Create Your Own Beach Terrarium: A Sand-Sational Guide

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Video terrarium with sand

Time to combine your love for summer, sand, and horticulture. Today, we’ll explore the intriguing world of beach terrariums. Get ready to embark on a creative journey that merges the beauty of nature with the allure of the seaside. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, this guide will equip you with the ideas, inspiration, and step-by-step instructions you need to create your own beach-themed terrarium. So, grab your gardening gloves and let’s dive in!

beach terrarium

Key Beach Terrarium Ideas

Get inspired

To start, think about your favorite beach and let it guide your design. Consider the climate and atmosphere you want to recreate. The choice of beach will dictate the color palette and overall vibe of your terrarium.

thailand beach
These tropical waters are about as inspiring as can be (from a recent Thailand trip #humblebrag)

Consider tonality

Decide on the color scheme for your beach terrarium. Do you prefer vibrant turquoise hues or earthy, neutral tones? Your choice will determine the mood and aesthetic of your miniature beachscape.

Closed or open terrarium?

While closed terrariums are popular, consider creating an open terrarium for your beach project. This allows for a more tropical feel. However, if you’re fond of a closed setup, check out our article on closed terrariums for detailed instructions.


Incorporate rocks and wood to create scale in your terrarium. Embrace the beach theme by using interesting pieces like driftwood to mimic dunes, cliffs, or rocky outcrops.

gobi stone
I chose a chunk of Gobi Stone that could pass as a sandstone cliff.


If you have shells lying around, feel free to use them. However, remember not to collect shells from the beach as it can harm the environment.

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I had some shells to hand that I’d collected from a beach vacation years ago.

Other beach decor highlights

Get creative with beach-themed elements. Consider using sea glass, dried starfish, or any other beach treasures that capture your imagination.

Sand art

Take advantage of sand as a medium for your artistic expression. Create visually stunning effects with various colors. Let your creativity flow and experiment with different hues to achieve the desired ambiance.

Resin water effect

For those feeling adventurous, consider adding a faux ocean or sea using resin. This DIY technique adds a captivating touch to your terrarium.

Figurines & miniatures

Go beyond sand and water. Enrich your beach terrarium with miniature scenes like a beach bar or sunbathers on towels. If you’re working on this project with kids, a pirate theme can create endless fun.

👉 Shop beach miniatures on Etsy.

Prepping Plants and Materials

Before diving into the creative process, it’s crucial to ensure your materials are clean and ready. Give your glass container and hardscape elements a thorough cleaning to eliminate impurities. You don’t want any unwanted substances to detract from the beauty of your beach terrarium.

beach terrarium materials
Ready to create my DIY beach.

Laying the Foundation

Unlike closed terrariums, open terrariums require regular watering. To ensure proper drainage, create a drainage layer using materials like aquarium gravel or leca clay balls. If you want to take it to the next level, use sea glass for an extra beachy touch.

lava rock
I’ve used lava rock in my build.

lava rock drainage layer
You don’t need much material for your drainage layer; about an inch in depth is perfect.

Creating the Beach

Now it’s time to build your terrarium’s beach scene. Layer black and white aquarium sand to create a sandy beach section. If you prefer simplicity, a single color can also create a beautiful raised bay effect.

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beach terrarium sand art layers
You can see how I’ve done it here, the raised part will be the beach, and I’ll plant in the deeper part.

Experiment with different sand colors and explore new techniques. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!

👉 Shop aquarium sand on Etsy.

Soil/ Substrate Layer (& Hardscape)

Choose the right substrate for your plants based on their specific needs. If you’re using succulents and cacti, a gritty mix is essential. For tropical houseplants, opt for a light and chunky mix that offers good drainage, root aeration, and moisture retention. Consider adding earthworm castings for natural fertilizer.

terrarium soil / substrate
This is the substrate mix I went with. It should resist compaction really well.

If you find it easier, place any larger hardscape elements into the substrate simultaneously. This helps anchor them securely.

beach terrarium gobi stone
I placed my Gobi Stone before my substrate. It was arguably a little too big for this piece, so I needed to bury a little bit of it.

Take your time to carefully separate the substrate and sand layers. Delicately place the substrate to ensure it’s deep enough for your plants’ roots.


Now comes the exciting part—bringing life to your terrarium. Make small holes in the substrate using your finger or a tool and start planting your chosen plants. It’s usually easier to begin with larger plants, allowing for easier maneuvering.

beach terrarium
My telescopic terrarium tool came in handy with this build. I had to be extremely careful and precise to avoid disturbing the sand art.

For this project, I’ve selected the following plants:

  • Pink Aglaonema: Adds a pop of pink to complement the shell hues.
  • Calathea musaica: Provides height and an interesting texture.
  • Tillandsia capitata: Resembles seagrass, adding visual interest.
  • Peperomia ‘Hope’: A must-have for any terrarium setup.
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For more plant inspiration, check out our Terrarium Plant index.

beach terrarium
I went in with my Calathea and vibrant pink Aglaonema first. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get them planted, and the substrate smoothed around the roots.

peperomia hope
Once the larger plants were secured, it was time for the little Peperomia ‘Hope’.

Beach Decor & Finishing Details

If you have any beach-themed decor pieces, it’s time to add them to your terrarium. Be mindful not to overcrowd the space—remember, less is more.

beach terrarium shells
While it was tempting to add every shell I had, less is definitely more.

air plant
This spiky delight will look fantastic wherever it is placed.

Before spraying water onto your terrarium, take a moment to appreciate the overall look and make any final adjustments.

beach terrarium
At this point, I decided I’d like to add a little more green to balance the piece and planted a few Lemon Button Fern fronds, which added more grassiness and texture.

beach terrarium
The finished design – for a first attempt at a beach theme, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Maintenance and Care

Place your beach terrarium in a sunny spot away from direct light. Spray the terrarium with water using a spray bottle. Be precise with the volume of water to avoid disturbing the sand art and other delicate elements. Repeat the watering process when the soil feels slightly dry to the touch, just like you would with other houseplants.

Out of all the terrarium themes, beach terrariums offer endless creative possibilities. I’m excited to see how you approach your own unique interpretation. Let me know in the comments below!

Remember, creating a beach terrarium is all about immersing yourself in nature’s beauty and bringing the relaxing vibes of the seaside into your home. So, get imaginative, have fun, and enjoy the process of building your very own sand-sational beach terrarium!

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