how to plant and care for a terrarium

GardenTerrarium_medium_b

Bringing a bit of the outdoors in is always a good thing. Plants not only look great, but they also actively help clean the air we breathe. Keeping something green, lush, and growing doesn’t require a green thumb, however. A terrarium is a self-contained mini ecosystem that requires minimal care and upkeep and looks amazing. They can be as simple, or as complex, as you want to make them. At their most basic, they’re layers of soil and gravel topped with moss. Stop there, or add other plants and decorative items. You are limited only by your imagination.

Choose a closed container for a more lush, tropical landscape, or opt for something more open if you want to grow succulents and other plants that do well in more arid environments.

  • Filter layer
    Starting with a thin layer of natural charcoal helps keep the water in your terrarium clean.
  • Organic material
    A layer of bulky mulch-like material helps with drainage and aeration. Place this around the filter layer.
  • Soil
    Choose soil for the types of plants you will be using and make sure it’s deep enough for their root systems.
  • Moss
    Soak moss before adding to your terrarium—most moss is shipped in a dormant state and soaking revives it.
  • Gravel
    Spread gravel around to create an attractive look and help anchor the moss.
  • Stones and decorative accents
    Add stones, interesting rocks, or other decorative accents as you like.
  • Plants
    Make a slit in the moss with your fingers to insert plants. Placing plants at this stage helps prevent damage to their leaves when placing the other items.
  • Final
    Add a bit of the organic material around the base of your plants and make final adjustments to placement of decorative items. Chopsticks can be a big help when moving things around.
  • Water
    Spray water down the sides of the glass to clean off any debris, but don’t over water. Close the lid and  you’re done.

Terrarium care:

  • Most terraria enjoy filtered, indirect sunlight. Choose the amount of light based on the plants you’ve placed. Full sun will “cook” your plants!
  • Terraria function as a mini ecosystem—keep the lid on and it should require minimal upkeep.
  • If you see the glass fogging once or twice a day, it’s a good thing. Don’t remove the lid. This is part of the ecosystem, and it’s working.
  • Not fogging at all? You might need to add more water. Try about 1/4 cup, and be careful to not overwater.
  • Fogging constantly? Remove the lid for a day or two to let things dry out a bit.
  • If your plants are rotting, there’s too much water. Remove the rotted material and replace with fresh plants.
  • Mushrooms are sign of a healthy ecosystem! They’re nice to look at, but don’t eat them.
  • If you see mold, it’s usually from over watering. Remove any moldy plants. Remove, wash, and replace any moldy rocks. Allow the terrarium to air out with the lid off for a day or two. Sprinkling cinnamon on moldy areas, avoiding plants, can help as well.
  • Remove dropped blooms and dead leaves or plants immediately.

Which plants?

In a low-light, closed terrarium:
Ferns, mosses, baby’s tears, hypoestes, fittonia, ivy, peperomia, sanseveria, schefflera

In a bright-light, open terrarium:
Cacti and succulents, including jade, aloe, borro’s tail, earth stars, echeveria, haworthia, sedum

 

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