Miniature gardens housed in their own containers, terrariums are a bit like living snow globes (just don’t shake them). From the Terrorium Shop in Denver’s Regis neighborhood, owner Amber Hage-Ali walks us through her creative process.

1. Decide if you’d like to use a succulent or a leafy houseplant, then choose your vessel. “A succulent terrarium needs an opening so humidity can escape,” Hage-Ali says. Leafy plants can handle an enclosed container, like a mason jar with a lid.

2. Create a drainage layer by lining the bottom of the vessel with sand, then pebbles, then activated charcoal. It doesn’t need to be more than an inch thick, but don’t skip this step—otherwise, water will pool in the soil, causing root rot.

3. Add a layer of moss to separate the soil and the drainage layer.

4. Use potting soil for leafy plants; add some sand if the terrarium will hold a succulent. Pour into the vessel until it’s about a third of the way full.

5. Choose which leafy friends you’d like to plant (Hage-Ali likes peperomia and baby’s tears), ensuring they don’t touch the edges of the container or stick out the top.

6. Dig a hole in the soil. Gently place the plant into the hole and fill around the roots with soil. Add moss or other decorations.

7. If you’re making a closed terrarium, Hage-Ali recommends introducing isopods, small bugs she sells in her shop that crawl through the soil and eat any mold. Skip this step if your terrarium is open.


Hage-Ali teaches terrarium-building classes in her shop and stocks all the materials you need. If you want to be even more hands-off (we get it, not everyone finds the isopods charming), purchase one of the shop’s namesake “terroriums” made by Hage-Ali, who incorporates taxidermized skulls and other specimens. From $65

Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.