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How to Create a Natural-Looking Terrarium with Hardscape Materials
How to Create a Natural-Looking Terrarium with Hardscape Materials

How to Create a Natural-Looking Terrarium with Hardscape Materials

Creating a terrarium isn’t easy – and requires planning, preparation and research to get it right.

This article aims to guide you on how to create a natural-looking terrarium using hardscape materials. These materials, commonly used in landscaping, add dimension, aesthetic appeal, and serve multiple roles in maintaining the terrarium’s ecosystem.

Hardscaping in a terrarium context refers to the arrangement of non-living elements such as stones, pebbles, driftwood, or even artificial structures. 

They not only provide structure to your terrarium but also offer hiding and climbing spots for creatures (if you’re creating a bioactive terrarium). 

driftwood hardscape in a terrarium

Popular Hardscape Materials to use in a Terrarium

Creating a natural-looking terrarium requires choosing the right hardscape materials. Here are five popular choices:

River Rocks

river rocks in terrarium

These are smooth, round stones often used in terrariums for their natural look and array of earthy colors. Their sizes range from tiny pebbles to larger stones. They’re versatile and can be used in any type of terrarium, but are especially suited to aquatic or riparian environments.

Lava Rocks

lava rock in terrarium

Lava rocks are lightweight and porous, which can be beneficial for aeration and water drainage in the terrarium. They come in a range of sizes, from small pebbles to larger pieces. Their rustic, rugged appearance makes them ideal for desert or mountainous landscapes.


driftwood terrarium

Driftwood can provide a striking, natural structure in a terrarium. Its twisted and weathered appearance creates a stunning contrast with soft foliage. It comes in all sizes, from small pieces to large branches. Driftwood is best suited for woodland or tropical terrariums.

Cork Bark

many pieces of cork bark

Cork bark is lightweight, natural, and perfect for creating a forest-like setting in your terrarium. It can be used as a backdrop or can be broken into smaller pieces to mimic fallen logs. It’s perfect for any terrarium but is particularly effective in tropical and woodland terrariums.

Slate Pieces

pieces of slate ready for terrarium

Slate is a type of fine-grained rock that can be split into thin, flat pieces, making it perfect for creating terrarium landscapes. It’s available in a variety of sizes and earth-toned colors. Its layered look fits well in any terrarium but is particularly beautiful in aquatic or mountainous terrariums.

Each of these materials has its unique qualities and uses, making them popular choices among terrarium enthusiasts. 

Steps to Creating a Natural-Looking Terrarium with Hardscape Materials

Creating a terrarium requires a certain degree of planning and creativity. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

Choose Your Terrarium Container: Depending on your aesthetic preference and the plants’ needs, choose a glass container that allows adequate light penetration.

Plan Your Hardscape: Sketch a plan of how you want your terrarium to look. The plan should consider the placement of hardscape materials and plants.

Layer Your Substrate: Start with a layer of pebbles or gravel for a drainage layer, followed by activated charcoal to keep the terrarium fresh, and then a layer of potting substrate mix.

Arrange the Hardscape: Based on your plan, arrange the hardscape materials such as rocks and driftwood. Remember to place larger items first.

Plant Your Terrarium: Add plants, ensuring they have enough room to grow. Choose plants with similar light and moisture needs.

Maintain the Terrarium: Regularly check for adequate light and moisture. Trim plants if necessary, and remove any dead or dying foliage.

carnivorous plant in terrarium

When arranging your hardscape and plants, use odd numbers of elements as they tend to look more natural. Use a variety of sizes for your hardscape materials to create depth and perspective. 

Remember, your terrarium is a living art piece, so keep refining until you’re satisfied with the look.

In Conclusion…

Creating a natural-looking terrarium with hardscape materials is an engaging and rewarding activity. 

By following these guidelines, you can build a beautiful miniature ecosystem that brings a touch of nature into your indoor space. 

But don’t forget to enjoy the creation, and feel free to experiment and explore your creativity.