Saturday Do-It-Yourself – Terrarium

Are you looking for a last-minute homemade gift for someone that will last throughout the year?  Swaggernaut thepudu is here to help!  Here she has given detailed direction on planting your own terrarium:

Formerly known as Wardian cases, moss terrariums are pretty easy to
take care of, if they’re put together right. I’ve been making these
off and on for years, and have a few well-established ones growing in
my house.

They’re really nice for times when you want to see some outside nature
but for some reason(such as cold or work), you can’t go hiking.Since I
moved to Alsea, I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods.

You need:

stones or gravel (some like to use sand)
activated charcoal (you can get this at the aquarium store)
substrate- this should be something the moss you will use already grows on.
moss (of course)
A jar with a firmly-sealing lid or cork.
Start with the jar- you’ll need to get your stuff in it somehow. I use
a funnel made of paper, and a pair of chopsticks, and a long thin
tweezers to do this. If you’re making your first jar, get one with a
wide mouth so you can use your fingers!

Wash the jar out with only clean water- no soap. wipe the inside dry and clean.

Now add your rocks. I use beach agate collected here on the Oregon
coast- I try to put only local stuff in my jars, because I’m a dork
like that. But you can use any kind of stones or sand or gravel. Make
sure if you got them on the beach you wash them off before you jar
them- the sea salt will kill the moss. Actually it’s a good idea to
rinse the stones off no matter where you got them. Don’t use any
chalky rocks, either. Moss likes acid environments, so you want to
avoid chalky stuff, or limestone.

Put a little activated charcoal in. You want a thin layer over the
stones- not too much.

For substrate, I like to use the wood or bark or dirt the moss came
with. When I collect moss for jars, I gather it deep, so that all the
fine root hairs cling onto its natural substrate. where I live, pine
trees and douglas firs abound, and so the moss usually has a handful
of pine needle attached underneath, which is good. (pine is very

If you’re working with sphagnum, you can use pine shavings as
substrate. Usually potting soil works, just make sure you don’t get
any fertilized dirt.

You don’t want a lot of dirt. Just enough to even out the surface to a
flat state. maybe half an inch to an inch.

Now you can add your moss. Get the soil damp with DISTILLED water.
Most tap water has lime or calcium in it, which again, will slowly
kill your moss. Use distilled water, and only a tiny bit. I use a
syringe with a blunt tip to squirt water directly where I want it, but
you could use a straw, or an eyedropper. You don’t need much water.
Now put your moss in. Folding it in half, and then opening it in the
jar usually works. for very small jar openings, you can actually, with
some moss, tease it apart into more individual chunks and put those in
one at a time.

Press the moss down until it springs back up when you let go. Moss is
spongy, so don’t mash it totally flat. but you want it to be firmly
pressed into the substrate. When you shake the jar it should stay in

If you want a plain moss jar, you’re done! You can add:
hen-and-chicks, which will grow in damp shady conditions, or any other
tiny plant that was near where the moss was collected. You can usually
get away with jade plant cuttings (if they have small leaves) and even
clover. Many plants will simply die in the conditions that moss
thrives in, so be careful about your choices. Also some plants LOOK
small, but when mature will fill the jar! If you want a
maintenance-free jar (like the ones I make, which need to be opened
only about once a year) don’t use any plants which could potentially
take over, or use a massive jar that will allow enough room for all
the plants to grow.

Now, since you’re done, get some more distilled water. for every
square inch of moss in your jar, add a quarter teaspoon of water. Then
seal the jar.

To take care of these, you’ll have to keep them in partial shade. In
direct sun, the moss will get more green- so if yours begins to get
brown, give it a day of direct sun, or a few days of indirect. If you
keep it in direct sun it may dehydrate though, or even boil.

If the water condensation is heavy enough to cover ALL the glass, open
the lid and let it air out for a few hours. Don’t keep these near a
heater- moss likes cool, damp, shady places.

Maintenance is another how-to, but basically after about six-ten
months, or if any one plant begins to dominate, open the jar, let it
air out for a day. then add your original water amount again, and
prune anything that needs pruning, then re-seal it.

These are so fun to make. I live in a place where everything is
growing; the moss jars I build are small versions of the woods where I
live. If you want jars that look like the northwest, but you live
elsewhere, you can buy moss jars premade from local people- or you can
go out into your own backyard, and find moss that is local to you to
grow! In desert areas, you can make cactus jars (no water, local soil
or sand substrate). These are great to bring to the office, so you
have a little bit of the wild next to you while you’re stuck at work.

What a beautiful and thoughtful idea! Here are a few useful links I’ve gathered to help you earn Swag Bucks while building your terranium.  PetCo currently offers 3 SBs per dollar back throught Shop & Earn. Here is a link to substrates.  And you can’t go wrong at The Container Store.  Here is a beautiful glass jar I picked out which would get you 3 sBs per dollar back! You are now well on  your way!

If you would like to submit a DIY or a favorite recipe please send it (with your Swag Name and a picture, please) to  If we publish you submission you will get 500 Swag Bucks, just like thepudu did today!  Good luck!