DIY: Miniature Glass House

Written by cheryl munson
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DIY: Miniature Glass House
Wardians, vivariums and terrariums are classic styles for miniature glass houses. (lizard image by Valentin Mosichev from

Creating miniature glass houses dates back to the 19th century, when they were considered as a hobby for the elite and wealthy. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Anyone can create a miniature glass house. There are three traditional, or standard, styles for miniature houses: Wardian, terrarium and vivarium. However, you can "freestyle" and create your own version of a miniature glass house for a small greenhouse that sits right on a tabletop.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Take a step back in time and create a Wardian case. Wardian cases are ornate miniature glass greenhouses, reminiscent of the Edwardian era. They are named after Dr. Nathaniel Ward, a London surgeon and passionate gardener, who introduced Wardian cases in 1892. Wardian cases are considered the predecessors to modern day terrariums.

    DIY: Miniature Glass House
    Wardians are miniature versions of a greenhouse. (Gewächshaus image by Claudia Georgi from
  2. 2

    Look for a ready-made Wardian case and table stand at garden centres and craft stores. Be creative. Items may not be specifically labelled or marked as a Wardian table, so be prepared to look at items with an eye toward possibilities, and ask store personnel for assistance. Get a cut of wood or slab of marble to serve as the base to set on top of the table.

  3. 3

    Explore creating a terrarium. Like Wardians, you can find many ready-made terrariums on sale at retail stores, including pet stores. A terrarium is a more modern look, in contrast to Wardian. A terrarium can be smaller, less ornate and used for casual settings, like on a tabletop.

    DIY: Miniature Glass House
    Create a glass house terrarium for an environment that says "welcome home" to reptiles. (black and blue frog image by Christophe Fouquin from
  4. 4

    Think about the third classic miniature glass house: a vivarium. From an artistry standpoint, vivarium hobbyists strive to replicate a natural habitat in miniature form and stature -- similar to what bonsai artists and hobbyists strive to achieve with miniature trees.

  5. 5

    Create a vivarium by using a glass dome for the structure. Select a metal or plastic base with drainage. Get an exterior base for decorative purposes that conceals the edge of the glass dome and the base of the vivarium.

  6. 6

    Choose plantings that can thrive in an enclosed structure. One of the joys of miniature glass house gardening is that you have so much to choose from. Ferns, ficus, orchids, African violets, Tillandsias air plants, and even the interesting and entertaining Venus flytrap are all within the world of planting possibilities.

  7. 7

    Select a terrarium or vivarium with a lid that you can raise to feed plants or small animals, such as turtles, dart frogs, lizards, geckos and other reptiles. Add habitat elements such as rocks, driftwood and live or artificial plants or tree formations to create a look of authenticity for the Wardian, terrarium or vivarium. Chip mulch and use small size pea gravel and rocks so that accents are small in size and scale.

  8. 8

    Create an environment that will be conducive for the needs of your plants or small animals. Review the lighting needs for plantings and animals to replicate natural conditions. Also, consider needs for humidity and water -- especially for small animals. Follow care instructions for selected plants for misting, opening the top for air circulation and creating the appropriate levels of moisture and humidity for a closed environment.

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