Bottle gardens and terrariums have seen an exciting revival in recent years, and with good reason. These beautiful creations can make all the difference to a stylish interior and are a world away from their 1970s ancestors.


Combining small plants that enjoy similar growing conditions is key – drought-tolerant cacti combined with succulents is a good example. You can use virtually any glass vessel to plant into, although closed ones are best for moisture lovers and opens ones best for those that like it dry.

Mess-free and easy to care for, these little landscapes are calming and therapeutic to make, look perfect on a desk or coffee table and make excellent gifts.

How to plant up a terrarium

Pour gravel into a clean vessel up to 3cm high, then level it with your hands. Pour or scoop in slightly moist compost to a depth of 4cm above the gravel and use your hands to level and firm it. Use your fingers, a stick or the back of a paintbrush, create small wells in the compost for your plants. Gently squeeze the plants out of their pots and place them into the wells and gently firm the compost around them. If the plants have spines you may need to use tweezers for this step. Look at your terrarium from all angles, adding more plants if you think it needs them. Finally, spoon a mulch such as white sand or gravel over the compost. Use the tweezers to pick up and place any decorative pebbles. Water each plant by carefully dripping a dessertspoon of water around their base.

More on growing plants in terrariums:

Be inspired by our list of terrarium ideas, below.

Leafy bottle terrarium

Vintage bottle terrarium
A vintage bottle terrarium

This vintage bottle is filled with shade-tolerant house plants. Put this lush display in a bright spot, out of direct sunlight. A layer of moss helps retain moisture.

We used

  • Vintage glass bottle
  • Grit
  • House plant compost
  • Leafy house plants such as peace lily (back), caladium (left), fittonia (front)
  • Moss (from a lawn)

Succulent geometric terrarium

Geometric terrarium. Credit: Getty Images
A geometric, copper-edged terrarium (photo credit: Getty Images)

This angular display is ideal for a warm, bright windowsill. Succulent plants, such as echeverias, will thrive in the dry, open setting, and will need watering very rarely. A fine grit mulch adds a neat finishing touch.

We used

  • Copper-framed angular terrarium
  • Cactus compost
  • Succulent plants such as Echeveria agavoides 'Vashon' (front right), Crassula mucosa (back left), haworthia (centre)

Simple terrarium with air plant

Glass vase terrarium. Credit: Getty Images
An air plant in an asymmetric glass vase

The key to this display lies in its simplicity. The glass vase is filled with a layer of black gravel and the air plant (Tillandsia) has been nestled into it. Great for a slightly humid spot.

We used

  • Asymmetrical glass vase
  • Black gravel
  • Tillandsia (air plant)

Hanging terrarium

Hanging dome terrarium. Credit: Getty Images
Planted hanging glass baubles (photo credit: Getty Images)

Hanging house plant displays are an effective use of space – group the terrariums together and fill with different plants. Hang them from a shelf or hook in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.

We used

  • Hanging spheres
  • Bromeliads, succulents or cacti
  • Rustic string
  • Gravel

Sphere terrarium

Sphere terrarium
An air plant in a small spherical glass terrarium

A sphere terrarium makes a good home for an air plant, as the slightly curved sides keep in the humidity that the plant needs. A couple of cork slices and a piece of garden twine create a flotsam-and-jetsam on-the-beach feel.

We used

  • Sphere terrarium
  • Pale gravel
  • Tillandsia (air plant)
  • Cork slices
  • Garden twine

Cactus and aloe cube terrarium

Mini desert terrarium
A metal-edged cuboid glass terrarium planted with cacti

An open cube terrarium like this makes a stylish home for desert plants, such as cactus and aloes, which will be happiest in a dry location. A mulch of pale grit and chunky pebbles add interest and help to produce a landscape in miniature.

We used

  • Cube terrarium
  • Cactus compost
  • 3 x small cactus plants, aloes or Haworthia
  • Pale grit
  • Chunky pebbles

Leafy coloured bottle terrarium

Terrarium ideas - house plants in a coloured bottle
Terrarium ideas - house plants in a coloured bottle. Credit: Will Lawrence and Madeleine Taylor

This globe jar makes an attractive table centrepiece. The soft texture of the moss contrasts with the smooth stones and sets off the plants.

We used

  • 3 x plants with patterned leaves such as fittonia and Calathea picturata
  • Cushion moss
  • House plant compost
  • Gravel and pebbles
  • Round glass jar

Humidity-loving, sealed terrarium

Terrarium in a bright spot, out of the sun
Terrarium ideas - asparagus fern in a sealed bottle. Credit: Will Lawrence and Madeleine Taylor

Sealed jars are perfect for humidity-loving plants and this tall, broad, glass jar allows plenty of space for the feathery foliage of the asparagus fern. Suitable for semi-shade, this microenvironment is perfect on a bookshelf or corner table.

We used

  • Asparagus fern and fittonia
  • Cushion moss
  • House plant compost
  • Gravel and pebbles
  • Glass jar with cork lid

Shade-loving sealed terrarium

Terrarium ideas - calathea in a sealed bottle. Will and Madeleine Taylor
Terrarium ideas - calathea in a sealed bottle. Credit: Will Lawrence and Madeleine Taylor

This globe jar can be placed on a shelf or ledge, where both sides of the calathea’s green and red leaves can be viewed and enjoyed. It's perfect for a shady spot.

We used

  • Calathea picturata
  • Cushion moss
  • House plant compost
  • Light-coloured gravel and small pebbles including rough quartz
  • Globe jar with cork lid

Cactus and succulent bowl terrarium

Cacti and echeveria in an open bowl
Terrarium ideas - cacti and echeveria in an open bowl

The open structure of this terrarium is perfect for desert-loving plants such as cactus and succulents. It's perfect for a bright spot near a window, and will need very little maintenance.

We used

  • Cacti and other succulents
  • Cacti and succulent compost
  • Gravel, sand and pebbles
  • Open glass vessel or bowl

Jungle plants bottle terrarium

Terrarium ideas - calathea, fittonia and cushion moss in a sealed bottle
Terrarium ideas - calathea, fittonia and cushion moss in a sealed bottle

These jungle-like plants have lush, green leaves and will thrive in a closed terrarium such as a sealed bottle. Once sealed shut, the humidity levels maintained inside will mean you won’t need to water it.

More like this

We used

  • Calathea ‘Blue Grass’
  • Pink and white fittonias
  • Cushion moss
  • House plant compost
  • Activated charcoal
  • Gravel and small pebbles
  • A sealable glass vessel with a glass or cork lid