terrarium diy terrarium diy
Photo: Beatrice Helman

Expert Advice on How To Make Your Own Terrarium

Rather than snacks or crudités, the presentation table at Soho House featured a spread of props like gloves (to protect from cacti stings and dirt), spoons (for precise measurements of sand and charcoal), and also straws and chopsticks (for techniques that only the pros can teach you). Earlier this May, Putnam & Putnam‘s Mikey and Darroch Putnam– two of the best terrarium teachers one could hope for– gave GC and a crowd of others a step-by-step tutorial on how to create our very own succulent terrariums. Here’s how to create yours.

Photo: Beatrice Helman

What You Need

  • 1 glass terrarium
  • 2 cups of charcoal (enough to create a layer)
  • 2 cups of soil (enough to create a layer)
  • 3-4 succulents or cacti
  • 1 cup of sand (enough to create a layer)
  • 1 cup of pebbles (enough to decorate the sand surface)
  • 4-5 crystals (optional)


  • Pair of sturdy gardening gloves
  • Chopsticks
  • Straws
  • Tiny buckets or shovels to measure soil and sand
  • Photo: Beatrice Helman


Putnam & Putnam recommend layering charcoal beneath the soil as the first layer in the terrarium, which helps absorb excess water that may drain to the bottom of the tiny ecosystem. Add a generous layer of soil on top of this, and arrange your plants to suit your taste (just make sure you have a thick enough layer– soil is the crucial element for plant survival).

- Advertisements -

The sand that comes next is optional, but it seals up the composition in an aesthetically-pleasing manner (this is what separates the novices from the pros). Pebbles and crystals can be added as decorative finishes around whatever varieties of succulents and cacti you chose to arrange.

The Putnam dream team had an eye for detail when inspecting and building terrariums with us individually. Each terrarium at the event turned out differently and represented a little bit of everyone’s character. There were clean and precise versions: the perfectionists, with their artistically-muddled plant combinations, and the expressionists, who turned their terrariums into petite, meditative sanctuaries.

Of course, it can be difficult to work within the glass confines of the terrarium, and one fascinating tip I learned from the Putnams was to save your take-out chopsticks for use in adjusting the succulents– you can grab and drag the succulents back into place if you nudge one of them by mistake. In general, succulents are very forgiving, so you don’t need to water a terrarium that often (wait for the soil to completely dry out before watering again, and never saturate the soil).

The gallery below shows my two new and beloved terrariums, but I also applaud Patrick Janelle and Hello Mr. for their minimalist designs, which you’ll definitely want to check out on Instagram.

- Advertisements -
Related Articles