How to make a terrarium: Tiny indoor gardens under glass or plastic

Tiny terrariums Vintage ideas for gardens and more decor under glass

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A terrarium is a small enclosure that is used to grow and display plants, basically, a tiny indoor garden that is also beautifully decorative. 

They’re typically made of glass or transparent plastic, and can be closed or open, depending on the needs of the plants and the climate in which it is being used.

Terrariums are a popular way to grow plants indoors or in small outdoor spaces, and can be used to create miniature ecosystems that mimic the natural environment of the plants.

They can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, and if you’re looking for variety, these mini-worlds can be filled with a variety of different plants — like ferns, succulents, and air plants.

Terrariums are a fun and easy way to bring a bit of nature into your home or garden. Best of all, they’re something that can grow and blossom at any time of the year, no matter if you live on the 30th floor or in a basement. 

Here are some retro ideas for these mini-gardens, plus information on how to make a terrarium of your own!

Vintage 70s plastic egg-shaped terrarium (1974)

Start an indoor garden with this stylish 12″-high, egg-shaped Terrarium. Heavy-duty plastic. Easy-to-remove dome. Scientific air vent. Includes soil mix, bed charcoal, decorative wood chips and instructions. Plants or seeds not included.

70s plastic egg-shaped terrarium (1974)


Terrariums: Gardens under glass (1971)

A glass garden like this makes a sure-fire conversation piece to accent any room in the house. You’ll find all kinds of attractive glass containers to choose from. A terrarium is not only easy and fun to put together, it’s a snap to care for. Here’s how you go about it.

Whatever container you choose, make it shine with glass cleaner. Place about an inch of coarse sand or pea-size gravel in bottom for drainage.

Make up a light and porous soil mix with equal parts peat, perlite, and soil. Dampen the mix before spreading it over the drainage. Use small plants that won’t soon outgrow the container — and avoid crowding them.

Vintage terrarium ideas from 1971 (1)

Only seven specimens were used in this 16-inch bubble. Carefully remove most of the soil from each plant, set in place, and firm loose soil around the roots. Water each plant — just enough to settle it into place.

This terrarium [below] was made to be viewed from one side. Soil was graded low in front, high in back. After plants are in place, you can cover the soil with bark chips for a more pleasing appearance — and add a figurine for interest.

A glass dish, just large enough to cover the opening, is used to maintain uniform moisture. If container clouds with moisture, remove lid until the moisture disappears. Keep lid open a crack to let in a little air.

Months can go by without your having to add water. To avoid cooking the plants, never place a glass garden in a sunny window.

Plants used here: dwarf palm, English ivy, fern, boxwood, dracena.

Vintage terrarium ideas from 1971 (2)


Creative terrarium ideas: Fantasy in a glass (1966)

Gardens on a tiny scale make dramatic accents around your home, and will transport all who view them to other places and other times.

For example, the hyacinth planter below becomes an enchanting seaweed garden with a live goldfish swimming in the top.

Your choice of containers is almost limitless. Use small objects, toys, wood carvings, as part of the composition. Bird gravel and vermiculite make wonderful soil. Get to it.

Brandy glass is a perfect container for a “sea” garden. Cover bottom with gravel and plant tiny greens. Add stones chosen for shape and color. Buts of driftwood in bird and fish forms complete the composition.

An ordinary apothecary jar makes an attractive container for a dry garden. Several wooden fish and a tiny owl and frog are nestled on miniature greens and branches bedded in gravel.

GET MORE IDEAS: 30 creative indoor plant decorating ideas (and none of them are wreaths!)

Vintage terrariums from 1966 (1)


More glass terrarium ideas

This is for you if you love the west. Fine sand with small cacti, tiny covered wagon, and wood figures make a memorable scene in an oblong fish tank.

In a plain round fishbowl, a pair of knights guard a castle landscaped with tiny “shrubs” and flowers planted in a mixture of graven and vermiculite for realistic “grounds.”

Vintage terrariums from 1966 (2)

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40 vintage backyard ideas so fab, you'll want to re-create this relaxing sixties-style outdoor living vibe

How to make a terrarium: 1960s step-by-step for kids

By Billie Spencer – Boys Life (August 1961)

An indoor garden, called a terrarium, is a project which will help you understand the interrelation of plants, soil and moisture.

A good terrarium can also be a home for a lizard or other small reptile pets. To make the terrarium you will need a clear glass container with a lid: a fish bowl, gallon jar with wide mouth, or a rectangular aquarium.

You will need small plants such as ferns, small evergreen seedlings. ivy, moss and lichens. A trailing evergreen can be used for a “carpet” effect.

Small figurettes, a bridge and paths will make a realistic garden scene. When completed, place the terrarium in a light place, but not in direct sun.

Temperature and moisture inside are regulated if the top is kept closed. Prop up lid if glass becomes cloudy with condensed moisture and replace it when the sides are clear again.

Vintage Terrarium project how-to from Boys' Life (1961)

Creating a terrarium steps

Half-inch layer of pebbles at bottom furnish drainage. Few bits of broken charcoal added to soil keeps terraium cleaner. Clean glass with tissue.

Use spoon to dig holes for plants. Spread roots, then pack soil firmly. Don’t put In plants which are too large. Try to keep miniature effect.

How to make a terrarium, 1960s-style (1)

Small figurines add interest. Bits of dry branch help create the impression of forest scenes. A pocket mirror can be used for a lake or pond scene.

Water surface thoroughly but do not soak soil. A piece of window glass, cut to lit makes good top, or fit aluminum foil snugly over the top.

How to make a terrarium, 1960s-style (2)


Grow plants in glass houses (1959)

From Better Homes & Gardens – November 1959

Terrariums — miniature greenhouses that care for themselves — will give you fresh, lively pleasure all winter long. 

They’re easy and inexpensive to make — and can be as simple or impressive as you want.

Give them good light but no direct sunshine, then just sit back and watch them grow — slowly and luxuriantly.

Glass terrarium ideas from the 1950s (2)

Crystal bowls for plants

In a north window, show off boxwood, selaginella, and peperomia in crystal howls. A matched set like this can be stacked for a few hours to use as a table centerpiece. These wider mouthed jars need more frequent watering, but do it lightly!

Glass terrarium ideas from the 1950s (1)

This pale green jar, of unusual and interesting shape, is planted with green ivy, variegated peperomia, and tall striped dracaena.

Glass terrarium ideas from the 1950s (3)

Make a terrarium in a narrow-topped 5-gallon water bottle

Oversize water jugs, molded of clear crystal or lightly tinted glass, make handsome floor accents for a doorway or corner of a room.

Glass terrarium ideas from the 1950s (4)

Glass terrarium ideas from the 1950s (5)


Terrarium-adjacent: These retro mini greenhouses let people have gardens inside (1974)

Aladdin: The indoor sunshine machines & Folarium mini greenhouse

Ideal for displaying plants in any room, the Aladdin Folarium also gives plants a healthy indoor environment. Plants are placed on a drain pan with a water reservoir underneath that acts as a built-in humidifier for the entire chamber.

Aladdin’s Greenery Machinery combines the features of professional gardening products the indoor gardening hobbyist can appreciate.

Aladdin indoor sunshine machines

New products for indoor gardeners

Anyone with a green thumb itching for ways to make indoor gardening more adventuresome and the results more attractively visible will enthusiastically welcome a new line of horticultural products developed by Aladdin Industries, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee.

For those who have already progressed to an almost professional level of horticultural achievement, one of the new Aladdin products in the Phyto-Gro Chamber, a fully-controlled growth chamber providing 30 square feet of shelf space in only 10 square feet of floor space.

The chamber’s temperature, humidity, light and ventilation can be automatically maintained to produce the exact growing environment needed by virtually any plant.

The Phyto-Gro Chamber’s interior is tightly illuminated by grow-lights and clear plastic doors provide a full view of the plants inside.

Aladdin Folarium greenhouse for plants

For the less technically inclined indoor gardener, Aladdin has developed the Folarium, an indoor “greenhouse” that is also an attractive plant display case. The Folarium is equipped with a grow-light for maintaining plant growth, starting seedlings and reviving ailing plants. It also has a reservoir for water for maintaining proper humidity.

Closely related to the Folarium in a functional way is the new Aladdin Solar Window, a capsulated “greenhouse” that may be easily installed in any window capable of accommodating an air conditioner.

The Solar Window allows plants to take full advantage of natural sunshine the year round in a fully protected atmosphere. A sliding drawer inside the window holds the plants and allows easy servicing from inside the house. It is ideal for growing herbs and starting seedling plants of all kinds.

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One Response

  1. Goldfish the general stocking rule of thumb is 10-20 gallons for each fish. Single-tailed fish need far more room, and at least 40 gallons for the first fish and 20 for each additional fish.

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