Introduction: Gorgeous Mini Greenhouse From Cheap Picture Frames

There is nothing quite like finding a way to use cheap dollar store items to make something that can liven things up. Here, I show a relatively simple way to use dollar store picture frames for a magnificent ornamental terrarium.

This is best used to highlight and accentuate some of your house plants and create a fun visual effect that will make your plants a source of attention and discussion. You may also use this as a greenhouse to jumpstart seedlings. My favorite use may be as a tidy indoor herb garden during the winter. Just place the terrarium near a sunny window and your herbs will thrive.


I use the following items from the dollar store:

2 8X10 black picture frames

2 5x7 black picture frames

4 4x6 black picture frames.

Duct Tape

A black permanent marker

I also use a hot glue gun, which is relatively cheap but cannot be purchased at the dollar store (although glue sticks for the gun can be).

Also note that for a slightly larger terrarium, you can use 2 11X14 frames, 2 8X10 and 4 5X7.

Step 1: Open Picture Frames and Remove the Backs and the Glass

Newly purchased frames will still have the display insert. They also have the backing board with stand to support the frame if you were to set it on a shelf. You should remove all of it as you will not need it for the terrarium. You should also remove the glass at this time, as we are going to clean it up and put it back in in a manner that it will stay in the frame without the backing board on it.

Step 2: Clean the Glass

When see-through glass is the objective, a small finger smudge or dirt can be devastating to the presentation. Pullout the trusty window cleaner and some paper towels and make sure you are happy looking through those frames.

Step 3: Paint Your Frames

Although I chose fairly uniform black frames and was happy with the look that created, you may want your terrarium to have a different color or may need to cover up color inconsistencies. Prior to putting the glass back in your frames, you should paint them whatever color you wish to paint them. Spray paint is probably the easiest and Rustoleum will work on most frame surfaces. But the choice of paint and color is up to you.

Step 4: Glue the Glass Into the Frame

Put a small dot of glue in each of the four corners of the frame. Now carefully slide the glass piece back into its place in the frame and push down (hopefully without smudging your nicely cleaned glass). Hold for about 30 seconds pushing down and then run the hot glue along the top of the glass along all sides of it, right at the crack between the glass and the frame. Adding a good layer of glue here (but not so much that it runs out onto the viewing portion of the glass) will prevent the glass from falling out later. You can also push down the little tabs (designed to hold the backing of the frame) to hold the glass in.

Note: When I first made this, I thought that leaving the glass out during construction of the terrarium would be wise - that it would make things easier and prevent damaging the glass; however, once the terrarium is assembled it is almost impossible to fit the glass back into the frames, so I strongly advise putting it in prior to assembly of the actual terrarium.

Step 5: Assemble the Base of the Terrarium

Lay the 8 x 10 frame on its side, such that the 10 inch side is lying parallel to the ground and the 8 inch side is perpendicular to the ground. Now line the 7 inch side of the 5 x 7 frame at a 90 degree angle to the original 8 inch side of the 8 x 10. Make sure the bottoms of the two frames are flush with the ground. There should be a gap on the top where the 5x7 is taller than the 8 x 10 (yes, the math does not make sense as 8 inches should be more than 7, but it is as it is), but they should otherwise line up all the way down. Apply hot glue to one of the frames and press them together. (Feel free to lay the frame down to make it easier to work with). Hold in place for at least 1 minute. If you want a more resilient terrarium, you can use corner brackets to screw the frames together, but they are not necessary, and I did not use them. Now attach the other 5 x 7 to the other end of the 8 x 10 in the same fashion. Finally, attach the other 8 x 10 to the open sides of the 5 x 7s, to form a complete box. Note that the outside of all of the frames should be facing outside.

Step 6: Assemble the Roof of the Terrarium

Take 2 of the 4 x 6 frames and line them up with their 6 inch sides parallel to one another. Glue together the two frames. Now repeat this with the other 4 x 6 frames. After the glue has set for at least 5 minutes, you can lift each of these joint frame pieces up and rest them along the top of the 8 x 10s on either side of the box. Lean these pieces in, so their bases are on the 8 x 10 frames, and their other sides are touching each other, forming a roof over the box. Take a piece of duct tape and spread it across the connection between the two frame pieces at the apex of the roof. You can use duct tape the same color as your frame is going to be, or you can color the duct tape. Since I was going for a dollar store theme, I colored some regular duct tape using a Sharpie permanent marker . It works but is a rather tedious way of painting. If you are using spray paint to color your frames, perhaps just include the duct tape under the spray. And if not, they do have duct tape of almost every color available.

You will have to decide if you want to be able to remove the roof of the terrarium for convenience moving plants in and out, or whether you want the lid glued down. If the latter, add hot glue to the top of the 8 x 10 frame on either side and glue the roof sections to it. If not, you can just place the roof onto the top of the terrarium and it should stay in place if not jolted.

Step 7: Seal the Side of the Roof (Optional)

If you are actually going to be using this as a greenhouse rather than to just show off some plants, you may want to seal the sides of the roof. At the dollar store, they have a plastic chopping mat. It is not as thick as a cutting board, but it is more sturdy than something like laminating paper. Open the mat, and hold it up to the roof. Outline the triangle shape, and cut it out, slightly larger than the opening. Just place hot glue on the frame, and press your triangle of plastic against that frame. Hold for at least 2 minutes. The visual effect is one of frosted glass.

Step 8: Add Plants and Enjoy

The finished product creates a great looking terrarium that can show off any sorts of indoor plants that you want to grow. This can be placed near a sunny window or near a grow light for full sun plants, or if you have indoor plants you can use it almost anywhere for a stunning visual effect.

I hope you enjoy the project and please let me know if you have any questions.

I will be posting a video of the project over at The Best Garden Channel on Youtube .

Gardening Contest

Participated in the
Gardening Contest