Category Archives: Terrariums

A Dry Champagne

ChampagneA by LauraOckel

Oversized barware has become a popular item in craft stores, but what can you do with them?  Well, here’s one idea.

By combining a mini succulent plant and a collection of crystals, I’ve created an airy, colorful demonstration of patterns in nature.

Champagne1 by LauraOckel

The bottom of the glass is filled with sand for drainage, but by using colorful sand, it becomes part of the design.

Champagne3 by LauraOckel


The succulent is placed on top of the sand while still in the original pot.  The surrounding area is then filled with pebbles (I used white aquarium gravel on this one) and coarse sand.

ChampagneB by LauraOckel


Try to keep the sand in the inner circle of the terrarium.  If you put sand over the top of the pebbles, it will trickle down through the rocks and look messy.  But if the outer circle of the terrarium has only pebbles, it will look well-manicured like a botanical garden.

For a step-by-step tutorial on making a sand art terrarium, click HERE.

The crystals used in this terrarium are amethyst and quartz, picked up from a local rock and gem show.

Champagne2 by LauraOckel

Champagne4 by LauraOckel





Terrarium in a Glass – Lichen & Moss

Mossglass4   Moss1

I had a bit of leftover moss and lichen after putting my larger terraria together, so I thought I’d make something different.  I have a lot of old stemware that never gets used.  The champagne glass on the left is an antiquated style – horrible for champagne because the flat, open area allows the bubbles to dissipate too quickly.  Strangely, these glasses seem to be making a comeback this year, but mine have been wrapped in a box for the last two decades.

The wine glass on the right was my first terrarium in a glass and it’s still my favorite.  Even though the glasses are different shapes, the steps are basically the same.


The bottom of the glass is filled with sand for drainage.  I like to use multiple colors of sand.  In my earlier tutorial, Terrarium in a Glass – Cactus & Succulents, I discuss how to make the designs in the layers.


I’ve added a thin layer of potting mix above the sand.  Mosses are strange – their design is simpler than you would expect.  They don’t have roots or vessels to transport water.  Instead, they absorb water through their foliage.  When gathering moss, it is important to gather not only the foliage but also to get some of whatever the moss is growing on.  For example, if the moss is growing on a fallen log, try to collect some of the bark.

In my case, I ordered my mosses and lichens through Etsy.  Some of the specimens had wood/soil underneath.  However, the fern moss that you see below looks like endless fronds woven together in a giant fern carpet.  The only difference between the top and the bottom is that the top is greener.  The underside, and any fronds that are unraveled from the carpet, are brown instead of green, probably because they are not exposed to light.  So I don’t have any reason to believe the soil is necessary, but possibly the nutrients in the soil are being absorbed by the underside of the moss.  We shall see…

2moss 4moss

The stick has some lichen on it, and I thought it made a nice center and focus point of the garden.  I got these glass pieces as decoration, and now I am trying to arrange the stick, moss and glass rectangles in a semi-stable tableau that I can then build around with other accessories.

5moss 6moss

The variety of rock sizes is important.  Larger rocks will look like boulders, but only when there are tiny pebbles to compare them to.

7moss    8moss

I like to fill in most of the space with rocks and decorations.  This helps the garden to be more solid and stable.  I added a second type of moss along one side and decorated with black and white stones.

10moss  9moss

I finished this garden 2 weeks ago.  Each terrarium is misted daily.  I can tell you the mosses in the more enclosed terrariums are doing better than those in this garden.  Based on this, I would not recommend the open champagne or martini glass for moss, but rather a wine or brandy glass would be better.  I suspect the moisture evaporates too quickly here.

Moss2   moss3

The first moss and lichen garden still looks excellent.  This one has been done for 3 weeks.  The short, grassy moss is the easiest to keep healthy.  It was also the easiest to work with when putting the terraria together.  Every bit of plain grass moss is still a vibrant, deep green.  I’ve noticed that the water does not always evaporate completely from this garden from one day to the next, so I’m using less water in my daily misting.

Mossglass1   Mossglass3



Terrarium in a Glass – Cactus & Succulents


Using stemware as an enclosure for a terrarium has a couple of benefits.  For one thing, your plants will be closer to eye level.  This provides an unusual and interesting perspective.  Plus, it’s chic on the cheap.  I haven’t seen anyone else making these (unique), and you can find plain glasses at Goodwill for pennies (if you don’t already have extras cluttering up your cabinet).

Cactus1      Cactus2

I’ve found a nice variety of little cactus and succulents in 2″ containers available from local plant shops and garden centers.  Generally, the plants are sitting a little low in their pots when I get them.  In order to get the soil level even with the top of the pot:

– Remove the plant from the pot gently (dirt and all).

– Add a little soil to the bottom (cactus mix is better than the standard potting soil for cactus and succulents)

– Stick the plant and original dirt back into the pot.

Now, hopefully, the bottom of the plant will be at the same level as the top of the pot.

Terrariums typically have layers of sand, rock and charcoal below the soil for proper drainage.  Since cactus and succulents require long dry spells, I’m not especially concerned about water accumulation and algae the way I would be with a tropical terrarium.

In order to get a feel for the plant, I want to give my cactus a good watering before putting it into the terrarium.  This way I can find out what quantity of water is needed.  I water my cactus terrariums with an eye-dropper so I can control how much water I put where, thereby providing a healthy even moistening of the soil without over-watering.


Instead of using plain, boring sand for drainage, I like to use colored sand.  I got a basic sand art kit which has given me a good stock of primary colors, and I’ve found mixing sands works well for creating custom colors.


The secret that makes this project possible is to plant the cactus in its original pot and conceal the pot with sand, pebbles, or whatever else you want to use.  You can put a bit of gravel and/or activated charcoal between the sand and pot just to be safe, then set the pot in the center of the glass on top of the sand.

Use a spoon or funnel to add new layers of sand around the pot.  If the cactus shifts away from the center, you can press it back into place with your fingers, or hold it with a pliers if it’s too pointy to touch.

4spoon     5layer

I haven’t read up on sand art, and I’m sure there are endless design possibilities, but I really like making stalactite patterns in my sand.  I do this by poking down through the layers with a drink stir.  There are other tools you could use, but the drink stir

– bends like the curve of the glass, and

– captures a few granules of the top level colors and deposits them below when you start to pull the stir back up  (-;

I poke out some stalactites every couple of layers.


Once the sand is even with the plant, use a small amount of sand to cover the soil and give the illusion of a desert in a glass.  I like the texture of large grain sand for my top layer, not only for its look but also because it seems easier for water to pass through it.


Add pebbles or decorations.  Use a cotton swab or damp paper towel to remove sand dust from the inside of the glass.

Cactus 3

This terrarium was designed for my fiancee’s office, a modern room in sage and brick and other earthy colors, decorated with a series of urban decay photographs and, of course, Josh’s five computer monitors.

The next one was for my office.  This overly-large wine glass made a perfect container for the cactus, and the lively color palette made it stand out against my “chianti” accent wall.  Plus, dry wine – dry desert… get it?

Desert2   Desert1

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