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Tin Can Terrarium

Invite the outdoors in

Got some empty cans? Seen some cute little succulents popping up in the spring aisles at the stores? It's a sign to get creative and invite a bit of the outdoors inside! You don't need green thumbs to create these beautiful terrariums. Arts and crafts can be so therapeutic, especially when it means working with live plants and converting free recycled items, which would otherwise be thrown out and wasted, into something so lovely you'll be proud to display or gift away.

This craft is absolutely not tricky and it's hugely satisfying! The kids can join in too. I know mine are always game for something involving paint, glue and dirt!

For the first part, to create the lovely French decoupaged tin can you'll need:

empty cans

paint brushes

printed images on plain paper

Any size cans will do. Beans, condensed milk, tomato sauce, tuna, olives ... it's all good... Remove all remaining sharp tags with sandpaper or press them flat with pliers. Wash the cans in hot soapy water to remove the labels, residue and glue. Dry well. I find that using the sides of kitchen scissors works well to scratch off any remaining hard glue. The sticky type of label adhesive is still touch and go with me. If you have a foolproof solution, please let me know!

Apply at least 2-3 layers of paint onto each can. For a more grungy, shabby chic look, use fewer layers and distress the final paint finish with sandpaper. For a more luxurious, French country look, apply as many layers as it takes to cover up the tin. Allow drying time between layers for a more even coverage. Chalk paint adheres well to the can and is easy to apply. It also cleans up well with soap and water.

For this project I used Rustoleum Chalked in white linen, but any chalk paint you have should be fine. I have found that some more expensive brands require less coats to make the project look more luxurious, but if you don't mind applying multiple layers, more or less any brand should do.

I found these beautiful French labels online with the Graphics Fairy. They are absolutely lovely. Or you can use any other images or even create your own. There is so much out there!!! Make sure you print out your graphics on plain white paper and not on photo paper. Cut the prints to fit your cans.

To apply the labels to your painted cans, use Mod Podge. I used the glossy variety, but you could use matte if that is your preference. Apply a thick layer of Mod Podge to your can and then press your print firmly onto the wet surface, massaging the paper into the grooves of the can. Be careful if your fingers are sticky with the glue, so that you don't tear the paper. It is pretty impossible to get a finish that doesn't have at least some creases and bubbles. For the most uniform finish, allow the paper to dry onto the can, before applying the next layer of Mod Podge.

Apply at least 2 to 3 layers of Mod Podge for the smoothest result. Allow your cans to dry completely before moving onto the next step.

You could, by all means leave it at this point and use your cans for kitchen utensils, as candle holders, containers for bathroom accessories, pencils and pens or even as vases. They are waterproof so your uses are almost unlimited.

Creating the terrarium is so much fun. Getting hands dirty with earthy soil and working with delicate green succulents or plants seems to drive all your cares away momentarily. What you'll need for this part of the project:

Succulent or other small plant (grocery stores, home improvement centers, nurseries)


potting soil

decorative pebbles

I usually have all of these bits and pieces on hand, but while I was researching what products to recommend to you, I came across a terrarium kit on Amazon. Apart from the plant, it looks like it has all the layers, which you'll need to create this project, without having to source each item individually. Alternatively you can find most of these decorative pebbles and charcoal in the fish section of pet stores. Potting soil, specifically succulent or cactus variety potting soil, is available in all home and garden stores, most grocery stores and nurseries. Look in craft or home decor stores for decorative pebbles too.

To begin, fill about a third of the can with the stones, which will allow for drainage. Succulents don't like to be soaked!

Next, cover the stones with some charcoal. This serves to deodorize, absorb and detoxify the terrarium. Depending on the size of your can, you may need a couple of tablespoons to a quarter cup.

The bulk of your terrarium is potting soil. Moisten it with fresh water and spoon it into the can, gently pressing it into place. Make a small hole in the center and gently insert your succulent. Cover it up and stabilize it with a bit more soil before adding the decorative pebbles, sand or gravel. The pebbles also serve to stabilize the plant. They come in so many hues, that you can easily match your decor style with them or add a splash of eye-catching color!

You really could use any small plant, herb or flower. Succulents and cacti are pretty hardy and can survive almost all plant neglect. If you're the type who can kill just about any plant, apart from the plastic kind, then you might want to try succulents as a last resort, before giving up completely! In our home, with all the children, the dog and husband, who need attention, plants land on the lowest rung of the food chain, but succulents tend to hang in there through it all.

Et voila... you have the cutest little terrarium! Finish off with some raffia, twine or ribbon and it's ready to be gifted or displayed. Mist the succulent from time to time with water, but don't drench it.

Enjoy this versatile project! There is so much you can do with it. You could always use another can to pour a soy wax candle or even insert a tea light for a quick candle solution. It's also fun to use cans of different heights and sizes to create a decorative landscape for your desk or windowsill.

Create. Enjoy Repeat.


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1 Comment

Paige Wilkins
Paige Wilkins
Jun 21, 2022

Hi nice reading yoour blog

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