Terrariums were very popular in the 70's and they faded for a while. But today they have made a very strong comeback and the whole hobby has been tremendously expanded upon. The internet has made it possible to get a very wide selection of interesting and amazing plants for your terrarium. And now you can get a whole range of containers to for your terrarium. Part of the appeal of a terrarium is that it is kept indoors. So you don't need a garden to get a nice arrangement of plants. They are wonderful conversation pieces and perfect for apartment dwellers who want something more than just plants in pots.
So what exactly is a terrarium? Loosely defined it is a collection of plants and other objects in a single container. Now this is a quite a broad definition but it defines the hobby well. And there are lots and lots of variations on this theme. You can have open terrariums that have no cover on them. These tend to be much easier to make and maintain. Or you can have closed container terrariums that have a cover on them. The plants inside a closed container terrarium form a closed miniature eco system and often times a terrarium like this can remain sealed for months without need for water. The picture below shows a nice terrarium made with succulents. These are often a good choice for a terrarium because they are very hardy, come in a very wide array of interesting shapes and colors and are easy to maintain.
The next terrarium (Made by Anthony M.) is a great example of a closed system terrarium. This type of terrarium can be more challenging to make because you need to monitor it more closely and it can be a bit of a challenge to get the plants into the terrarium.
How to Make Your First terrarium
There are lots of ways to make a terrarium but I will explain to you an easy way to get started.
- Get some kind of dish or bowl and put a one inch layer of pebbles in it
- Fill the rest of the container with a good potting soil.
- Now plant a variety of plants in an interesting arrangement. I recommend you go with an odd number of plants like 3, 5, or 7. This tends to be more aesthetically pleasing. And vary the size and color of the plants. Move them around before actually planting them. Look for interesting arrangements,
- Add some stones or little figurines for flavor
- Monitor it and keep the soil most, water as you would most other plants
- And that's it! You have created your first terrarium
Something a little more challenging
To make something a bit more challenging can be a lot of fun. So I recommend your second project be some kind of a jug or glass container like the closed container terrarium shown above.
The process is very similar to that of a dish terrarium. You put about an inch of pebbles inside the container.
But, because this is a closed environment I recommend a couple of other things. After the pebbles I recommend you put a half inch layer of something callled activated charcoal which you can get at any store that sells aquarium supplies. This charcoal will purify the water as it recycles within the container. (It is optional though)
Then you put an inch layer of something called Spaghnum Moss or Spanish moss. This acts as a carpet and a barrier that stops soil from settling down to the bottom of the jug.
Then you add your layer of potting soil - as thick as seems appropriate.
Finally you add your plants - And this can be a challenge if the jug has a thin neck. I use coat hangers cut and shaped into various sizes and shapes so I can work inside the bottle or jug. This is shown in the picture at left.
If this seems like a challenge you can choose your closed terrarium to be something like an apothecary jar. They look great and they have a large opening at the top which will make it much easier for you to work with. There will be no need for the coat hanger tools.
Themes and Ideas
The absolute best part of the new terrarium hobby is the flexibility and creativity that you can express. Here are some ideas for your terrarium:
- Follow a theme such as the desert, tropical rain forest, carnivorous plants, flowering plants
- Look for interesting container shapes such as jugs, small bottles, apothercary jars, wine glasses and more
- They make great gifts!
- Terrariums are also a great way to keep small pets like frogs and lizards.
The Cost of the Hobby
This is an inexpensive hobby and you can actually start for no cost at all. All it takes is a container and some plants or flowers that you can find outside! You can also start from seeds which keeps the cost down. But you can buy plants, flowers or succulents for just a few dollars. All told your first foray into the hobby should cost you around twenty dollars if you buy a small bag of potting soil, a few plants and a nice glass container. Once the materials are gathered you can have your first terrarium completed in an hour.
Resources and More
- The Terrarium Man website - An excellent site with a lot of tutorials on how to make all kinds of creative terrariums including lists of suitable plants, links to containers and more.
In The New Terrarium , Tovah Martin, one of America's favorite gardeners, introduces you to the whimsical yet practical world of gardens under glass-a no-fuss way to bring snippets of nature indoors. Wherever you are, in whatever little time you have, terrariums are the perfect tool for nature lovers and gardeners everywhere.
With their colorful leaves, sculptural shapes, and simple care, succulents are beautiful yet forgiving plants for pots. If grown in containers, these dry-climate jewels-which include but are not limited to cacti-can be brought indoors in winter and so can thrive anywhere in the world.
This comprehensive guide profiles several types of terrariums--sandy desert, rocky desert, woodland, rainforest, and others--and which animals would be suitable for each. Step-by-step instructions guide the reader through the terrarium design and construction process and suggest where to purchase materials.
This video shows you how to make a simple yet attractive terrarium in ten minutes.