By Guest Contributor Meredith Walker

Terrariums seem to be getting a lot of attention these days and for good reason. These cute little planters can be a cute or classy addition to your living room or a fun project to share with kids. You can get almost everything you need to make them for cheap or free (if you forage).

Project Estimate:

  • Glass container, $1 or on hand
  • Rocks, $1 or on hand
  • Moss, scavenge outside or about $7 at the pet store (enough for a lot of terrariums)
  • Assorted decorations, on hand or homemade

Total: FREE and up

To begin with, you’ll need a small glass container. You can choose one with a lid or one without, as your terrarium can work either way. Most dollar stores carry at least some kind of cheap vase or small kitchen container that would work well for this purpose. If all else fails, you can use plastic, but glass really works better for this and it’s possible you may already have an appropriate container at home.

Next up, you’ll need to find some small rocks or pebbles to place at the bottom. I found some aquarium rocks, but pretty much anything that will allow for drainage and looks halfway decent will work, even those decorative floral marbles.

For the green part of your terrarium, the most common choice is moss. This is one thing you more than likely won’t be able to find at the dollar store (unless you have a really eclectic dollar store). You can buy moss at almost any pet store (it’s about $7 for a big bag) but if you really want to go cheap, even in the urban environment moss is in abundance in shady places. I found some samples underneath a train overpass that worked great and cost me nothing. You’ll just need a small layer of potting soil (really moss doesn’t need much) or dirt from a well cultivated part of your yard. I added more here for aesthetic sake.

Making the terrarium couldn’t be simpler. Make sure to put plenty of rocks in the bottom of your container. These will provide drainage and keep water from over saturating your moss. Many terrarium guides suggest adding charcoal, but I’ve had several terrariums do just fine without it though they were a little stinkier at first. On top of the rocks, place the soil and then a layer of your moss. To make it landscape like, you may want to create little hills and valleys. Once you’ve got it in place, press it down to make sure it’s in there good. I usually give the whole thing a little bit of water at this point so it all sinks in.

Now comes the fun part: decorating your little landscape. You can use just about anything to jazz up a terrarium. For kids, often small plastic toys can be an easy solution. I often prefer to make my own little decorations, however. If you can find some cheap modeling clay or Play-Doh-like substance, you can model little mushrooms like these. I let them sit out to dry, then painted their stems and spots when they were finished. Be creative and you may just fall in love with your miniature landscape.

This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the online associates. She welcomes your feedback at MeredithWalker1983 at gmail.com