DIY Light Bulb Terrarium: Steps to Make One

DIY Light Bulb Terrarium Image

Down-to-earth light bulbs have become a classic design nowadays. Furthermore, most of us see them as a bright idea to decorate our air plants with them.

Also, I love that plant parents have embraced keeping their plants indoors. I say so because when these plants are indoors, they boost our home’s indoor air quality. At the same time, the lightbulb terrarium boosts aesthetics.

I prefer repurposing a light bulb rather than broken glass. The light bulb is a better fit since the bulbs are nostalgic and eco-friendly too. Also, you’ll save money using them. So, without further delay, here’s the DIY light bulb terrarium guide.

What is a Bulb Terrarium?

A light bulb terrarium is a modification of a clear bulb. Homeowners use them to house plants indoors. 

We create huge hips of trash nowadays. So, it’s prudent to find alternative means of recycling or reusing them. For example, old and clear light bulbs can make wonderful self-watering planters to grow small herbs or plants. All that’s possible through simple modifications. 

This DIY light bulb terrarium process takes time and needs tools or materials like

  • Needle nose pliers.
  • A cardboard box.
  • Sand fill
  • Screwdriver
  • Gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Vace

DIY Light Bulb Terrarium

  1. Prepare Your Work Area
  2. Disassemble Your Light Bulbs
  3. Clear Your Light Bulb
  4. Add Small Rocks
  5. Add Activated Charcoal
  6. Add Soil
  7. Add Your Plant
  8. Clean Your Light Bulb
  9. Add Water
  10. Install Cork

How Do Light Bulb Terrariums Work?

DIY Light Bulb Terrarium Image

Plants excrete water vapor that condenses on the walls of the light bulb terrarium. Most of the time, you’ll notice a few drops of moisture on its linings. The condensation rehydrates your small layer of soil when gravity pulls them downwards.

The micro-bacteria and soil excrete carbon dioxide when the plant roots absorb moisture. Moreover, your plants will re-absorb the carbon dioxide afterward.

How to Make a Light Bulb Terrarium

Before you embark on making a plant terrarium with light, ensure you assemble all the necessary supplies.

Materials and Tools

  • Old cloth or newspaper
  • 60W powdered or clear light bulb. Reuse the light bulb from home, or get new bulbs.
  • Sugar or salt.
  • Pebbles or small decorative rocks for plants.
  • Activated charcoal. You can find this charcoal type in your local pet or garden store.
  • Dirt from your outdoor plant or a local garden store.
  • Small terrarium air plants from the local garden store or outdoors.
  • Size 6 sealing cork from hardware stores. For example, Home Depot or Lowe’s.
  • Paint brush or cotton swab.
  • Needle nose pliers.
  • Regular pliers or wire cutters.
  • Thin screwdriver (Flat head or Philips will work).
  • Safety Goggles.
  • Safety Gloves.

Prepare Your Work Area

In this step, you’ll need safety eyewear, gloves, a cloth, or a newspaper. But keep other materials close.

  • Place a layer of cloth or newspaper on your work area. The two materials will collect the debris and dirt you drop. One or two newspaper sheets are enough for this step.
  • Put on your safety eyewear and gloves. Doing so protects one from broken black glass or dirt.
  • Ensure you’ve all the materials and tools I mentioned earlier close by. 

Disassemble Your Light Bulbs

In this step, you’ll need the following:

  • A screwdriver (flathead)
  • Regular pliers
  • Sponge
  • Tweezers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Salt
  • Cotton swab
  • Water

This step is usually challenging, but I hope you won’t give up. I’d tell you to exercise some patience to overcome this step. Then again, assembling the light bulb will be a breeze with our guidance.

  • Grasp the light bulb by its metal base near the bottom. But don’t squeeze or hold the light bulb with more strength. Otherwise, you’ll break the innocent light bulb.
  • Start this step by cutting the bulb’s black circular bottom (electrical foot contact). Do that using regular pliers or wire cutters. Also, remove excess persistent pieces. You’ll make things easier if you break the foot first instead of the metal piece only.
  • Break your glass insulator using a flat-head screwdriver. The glass insulator and the exhaust tube are connected.
  • Pull out the inner filament after pinching the needle nose pliers against the tube. The flathead screwdriver can clear out persistent pieces from the exhaust tube.
  • Move to the preceding step after you’ve cleared the inner part of the light bulb.

Clear Your Light Bulb

You’ll need; sugar or salt, water, a paintbrush/cotton swab, and a sponge.

  • Start by pouring small amounts of sugar or salt into your light bulb.
  • Swirl your salt around. At this point, you’ll start seeing the white powder in your bulb clearing. Further, add some extra salt to the light bulb.
  • Remove any printed writing on the outer side of your light bulb. You can clear the writing by scrubbing using a scouring pad and water.

Add Small Rocks

In this step, you’ll need small pebbles or rocks.

  • Drop the rocks or pebbles into the bottom of the light bulb one at a time. But you can drop smaller rocks all at once if you’ve them.
  • It would help to hold your light bulbs on their side and turn them as you put the rocks in them. That way, the pebbles or rocks will slide into the base in a gentle way. Also, don’t apply stress to the glass to avoid dropping it.

Related Post: Putting Rocks on Top of Potted Plants

Add Activated Charcoal

You’ll need activated charcoal in this light bulb terrarium DIY step.

  • Slowly pour the activated charcoal into the light bulb using a funnel. Do that until there’s a small charcoal layer over the bottom rocks.

Add Soil

You’ll need a funnel and soil.

  • Pour a soil layer until you fill ⅓ of the light bulb terrarium with soil, rocks, and charcoal. Do that using your funnel.

Add Your Plant

This step requires a screwdriver and a small terrarium air plant.

  • Separate a small part of the terrarium plant to fit the size of the opening of the light bulb terrarium. Ensure you’ve attached some roots to the air plants.
  • Place your plant on the opening’s top while the roots look down.
  • Push your plant down using a screwdriver until the plant’s roots are inside your light bulb. Ensure they contact the soil.
  • If necessary, adjust your plant.

Clean Your Light Bulb

This step requires a paintbrush or a cotton swab.

  • Wipe the inner part of your light bulb using a cotton swab. Do so in a gentle manner to remove excess debris or dirt. Also, ensure you’ve done that until the light bulb is clear.

Add Water

You’ll need water and light bulb terrariums.

  • Add around one tablespoon of water to the light bulb terrarium. Doing that is enough to make the soil moist but not extra wet.
  • Pour the said amount of water, then allow the soil to absorb it.
  • When necessary, add more water.

Install Cork

You’ll need a cork and a light bulb terrarium.

  • Hold the light bulb terrarium upright, then insert the cork into the bulb’s opening. Do this until it’s tight.

4 Planting Ideas for a Plant terrarium with light

Preserved Moss Terrarium (Mossarium)

Live moss never has roots, making this light bulb terrarium process simpler. Further, some substrate here and there helps anchor them. The substrate also helps them keep some water, which isn’t essential.

Sheet moss, for example, Hypnum Moss, is an easier choice. I say so since you only need to pass it through narrow openings. Still, it’s possible to break up most Chucky moss like the Cushion moss. 

You’ll need to find a way to seal the lightbulb terrarium for this idea to prosper. That’s because most terrariums need high humidity all through to thrive. 

A little cling film or even a cork will do it.

Air Plant Terrarium

We have air plants today because of the evolution of plants with no roots. Further, they’re among the straightforward plants to grow. And that’s because they get their water from the air.

In short, no roots, no worries!

Again, you won’t need any substrate in this lightbulb terrarium idea. But adding some sand isn’t something terrible. I’d recommend adding sand every time.

The sand helps in holding the objects and other plant parts in place.

Micro Tropical Terrarium

You’ll need to shrink everything to get that classic tropical terrarium in small spaces.

I recommend the following approaches:

  • Use miniature vine cuttings like Peperomia Prostrata and Pilea Gluaca. These cuttings will root up when you place them within humid containers.
  • Use semi-aquaitc plants like Anubias barteri or Bolbitis heteroclita (Difformis). The said plant species are small but never grow bigger.
  • Also, miniature ferns work well, provided you go for the small ones.

Marimo Moss Terrarium

Last but not least, we’ve got the well-known Marimo Moss Terrarium. It’s the most straightforward planting idea for a lightbulb terrarium. You must fill the light bulb with moisture and place the moss ball inside.


The ball is full of goodness, though I’d prefer algae over moss for technical reasons.

DIY Light Bulb Terrarium Quick Tips

  • Small twigs and dried leaves with lichens on top add some color to your lightbulb terrarium.
  • Don’t hesitate to add more lichen.
  • Arrange your plants using long but skinny tools, for example, tweezers.
  • Use small rocks in place of soil.
  • Hang your bulbs using strings or wrap them using wires at your window.

Related: Outdoor boat planter


Who invented terrariums?

Dr. Nathaniel Ward, a London Botanist, invented light bulb terrariums in 1827. During that year, streets in London had terrible air pollution.

He then attempted to protect his garden plants. So, he put the plants into an enclosed glass jar full of dirt. And to his surprise, a healthy fern started growing.

Since then, he started building miniature fern containers, which we now call terrariums.

What bulb do I need for terrarium?

LED lighting or fluorescent is what you need for a bulb terrarium. Also, compact fluorescent bulbs are a good pick for terrarium plants. It’s worth noting that regular household bulbs won’t keep plants alive. 

Can terrarium survive on artificial light?

Most plant terrariums need direct/indirect sunlight, though you can use artificial light. The following are light types for terrariums.

  • Artificial light
  • Direct sunlight
  • Indirect sunlight

I recommend using LED bulbs or fluorescent. But remember to avoid using incandescent light bulbs.


DIY projects will forever be fun for most, if not all, homeowners. And this DIY lightbulb terrarium isn’t any different. I say this since it involves reusing materials within our homes and gardens.

For example, the bulbs we used in this DIY project weren’t bought from local stores. Instead, they were from our home store. With that said, go on and make that lightbulb terrarium you dream of.

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