Wintry Terrarium Ideas: How To Make A Mini Holiday Terrarium

A Mini Holiday Terrarium With Christmas Decor And Lights
(Image credit: Olga Malinina)

When the holiday season rolls around, and you are looking for unique gift ideas, take inspiration from nature. A winter scene terrarium or Christmas terrarium ornaments with live plants make pleasing, long-lasting gifts, especially if a gardener is on your list. 

A Christmas-themed terrarium can include mini houses, trees, colorful ornaments, deer, and artificial snow. Ideal plants include miniature tropical plants, ferns, and other woodland plants. 

It’s easier than ever to create a mini ecosystem, as a layer of rocks along the bottom are no longer needed or recommended. All you need are a glass container, potting soil and/or sand, and plants!

Here are more Christmas terrarium ideas and how to build them.

DIY Gift for Gardeners - Making A Christmas Terrarium with Live Plants

Creating a Christmas themed terrarium is easy with a few materials:

  • A DIY terrarium gift starts with a glass container. These can be as simple or ornate as you like. The trend today is to use an open glass vessel, but if you create a closed container, be sure to open it once a month to let fresh air inside. For the Christmas terrarium ornaments, look for hanging glass terrarium orbs.
  • Commercial houseplant potting soil and/or decorative sand (such as black) will serve as the base to hold the plants. 
  • Horticultural charcoal is optional for the ornament terrarium.
  • Plants that grow well in a terrarium include arrowhead, Chinese evergreen, English ivy, strawberry begonia, ferns, club moss, peperomia, nerve plants, air plants (don’t need soil), polka dot plants, and other petite, slow-growing plants. You may need to pinch back the faster-growing plants. For a closed aquarium, ferns and miniature orchids are ideal.
  • Decorative rocks, Christmas ornaments, miniature houses, Christmas minis, flameless tealights, artificial snowflakes, etc. 

Wintry Terrarium Ideas: How to Make a Mini Holiday Terrarium

Once your materials are gathered, follow these instructions:

  1. Place enough potting soil in the bottom of the container to cover the rootballs of the plants or about ¼ of the container. Add a layer of decorative sand. 
  2. For a mini terrarium or one just for the holidays, skip the soil and just fill with decorative sand. 
  3. For the hanging ornaments, start with a few spoons of horticultural charcoal, then soil, then a layer of sand. If you aren’t keeping them past the holidays, just use sand. 
  4. Arrange the plants in the terrarium, then carefully plant them in the soil/sand. 
  5. Add decorative rocks, pebbles, Christmas trinkets as desired. If you have a hollow house, a flameless tealight can be added for a nighttime glow. 
  6. Mist plants or water with a few spoonfuls. Do not saturate the whole terrarium. Water when the plants and soil are dry. 

Your DIY terrarium gift is finished and sure to please!

Susan Albert

After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.