"Multiple studies throughout the the world have found that one of the most economical and effective ways to improve indoor air pollution is to keep a few indoor plants," says Christine Liu.


"Furnishing your home with plants boasts many health benefits because the plants act as natural filters.

"Terrariums are beautiful, low-maintenance focal points for a living space, and they also make wonderful gifts.

"They are completely closed-loop systems which are entirely self-sustaining. Soil, plants, and a bit of water are all enclosed within a glass container, and with a little natural light, a greenhouse effect is created. This helps trap heat and moisture, allowing the plants to grow."

Gouache flowers


  • 1 large glass container or jar with lid
  • Decent amount of small pebbles and activated charcoal – enough to fill the bottom of your glass container up to 2.5 cm (1 inch)
  • Potting soil appropriate for your plants – enough to fill the glass container at least halfway
  • 2–3 plants of your choice
  • Spray bottle with water


Terrarium project by Christine Liu

Pick your plants

First determine what type of terrarium plants you would like to have. Succulents and cacti, which need less water, should be put in a glass container with an open top. Plants that like humidity, such as ferns, mosses, strawberry begonias and calathea are suitable for a closed container. Be sure to buy small specimens.

Christine Liu's terrarium step 2

Fill your glass container

Take your glass container and fill it 2.5 cm (1 inch) high with small pebbles and activated charcoal. This will help drain excess water and discourage mould growth.

The glass container I’ve used is an upcycled water jug with a small cork in the spout at the bottom to act as a plug. Reuse or repurpose your container if possible!

Christine Liu's terrarium step 3

Get potting

Place the potting soil on top of the pebbles and charcoal, and fill the terrarium container at least half way.

Dig small grooves into the soil and carefully position the terrarium plants, ensuring that the roots are covered. Pat the soil down, and spray with a bit of water if it is dry.

Place the lid on top of your terrarium (if applicable for your plant species). A repurposed wooden trivet can be placed over the opening of the container as a lid option, as shown.

Christine Liu's terrarium step 4

How to care for your terrarium

To take care of the terrarium, place it in indirect light, unless it contains succulents and cacti. You should notice that in the presence of light, the sides of the container will appear foggy and small water droplets will begin to form on the inside (the greenhouse effect).

If you begin to notice mould, simply keep the lid open for a period of time to air out the system. If there is little to no fog or water droplets, spray with a little more water.


Extract from Sustainable Home by Christine Liu, published by White Lion Publishing. Photographs by Christine Liu.