The Christmas terrarium trend is a must-try for plant lovers – we reveal the secrets for creating one at home

Try designing a Christmas terrarium – it's the new must-have holiday decoration and is so easy to do

christmas terrarium table decoration
(Image credit: Dobbies)

Christmas terrariums are top of our list when it comes to holiday trends to try this year. Although generally associated only with things that are green and growing, a glass terrarium is the perfect medium for some festive adornment too.

One of the main reasons why Christmas terrariums have become so popular is their versatility: they can be decorated however you like, either to complement your existing holiday theme or by opting for something completely different. You can opt for plants or stems of greenery, can leave them just as they are and simply add some glow with a strand of mini lights. Or you can go for the more is more approach and cram in as many Christmas baubles and ornaments as possible.

We've rounded up everything you need to know about this must-try trend, including how to make your own Nordic-inspired Christmas terrarium to sit alongside your Christmas plants for a truly festive display this year. 

Christmas terrarium with plants and lights

A simple strand of lights transforms a terrarium into a stunning Christmas centerpiece

(Image credit: The Urban Botanist)

Terrariums are a high-impact low-effort centerpiece in your home and there's no better time to show one off than Christmas. If you want something a little different for your tablescaping than the traditional poinsettia centerpiece, it's a great way to create a stunning seasonal display. They're also perfect for city dwellers who might be short on space and want to max up their balcony Christmas decor.

'The Christmas terrarium trend is a combination of the desire to bring greenery into the home in a stylish way with something that is easy to maintain,' says Freddie Blackett, CEO and founder of Patch Plants. 'It’s easy to decorate or personalize a terrarium with holiday extras such as lights, mini figures or festive scenes. You can think of them almost as a living snow globe.'

When you're making your own Christmas terrarium, pair plants that enjoy humidity and thrive in similar conditions. They're very self-sufficient, so terrariums are a great example of indoor plants that you can leave to get on with it while you enjoy the holiday season without having to worry about watering.

christmas terrarium with mini christmas tree

Sometimes all it takes is just one or two simple decorations like a mini Christmas tree and some decorative silver stones to reflect the candlelight

(Image credit: Dobbies)

How should you decorate a Christmas terrarium?

One of the main reasons why Christmas terrariums are so popular is their versatility: they can be decorated however you like, either to complement your existing festive theme or something completely different. Of course, you could even leave them just as they are and simply add a strand of mini lights to make them part of your Christmas window lighting display, for example. Or you could go to town and cram in as much festive stuff as possible.

'There’s no material more ideal for creating a faux snow effect than resin,' says Rae Davidson of Terrarium Tribe. 'You can literally add fake snow to the resin to give a textured snowflake look, or drop white dye in to make a smoother surface. Or, if you’re feeling extra extra, add some holographic glitter or snowflake sequins.'

How about experimenting with an ice rink scene or adding in some cute little snowmen too? When it comes to ornaments you could use anything from Lego toys to Christmas decorations you already have. Just make sure they’re waterproof.

We also love Rae's idea of making mini ornaments from polymer clay (available from Amazon). 'This is a malleable clay that you can use to create whatever festive accessories you want, which will harden once baked in the oven at a low temperature. It comes in tonnes of colors and effects including metallic and glittery.' So if you love doing things yourself or don’t have the budget for expensive miniatures, try making them from scratch.

christmas terrarium with succulents

We love this kitsch reindeer ornament. Try making your own with modelling clay

(Image credit: Olga Malinina/Getty Images)

Choosing a container for your Christmas terrarium

Interesting glassware is the ultimate way to elevate Christmas-themed terrariums. You can buy Christmas-tree shaped glass containers, as well as hanging bauble-shaped ones. If you go down this route it's best to go minimal with your decorations and let the container take center stage.

'When it comes to creating your Christmas terrarium there are two different types, open and closed, to choose from,' says Claire Bishop, senior houseplant buyer at Dobbies. 'Terrariums should be made from clear glass to ensure light can pass through and support your plants.' 

If you want to keep down the cost of your DIY Christmas decorations, Claire suggests creating open terrariums with glassware you already have in your home, such as hurricane vases, glass Mason jars or wide-necked bottles.

geometric terrarium with christmas lights

Geometric metal designs always look cool when enhanced by sparkly Christmas lights

(Image credit: Crafty Miskella/Etsy)

How to make a Christmas terrarium in 5 quick steps

Inspired by natural surroundings, this twinkling creation by plant experts Dobbies can be made at home with foraged materials and Christmas tree trimmings, and is the perfect way to bring nature into your home this festive season. 

What you will need:

  • Terrarium or glass container/hurricane vase
  • Terrarium compost mix
  • Moss
  • Mossy branches
  • Selection of terrarium plants or foliage such as eucalyptus (optional)
  • Strand of Christmas lights
  • Decorative items of your choice, such as pine cones, Christmas tree trimmings, and other small accessories

set of christmas terrariums with natural decorations

This terrarium arrangement rocks a cool Nordic aesthetic

(Image credit: Dobbies)
  1. Start by lining your terrarium or glass vase with peat-free compost and moss. Make sure you have a distinctive line between the two to help create a more interesting layered look.
  2. Next add your pine cones and moss branches to the arrangement to create depth within your terrarium. Adding foliage such as dried eucalyptus leaves will give you an extra element of color for an eye-catching display.
  3. To take full advantage of your real Christmas tree, take small trimmings and place them inside your terrarium or vase. You can also tailor your terrarium to your own style and add small decorative elements such as dainty decorative trees to create a mini woodland.
  4. The finishing touch is to add in some lights for a touch of Christmas magic that will brighten up any space.
  5. Place your terrarium out of direct sunlight to ensure the moss doesn’t dry out. If you add lights, your terrarium will make the perfect addition to any shady shelf or dark corner to bring some festive sparkle.

Can you use natural decorations in a Christmas terrarium?

Your Christmas terrarium will probably already contain a selection of plants and moss so if you prefer a more natural look rather than using bold Christmas ornaments go for a woodland theme. 

Try adding pine cone Christmas craft ideas to the mix for a more eco-friendly decoration. You can also try using lichen-covered twigs and small sprays of berries for a festive touch. This idea will work well combined with other easy twig decorations as part of a natural display in your home decor.

Christmas terrarium with lights

A naturally planted terrarium can be lit up for Christmas with soft glow string lights 

(Image credit: Inner Vision/Getty Images)

How do you make a bonsai Christmas tree terrarium?

The experts at Terrarium Tribe also suggest trying your hand at a bonsai tree terrarium build, and dressing it up with Christmas decorations like an actual Christmas tree. 'This idea's a little out there, but looks brilliant,' says Rae Davidson. 'Granted, this is more of a botanical commitment (a bonsai terrarium isn’t just for Christmas), but it’s worth the extra effort and investment.' 

When it comes to bonsai terrarium that are sold professionally, they are overwhelmingly made using Ficus species. 'That’s a great vouch for their suitability,' says Dan Jones, Terrarium Tribe founder. 'Liking lots of humidity, light and water, they’re a great fit for closed terrarium life. Not to mention the fact that they’re super small (as far as trees go) and very affordable (as far as bonsai trees go).'

All of that makes them very forgiving as a starter terrarium bonsai tree that can be dressed up for the holidays as part of your DIY Christmas tree ideas.

Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.