By Robert Bridgman,

When you make a terrarium, you create an entire eco-system in which plants, water, and soil interact.

If you follow a few easy steps, your terrarium plants will grow and thrive, giving you the pleasure of a garden all year round.

This DIY terrarium post was inspired by Gardenista. Be sure to check out their website. The images were shot by John Merkl.

1. For a closed terrarium, use a clear glass container with a lid. The base can be either solid or glass. The container must be clean, so wash it in hot, soapy water before you start.

2. Fill the bottom of the container with about an inch of small stones or pebbles. These, too, need to be clean; if you use stones you collect outdoors, wash them first.

3. Add an equal amount of activated charcoal to act as a filter.

4. Add about two inches of sterile potting soil.

5. Make small holes in the soil and add your plants. Choose plants that stay small, grow slowly, and have more or less the same needs. Mosses, miniature ferns, and tiny bromeliads are good choices. Even miniature African violets with grow and bloom in a terrarium. Don’t plant them too close together because they will grow. Prune the plants with small shears if you’d like.

6. Water the soil around the plants until the top layer feels evenly moist. Be careful not to overwater. The pebbles hold excess water, but too much water will overwhelm the drainage and make the soil soggy. Soggy soil is the biggest cause of failed terrariums. Spray the leaves with a fine mist of water, but avoid misting fuzzy leaves.

7. Put the lid on and place your terrarium in a well-lit spot out of direct sunlight.

Like any garden, a terrarium needs tending. Watch it closely at first to learn how much water it needs. A small amount of condensation on the glass is good. If there’s so much moisture on the glass that you can’t see inside, open the lid for a while. If the soil dries out water gently, sometimes occasional misting is enough. The plants will grow, so you may need to prune them with small shears.

It may take a little while for you to understand how to take care of your terrarium. Once it gets going, you’ll be surprised at how much growth and change goes on inside your glass bowl.

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