How to make a terrarium without swearing.

by Elizabeth on November 3, 2012 · 6 comments

in DIY, Home

Obviously, the title of this post is a joke.  Can you even name three people who have made a terrarium without swearing?

Of course you can’t, because recent studies have shown that 100 out of 10 terrariums were created from a combination of pebbles, soil, plants and profanity.  When surveyed, most terrarium builders cited cactus spikes and tiny terrarium openings as the top two reasons for working profanity into their creations.

9/10 people surveyed agreed that the use of colourful language lowered their stress and contributed to the quality of the resulting terrarium.

Are you interested in improving your home, health and your vocabulary?  Build your very own terrarium by following these simple steps.


You’re going to need some things if you’re going to make a terrarium, whether or not you choose to swear.  These things can be broken down into two categories.

Things that go inside the terrarium:

  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Spanish moss (I found mine at Spotlight)
  • Soil
  • Activated charcoal (for a closed terrarium)
  • Thesaurus (optional – advanced terrarium builders may prefer to improvise.)
  • Plants.  Duh!

Things that hold the things that go inside the terrarium:

  • Jars
  • Vases
  • Bowls
  • Actual terrariums that you bought from Urban Outfitters because shipping to Australia is free if you spend $50.  Hooray!


Put some of the things inside the terrarium.  You might want to do it this way:

  • Start with a layer of pebbles or small rocks.  A terrarium doesn’t have a drainage hole like a regular pot plant, so we’re going to trick it into thinking it does.  Frankly, plants are easily fooled so go ahead and date their best friend too – they won’t even notice.
  • If you’re making a closed terrarium you should add a layer of activated charcoal at this point.  It helps filter the air and keeps the water from becoming smelly.  Open terrariums don’t need it because they typically shower morning and night.
  • Add a layer of spanish moss.  This stops the soil from sinking down into the rocks, and at dusk it will make you a teeny tiny paella.
  • Add your soil.  Remember to give your plants plenty of leg room.


Even minimalists need to add at least one plant at this point.  Some tips:

  • Avoid planting cacti and other succulents in a closed terrarium, because the humidity will make them rot.  They’re great in an open vase or bowl.
  • Avoid planting cacti at all if you’re trying to do this thing without swearing.
  • Closed terrariums are great for ferns and tropical plants
  • Don’t worry if your plants don’t seem to be getting along.  They’ll give each other the silent treatment for a while.

Now pour your plants a drink; they’ve had a rough day.


Making a terrarium is easy, but keeping them alive can be tricky if you’re the clingy type.  Would you like it if your waiter was constantly checking up on you and refilling your glass?

Here’s how to make sure that your plants never break up with you:

  • Depending on your choice of plants, a closed terrarium may never need watering.  If you’re the nurturing type you may prefer a labrador?
  • Open terrariums vary in terms of their watering requirements, but be careful not to overdo it.  If your plant is showing signs of a drinking problem you may want to switch to a spray bottle or stage an intervention.
  • Don’t place your terrarium where it will be in direct sunlight all day or your plants will get melanomas.


Sit back and congratulate yourself on your beautiful terrarium and the glorious profanity you shared with the neighbourhood today.

* Your mileage may vary
** This post was brought to you, in part, by the maximum allowed dosage of cold & flu medication.  

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey Simpson Duke November 4, 2012 at 12:19 am

Love this!! I am going to have to make a terrarium, STAT!

(found your post through the BlogHer NaBloPoMo blogroll)

(bah! not used to commenting via Disqus and I signed in the wrong way – you can find my bloggity blog at


Victoria November 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

This was hysterical. Love your blog!


Leigh November 7, 2012 at 9:38 am

I love terrariums. Have bought books and stuff, but my issue is trying to find the plants and moss to put in them. As usual, the US has such a great range of stuff and we have nothing here.

Where did you get your plants?


Elizabeth November 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Plants were the easy part for me!

I already grow different types of succulents in pots, and I’m always cutting bits off and putting them in water to grow roots. I do the same with some other indoor plants and just grow them in jars on my windowsill. A few of my cuttings made it into these terrariums.

I also bought a couple of cacti (hence all the swearing) and that gorgeous fig that looks like a bonsai was bought too. They came from my local big garden centre.

I love the look of live moss, but have no idea where to find that.

There are only two really strange things that you need for a terrarium – activated charcoal (which you can get from a pet shop, it’s used in aquariums) and spanish moss. I didn’t use charcoal because my terrariums aren’t closed, and the spanish moss was easy to grab from Spotlight.


Julie C June 22, 2013 at 12:37 am

Hilarious! Love your humor, and your tips! Can’t wait to get started!


Jane Nagy May 29, 2017 at 5:53 am

hi–I’m confused about the spanish moss step…I just put some in my terrarium,but then read that it should have been sphagnum moss instead…and that spanish moss may rot in the closed jar….what has your experience been with this? Do I need to remove the spanish and replace with sphagnum?? Thanks!


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