Easy Mason Jar Terrariums

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There’s something irresistible about a terrarium, with plants tucked safely away behind glass in a little, humid world of their own. Though a traditional glass box is still fine, you can liven things up with new shapes and styles. One perfect choice for a tiny terrarium is a Mason jar.

What You Will Need:

  • Mason jar with lid, preferably quart size
  • Potting soil
  • Activated charcoal – you can find this at aquarium supply stores or large craft stores. Sometimes it is sold as terrarium charcoal.
  • Pebble gravel – you can also find this at the aquarium shop, and in a wide range of colors. Stick with uncolored if you want a natural appearance.
  • Small plants
  • Chopsticks, forks, long spoon or other utensils for planting
  • Decorations – optional
  • Spray bottle of water

Prepare Your Mason Jar Terrarium

Wash your glass jar thoroughly with soapy water, and let dry completely. Wash and dry the lid. If your jar has been used for canning and has a label, soak it to loosen the adhesive, and scrape away with a butter knife. If residue remains, a little bit of vegetable oil will remove it.

Add The Soil

  1. Your first layer will be the gravel. Fill the jar with around 1 inch of the pebbles, shaking gently for even coverage.
  2. Next, add a thin layer of activated charcoal. You don’t need much, just enough to completely cover the gravel.
  3. Finally, pour in 3 to 4 inches of potting soil.
  4. Shake very gently from side to side to settle any air pockets.
  5. Push a paper towel into the jar, and wipe around the glass to remove dust and bits of soil.

What Kind Of Plants Can You Grow In Your Terrarium?

In a small terrarium like a Mason jar, you are obviously restricted to very small plants. Still, there is a wide range to choose from, and if your plants are small enough, you can even fit in two or three. Many nurseries have a selection of plants in 2-inch pots, which is a good size for your Mason jar. If you can only find plants in 4-inch pots, choose the smallest you find, or else stick with plants that can be separated into smaller clumps.

Some attractive, easy-to-find choices include:

  • Polka dot plant – available with pink, white or red dots
  • Aluminum plant – with lovely, almost iridescent white markings on the leaves
  • Peperomia – there are hundreds of peperomia varieties, many with interestingly shaped or colored leaves.
  • Baby’s tears – delicate, tiny leaves and a mossy appearance
  • Small ferns – there are dozens of ferns available in nurseries. Choose ones with small leaves.
  • Fittonia – called nerve plant, the white striped leaves are very attractive.
  • Carnivorous plants – Venus fly trap, sundew or small pitcher plants can be found at specialty nurseries.
  • African violets – pretty flowers in purple, pink and many other colors
  • Begonias – some varieties have wildly colorful, variegated foliage, along with pretty flowers
  • Miniature ivy – look for varieties with small leaves
  • Moss – you can create an interesting terrarium just with one or two types of moss

Planting Your Mason Jar Terrarium

The hardest thing about planting a Mason jar terrarium is fitting your hand inside. If your hand is too large to squeeze into the jar without damaging the plant or your knuckles, then use a long spoon to dig a small hole in the potting soil.

Next, hold the plant gently with chopsticks or a pair of forks, and lower it into position. Try to keep your plants centered so the leaves do not touch the glass. That encourages rotting.

Use the spoon to push dirt over the plants roots, and press the soil down firmly.

Don’t get frustrated if it’s difficult to maneuver, and take your time. Make sure your plant is secure, and soil is fully covering the roots.

Adding Decorations

If you’d like, you can add a few decorations along with your plants. Some nice touches could be:

  • Marbles or smooth, colored glass
  • Small, ceramic animal figurines, especially woodland animals like a deer, fox, rabbit or squirrel
  • Small, faux mushrooms
  • A tiny little chair from a dollhouse
  • Wheelbarrow or other tiny toy gardening tools

Set your decorations in place using the chopsticks or pair of forks.

Caring For Your Mason Jar Terrarium

Once your Mason jar terrarium is planted and decorated to your liking, use a mister bottle and spray water until you see a bit running into the pebbles at the bottom of the jar. Screw on the lid, and set your terrarium where you can enjoy it. It should be in a location that receives bright, but indirect light, such as a window with eastern or southern exposure. You don’t want your Mason jar near any heat sources, in very bright light, or right on the sill of an intensely sunny window.

  • You should expect to see some condensation on the sides of the jar, but if it gets too foggy, open the jar up for a few hours to let excess moisture escape. You might go weeks without needing to water your terrarium, but remember to check it at least a couple times per week. If you see no moisture at all on the glass near the soil line, it’s time to give the plants a light misting of water. Remember that it is always easier to add more water than take away too much, so mist with a light hand.
  • If your plants start to look crowded and overgrown, you can carefully trim them with a long, skinny hair-cutting scissor. Use chopsticks to pick up any dropped trimmings, leaving them in the jar could lead to rot.

Your Mason jar terrarium is just the touch for your office, guest room, living room, or even a bathroom with a sunny window.

Last Updated: August 12, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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