Terrarium Basics

What is it about terrariums that attract us?  They are tiny gardens right in our hands.  If you’ve been looking to add some color to a corner in your room or liven up a coffee table, this might just be the project for you.  Terrariums are fun and easy and very inexpensive.  We’re talking total project under $20.

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The choices for terrariums are many.  You probably have something you could use kicking around the garage right now.  If you don’t, you will find many inexpensive options at thrift stores and yard sales.  Think beyond the objects customary use.  As long as it is smooth glass, your halfway there.

Creating a terrarium is quick (under an hour) and will be fun.  You might even consider giving it as a very nice housewarming gift…

savour… a garden you can manage

Get the rest after the jump...

Terrarium Basics

Before you start:

The whole thing doesn't have to be glass.  In the example below we used a tray from a terra cotta planter and topped it with a mismatched cake dome.

You will want small plants.  That’s terrific news as they are usually inexpensive.  That way, if things go wrong you won’t feel so bad about the loss.

Succulents are fine for terrariums as long as you use a container without a lid.  Succulents typically thrive in arid conditions.  Lidded terrariums are humid and therefore not suitable.  If you are going to use succulents add an additional layer of sand or fine gravel as a top layer.

Opt for glass containers with wider mouths.  We have seen many made inside wine bottles and other vessels with small openings.  We are in awe of those, but you can make something really fun and stylish that requires much less patience.

Avoid having plants touch the glass.

Choose a few plants of varying heights to give some interest to your overall project.

Sphagnum moss is readily available at pet stores and many home improvement centers.  Do not choose live moss.  It can be picky about its growing conditions and could result in a failed project.

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The materials:

  • Glass containers
  • Small stones or pebbles
  • Activated charcoal
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Potting soil
  • Some small plants
  • Decorative objects

The tools:

  • Chopsticks
  • Big spoon
  • Tweezers or small tongs

The steps:

  1. Place about 1 ½ inches to 2 inches of stones on the bottom of the container.
  2. Add a layer of charcoal about ½  inch deep.
  3. Add a layer of moss.
  4. Add 3 to 6 inches of potting soil depending on the size of your container and plants.
  5. Carefully remove plants from their packages, loosen up the roots a bit and plant in place.  Use chopsticks or tongs to help as necessary.
  6. Add decorative elements around the plants to create your ‘ecosystem’.
  7. Spray plants with a spray bottle filled with water.  Spray inside of glass with spray bottle as needed to clean.

More to know:

Because your terrarium won’t have drainage, it is critical that you add enough stones and avoid having standing water in the bottom of your vessel that touches the roots.

Do not clean the inside of the terrarium with glass cleaner.

If your terrarium is lidded, be sure to let it breathe every month or so.

Water your terrarium every 1 to 2 weeks.  Test the soil for dryness. 

Since growth promotion is not the objective here, do not bother with fertilization.