Gardens Under Glass: How to Make Your Own Terrarium

Terrariums have been popping up around the place, from design portfolios into home store catalogs. What is the attraction? It’s easy: convenience and fashion.

Terrariums need little watering, take up little space and are usually easy to care for — even for your own black-thumbed amongst us. And those little, lush vignettes make attention and liven up a space in a way few houseplants that are single can match.

The Decorated Garden

Terrariums first gained popularity during the Victorian age after Nathanial Ward inadvertently climbed grass in a glass enclosure. They enjoyed a revival in the 1970s, albeit generally using clunky glass vessels and paired with macramé.

But terrariums now boast cleaner lines and a little whimsy. They come in many shapes, sizes and can be open at the top or have a lid.

Kim Gamel

Putting together your own living terrarium is comparatively easy. Here Is What you need:

A clear glass container
Decorative stone or river stone
Horticultural charcoal (can be found at garden centers)
A coffee filter or sphagnum moss
Growing medium (soil used for growing cacti works nicely)
Mini plants or live moss

Pop Deluxe

Small Danish Terrarium – $169

When choosing your container, clear glass is a must to let in light. Just about any shape will work, however it is ideal to begin with a boat at least 6 inches tall to permit space for the soil and drainage layers.

And to make the process somewhat easier, you’ll want the very best opening to be big enough to fit your hands.

Kim Gamel

To begin, gently add about 1 to 2 inches of stone at the bottom of your container. This will allow for drainage.

Add a light layer of this charcoal on top of the stone layer. The charcoal acts as a filter, preventing the moisture from becoming too stagnant.

To maintain the soil from trickling down into the rocks, you will want to add a barrier. It is possible to use sphagnum moss or a coffee filter . Which one you use is dependent upon your preference and the size of the jar (the moss will occupy more space). When using a coffee filter, you may want to cut it to match your container properly. Should you utilize moss, use only enough to pay the charcoal beneath.

As soon as you’ve got the barrier in place, add 3 to 4 inches of premoistened soil. You can fashion a funnel from paper to direct the soil where you want it to go and keep it from dirtying the glass.

Kim Gamel

Now the interesting part: adding the plants. Your selection will be dependent on whether the terrarium will be open or closed. Closed terrariums need humidity-loving plants. And since closed terrariums cannot be put in bright or direct light (the crops will cook), you would want to select shade-loving plants. Good choices include:

Strawberry begonia
Live moss
Baby’s tears
Arrowhead plant

Kim Gamel

Be confident that whichever plant you use is free of insects. If you notice any bugs, eliminate them before putting them in the container. Your local garden center can let you know the ideal method for this.

Kim Gamel

Open terrariums give you more options, since the plants can be placed in moderate to bright light and can take either drier or moist soil. Nearly all miniature kinds of houseplants will get the job done. Here are a few favorites:

African violets
Splash plant
Waffle plant
Earth stars

Kim Gamel

To put in your plant, just make a hole in your soil to accommodate the plant’s root ball and place the plant inside. It’s ideal to make sure no leaves touch the side of this glass as this can cause the foliage to decompose. Depending upon how big your boat, you may want to add more than one plant. However, a single specimen can function as a dramatic focal point. You may want to start using a single and add more only if the scale of this container needs it.


Have a Dip Terrarium – $125

To give the terrarium a legitimate landscape feel, you may want to add accents like bigger rocks to give the appearance of boulders. For a touch of whimsy, you can add miniature railroad figures and structures.

As soon as you’ve set your scene, you will either cover the soil with little pebbles or abandon it in its normal condition.

Kim Gamel

Closed terrariums need little care, as they form their particular ecosystem over time. When the crops seem to droop and the soil appears to be dry to the touch, you can add water a bit at a time. A turkey baster works nicely for this.

As soon as you find the water trickle down to the rocks at the bottom, stop stirring. Among the simplest methods to kill plants in a terrarium is to overwater, so err on the side of dryness.

When the glass fogs or forms water droplets, the terrarium has built up extra moisture. This can be resolved by removing the lid for a few hours.

Kim Gamel

Open terrariums need as much care as any other houseplant, bear in mind that these containers will not drain surplus water, so less is more.

Whether the soil should be kept moist or dry will be dependent on the plant, so comply with the rules of care about the plant’s tag. When watering, follow the same information as with closed terrariums — add water a bit at a time until you find the water running down into the rocks at the bottom, then cease.

Enjoy your new miniature backyard and please discuss with us your photographs of the finished product!

Creative ideas for terrariums
Suggestions for modern houseplants

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