How to make a closed desert terrarium

You love plants but don't have a green thumb? You want to have something exotic and unusual in your home? Then a desert terrarium in a glass is just what you need! A desert terrarium is an enclosed terrarium that mimics the dry and hot conditions of a desert landscape. With a few simple materials and steps, you can make your own desert terrarium in a jar and enjoy your little ecosystem. In this article, you'll learn how to do it and what to look out for.

What you need for your glass desert terrarium

To build a desert terrarium in a jar, you will need the following materials:

  • A glass jar with a tight lid. The jar should be large enough to accommodate your plants and animals. For example, you can use a canning jar, a vase or a carafe.
  • A false bottom made of gravel and activated carbon. The false bottom is used to absorb and filter excess water so that your terrarium does not mold or rot.
  • A cactus or succulent soil. This soil is especially suitable for plants that require little water and grow well in dry conditions.
  • Some desert plants. For example, you can use cacti, succulents, aloes, agaves or air plants.
  • Some decorations like stones, sand, shells or driftwood. With these you can customize your terrarium and create a realistic desert landscape.
A closed desert terrarium under a glass bell jar
A closed desert terrarium under a glass bell jar

How to assemble your desert terrarium in the jar

After you get all the materials, you can start building your desert terrarium in a jar. Just follow these steps:

  1. Fill the gravel and activated carbon as the first layer in your glass vessel. The layer should be about 2 to 3 cm high.
  2. Place a fly screen or piece of cloth over the false soil. This will prevent the soil from sliding into the wrong soil.
  3. Fill the cactus or succulent soil as a second layer in your glass jar. The layer should be about 5 to 10 cm high.
  4. Carefully plant your desert plants in the soil. Make sure they have enough space and are not too close together.
  5. Decorate your terrarium with the stones, sand, shells or driftwood. Let your creativity run wild!
  6. Water your terrarium sparingly and rarely with a little water. You can use a spray bottle for example.
  7. Close your terrarium with the lid and place it in a light and airy place.
A desert terrarium with succulents and cacti in a home

How to take care of your desert terrarium in glass

Your desert terrarium in a jar is now finished and ready for you to enjoy. To keep it beautiful and healthy for a long time, you should follow these tips:

  • Water your terrarium very sparingly and rarely with some water. Desert plants are adapted to drought and can rot if they get too much water. You should only water your terrarium when the soil is completely dry. This can be every few weeks or months depending on the season and location.
  • Place your terrarium in a bright and airy location. Desert plants and animals need plenty of light and warmth to grow and thrive. You should not place your terrarium directly in the sun, however, as it can get too hot. A windowsill or shelf near a window is ideal.
  • Air your terrarium from time to time. Although your terrarium is a closed system, it may sometimes be necessary to ventilate it a bit to regulate humidity or prevent mold growth. However, you should not open your terrarium too often or for too long, or it may lose its balance.
  • Monitor your terrarium regularly. Your terrarium is a living ecosystem that is constantly changing and evolving. You should monitor your terrarium regularly to see how it is doing and if there are any problems. For example, if you notice that a plant or animal is sick or dead, you should carefully remove it.


A desert terrarium in a jar is a great way to bring some life and color into your home or office. It's also an exciting and educational project that can show you a lot about the diversity and beauty of desert life. With a few simple materials and steps, you can make your own jar desert terrarium and enjoy it for a long time. Try it out and be surprised!

If you want to learn more about perpetual terrariums, also check out these articles:

I hope you enjoyed and found this article helpful! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to write me a comment or an email. I look forward to your feedback!

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