We Made Tiny Terrariums Out Of Antique Jars With Memorable Results

A few years ago, my grandpa asked me if I wanted some things he was cleaning out of his storage shed. Among those treasures were two antique Ball canning jars. My plan was to display them somewhere in my kitchen with my growing collection of vintage glassware. Not long after he passed away earlier this year, I knew I wanted to do something extra special with them. To represent our shared love of plants and gardening, I decided to turn them into mini-terrariums.

This idea falls in line with my recent obsession with unusual ways to display plants. My first attempt was mounting a staghorn fern, then I made a Kokedama moss ball planter. My foray into terrariums was making a DIY lamp out of an old pickle jar, which I absolutely love. When I found some tiny ferns on the clearance rack at Lowe's, I knew it was time to make my antique canning jar terrariums. To see if this project would be as easy as I expected, I enlisted my un-crafty but willing husband to help.

Everything needed for a tiny terrarium

Since I had already made a terrarium lamp, I had all the supplies I needed. Of course, the foundation of this project were my two antique canning jars, which I washed thoroughly before gathering the rest of my supplies. I needed a few rocks to line the bottom along with sphagnum moss to provide sufficient drainage and prevent root rot. Since I already had it from previous projects, I also used horticultural charcoal to help prevent bacteria and other pathogens from growing in the enclosed space. For fun, I grabbed some leftover accessories from my previous terrarium project.

I used regular potting soil as my planting medium, and we can't forget the stars of these mini-terrariums: the ferns. Every time –- and I mean every single time –- I go to Lowe's I stop by the plant clearance rack to see if there's anything interesting. On this particular trip, I found two struggling but salvageable ferns. One is a black rabbit's foot fern, which the tag said is ideal for terrariums. The other was a fluffy ruffle fern. How cute is that name? Since I had all the basic supplies, my out-of-pocket cost was about $1.50 for my clearance plants. With all the supplies gathered, I corralled my hubby and we started our craft.

Making mini terrariums in antique jars

The process of making a terrarium is basically just creating layers in a container. The challenge is squeeze in all those layers with a living plant in an enclosed space. In this case, getting everything in a container with a small mouth was extra difficult. We started by adding five rocks to the bottom of each canning jar, and topped that with a thin layer of sphagnum moss. Since our hands wouldn't fit in the mouth of the jar, we used a wooden spoon to smooth it out. We sprinkled a few tablespoons of horticultural charcoal on top, then it was time to add the plants.

Even though they're small, getting the ferns to fit in the jars was a challenge. To get them in, we removed them from their nursery pots and shook off as much of the soil as possible. We added a thin layer of soil on top of the moss and charcoal to protect the plant's roots, and sat the fern in so it was (somewhat) centered. To secure the ferns, we filled the sides in with extra soil, packing it gently with the wooden spoon until it was level with the top of the root ball. With our plants in place, we added a few cute accessories, enough water to make sure the soil was damp, and put the lids on.

My heartwarming results

I had high hopes that this project would turn out well, and I am so happy with the results. While my grandpa wouldn't have used something so functional as canning jars for houseplants or decor, I think he would appreciate this living memorial -– and that's exactly why these terrariums are so special to me.

Since I had made a terrarium before, I wanted to see how easy it would be for someone who had never crafted something like this. My husband was a very cooperative guinea pig, and while I helped him once or twice, his terrarium turned out just as pretty as mine. This could be a fun project for the whole family by upcycling any kind of glass or clear plastic container, like turning an empty candle jar into a terrarium. You could get extra creative with kiddos by adding paint or stickers. If you want to grow succulents, just switch out the potting soil with succulent and cacti soil and leave the lid off. There are many different ways to make a homemade terrarium and it doesn't have to cost much to create beautiful living art.