As you may remember, some friends and I decided to make this year a Handmade Christmas. What gifts I gave were either thrifted or handmade. While browsing my local craft store for Halloween decorations in September I found a bin filled with these empty plastic ornaments and immediately I knew I’d be turning them into terrariums come December.
If you’ve never made a terrarium before I have a beginner’s tutorial as well as an assortment of terrarium inspiration and information. Terrarium ornaments are simple to make and it was fun to give my friends the gift of something green and growing during the cold winter months. The medium-sized ornaments were a $1.50 at my local craft store, which meant that even I could afford a bunch to give as presents.
- garden soil, preferably damp, hold the gravel
- plastic ornaments from a craft store, medium-sized
- paint brush or chopstick
- weeds, moss, or other small plants
- a funnel (or a piece of paper cut to size and rolled to make a funnel)
- a small shovel
If making tags like mine you’ll also need:
- decorative paper
- glue or rubber cement
1. Take your soil and mix in drops of water (or use a spray bottle) until you have damp–but not soggy–soil. Soil with good drainage works well, so look for the kind that has bits of Styrofoam mixed in or that is specially made for succulents and cactus. Valley soil is perfect because it’s so sandy, but you probably don’t live near me, so look into your local soil first to see if you can use it straight from the ground like I did.
2. Remove the wire topping of your ornament and fill the it a third of the way full of soil using your trowel and funnel. Make sure any rocks or gravel pieces aren’t going in. While they are useful for drainage they also add weight, which we don’t want.
3. Gently pluck some weeds from the ground (or from the fancy container you purchased your plants in) leaving the roots intact. Gently use your tweezers and the stick end of your paintbrush or chopstick to poke your plant through the hole and arrange so the root side is in the dirt. This is the trickiest part, but also why weeds are a good choice: they are used to growing in challenging circumstances and bouncing back even after they’ve been shoved in a jar.
4. Add a few (very few) more drops of water, replace the top, and there you have it–and awesome handmade terrarium ornament that took you all of fifteen minutes to make.
Let’s say you are giving these as a present and want to make a gift tag like I did. No problem, it’s easy! I used the tags that were already attached to the ornaments because they were simple and sturdy.
1. Leaving the tag on the ornament, trace its shape onto a decorative piece of paper using a very sharp pencil. Include a mark for the center hole.
2. Cut out and use that tracing to make two tags for each ornament you are making. Cut them out.
3. In each tag, cut a slit and a hole for the plastic ring to go through. This is difficult for me to explain, so if you need a visual, click here.
4. Glue the decorative paper to each side of the tag. I used rubber cement and then set a book on top of each tag to prevent warping.
5. Finally, add the person’s name or a holiday message with a pen. A really good idea would be to include simple care instructions on one side of the tag as terrarium maintenance isn’t exactly a common skill. I did not do this because I only just thought of it, but I wish I would have.
I tried making these with both the larger ornaments and the medium-sized ones and it turns out that the medium-sized ones are far better. I wanted the large ones to work because they could hold more plants and maybe even some plastic toys, but the thin wire ornament tops wouldn’t support all that weight and the whole thing kept falling apart. Not a good sign. The medium size worked perfectly.
You can decorate these with plastic toys as long as they are small, lightweight, and will fit through the opening. You can adjust them with your tweezers and paintbrush once they are in. Ribbon would be a lovely way to accentuate and hang these ornaments, too, if you don’t like the look of the plastic ring or the tag. The fact that these ornaments are so simple is what lends them great potential and versatility.
This project was extra thrifty since I had all the materials on hand except the ornaments and it was really fun to do.