You can use an assortment of ornaments to make your terrarium more attractive.

A terrarium is a cool gardening solution for small spaces and busy people, writes Stephanie Choo

TERRARIUMS are not necessarily expensive. You can just put together items that you already have in the house to create a simple one. It sparks our imagination and turns junk into something wonderful.


Living plants grown inside a clear glass or plastic bottle without a cover is an open terrarium. The height or depth of the bottle should be at least as tall as the plants, and should take into consideration drainage and substrates at the bottom, namely pebbles, charcoal, soil and sphagnum moss (optional).

Pebbles allow water to drain away from the roots. Charcoal keeps the environment clean and fresh while lightweight sterile soil mix allow roots to breathe and flourish. A layer of sphagnum moss placed between the pebbles and soil keeps the dirt from flowing down and soaks up excessive water.

Plants that thrive in low light conditions as well as those that are drought resistant will fare well in an open terrarium. Miniatures or slow growers are great choices. Water-resistant ornaments make the mini landscape more attractive.


Terrarium-making is a cool gardening solution for small spaces and busy people. It requires minimal space and maintenance besides satisfying creative urges and helps bring the beauty of the outdoors into the house.

An open terrarium is ideal for growing cacti and succulents. I planted a few types of succulents in several small bottles which I call Succulents Under The Sea.

Step 1

Conceive a design concept and visualise the layout plan first. Then select the container and plants. I used an assortment of healthy succulents from my garden.

Step 2

Clean supplies with soapy water and dry the container, pebbles, charcoal, seashells and tools.

1 glass bottle

2 plastic bottles

1 takeaway coffee tray

Pea-sized pebbles

Charcoal pieces

Sterilised potting mix

Coloured sand


1 pair of chopsticks with pointed ends

1 little spoon or spade

1 plastic funnel

1 spray bottle

1 squeeze plastic bottle with a gooseneck spout

Succulent plants

Step 3

Start by building the base — assemble layer-by-layer. Use a plastic funnel to assist the process. Pour in the pebbles and level the surface. Add charcoal and some soil (the sphagnum moss layer is optional).

Step 4

Use a chopstick to dig a little hole before settling the plants where you want them to be. Be careful not to break the foliage. Remove air pockets and level soil by shaking the bottle gently.

Step 5

Top with coloured sand, and adorn with accessories (sea-shells). Water lightly with the spray bottle. Spraying helps remove dirt on the container walls, plants and ornaments.

Place the completed terrarium near the window to allow leaves to dry before moving it to a permanent spot inside the house or in a cool covered porch with indirect sunlight. Water plants once or twice a week using the squeeze plastic bottle. Replace wilting or unsuitable succulents.


Closed terrariums require less maintenance. Unlike an open terrarium, a closed one has a lid that seals the container tightly. The plants growing inside such a terrarium rarely need to be watered due to moisture trapped inside. Plants that love high humidity and shade are great choices. Never grow arid environment plants like cacti and succulents in a closed terrarium.

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