Make Your Own Terrarium

Try a modern twist on this 1970s design classic with this simple DIY project using air plants and a small glass container

Credit: Ingrid Lodewyck

Terrariums, or miniature gardens, can be fashioned out of everything from brandy sniffers to apothecary jars

Bring back the classic 1970s terrarium with a modern minimalist twist

Over the past few years, we have seen the re-emergence of the 1970s in both fashion and home decor in the form of flared jeans, the maxi dress, chevron stripes, vinyl records and the colour orange. Now, there is a new accessory to add to the mix: the terrarium.

These small gardens under glass were first popularized in Victorian England. The trend faded and then resurfaced in the 1970s – big time. My groovy, big sister Marlene had a shoulder height terrarium parked in her bedroom during that era that resembled a space-age mushroom. The complex garden was filled with mosses, rockery and diminutive ceramic statuary.

Today’s terrariums are designed to evoke the 1970s, but with a minimalist twist. The miniature gardens can be fashioned out of everything from brandy sniffers to apothecary jars. Vancouver-based lighting company Bocci recently debuted spherical glass lights with room for succulent and cacti plantings. The plantings appear to spill out of the light itself.

My friend Ingrid came up with her own interpretation of the terrarium using air plants. She was inspired by the work of Vancouver-based accessories designer Andrea Wong.

“I love terrariums because they are low maintenance, have a retro feel that brings back the 1970s, but are modern too,” said Ingrid. “They also have an organic feel and evoke a west coast style.”

Terrarium Materials

  • 1 clear-glass fish bowl (available at pet supply stores)
  • 2 handfuls of sand or gravel
  • 3 cups of pebbles (available at dollar stores)
  • Potting soil
  • Moss, pine cones, tree bark or other natural decorations
  • 1 air plant


  1. Wash and dry a standard size, clear-glass fish bowl.
  2. Sprinkle enough sand or gravel in the bottom of the bowl for drainage and a layering effect.
  3. Then, fill the bowl one-third of the way to the top with potting soil. (A true terrarium would have a thin layer of charcoal on top of the gravel to keep the soil fresh, but Ingrid skipped this step.)
  4. Place three cups of pebbles on top of the soil.
  5. Select an air plant, also known as Tillandsia, and nestle the roots in the pebbles. Ingrid found her air plant at The Flower Factory on Main Street in Vancouver. The plants do not need soil to grow. Just soak the roots once a week in water.
  6. Place the terrarium in indirect sunlight and enjoy.