as Christmas gifts and they were universally adored. Next plan is to order a hanging glass orb and fill it with some Tillansdia. Low maintenance, cheap, and easy on the eyes…wait that sounds like a personal ad. My bad.

  56. Paul @ IC on 02/26/2011:

    These look great, very simple yet effective!

  57. michelle latanski on 03/15/2011:

    Hi, Thank you for all the valuable info. Could you please tell me how to ship one? I would like to ship some out but am afraid they’ll get messed up.
    Thank you for your time. 🙂 Michelle

  58. Florian on 03/29/2011:

    Alright. I copied you. Shamelessly. But I gather that’s what the DIY stuff is for. However – you lied. It was not easy. Or maybe I’m just dumb and clumsy as fuck. That’s probably it. First the husband got his hand all needled up while browsing for cacti. Then they didn’t have lava rock. The plants kept falling over in the glass. Then I got the plants all dirty with the cactus mix and had to brush them off delicately using a tiny paintbrush.

    It does look cute though and it replaced the stupid palm tree, which I hated AND the husband washed the windows while I was planting.

  59. Gina on 06/06/2011:

    wow, this is amazing! I will try this right away since my orchids passed away due to drowning by somebody’s overdoing hands during my absence

    greetings from Germany


  60. Alexis on 06/28/2011:

    my boy and i made a couple thanks to your supersimple directions….they look great and it was such a mellow way to spend a sunday afternoon! we used a cheapo glass container from michael’s ($6 on sale) after scouring thrift stores to no avail. we did however find a vintage white porcelain bedpan at the thrift which worked out really well too (kind of a pretty sloping shape…till you notice its a bedpan…)

  61. Heidi Gail on 03/03/2012:

    I just stumbled across this page. I love it. I think that I will replace the lava rock on the bottom with glass stones from the dollar store. I wonder how my parents-in-law will enjoy the one I’m going to make for them:)

  62. roswell ga plumber on 06/11/2013:

    I love this. Very unique and elegant for sofa and other table. Very easy to make and it gives life to the table.

  63. Ryan on 10/24/2013:

    These succulent terrariums are awesome! Great centerpieces!

  64. Frog on 11/02/2014:

    i’m turning a 20 wide tank into a ST and i’m pretty excited. i will also be using lava rocks [ i can pretty much get a 5 pound bag for free and im all about free stuff ] the lava rock look looks great here so i cant wait to see what it looks like in my own home :>

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