As temperatures cool, I turn my attention to the many ways I can enjoy the garden indoors. Houseplants are a popular option, but if you are like me, my woeful neglect of the plants often leads to their quick demise. I suppose that is why I am so excited about terrariums. These houseplant arrangements are simple to assemble and the best news is that they will pretty much take care of themselves.
I have a terrarium on my desk that has thrived for months with low light and no additional water. It’s not so much a miracle as it is the science of nature. The plants inside the terrarium create their own mini-climate, transpiring water vapor that condenses on the glass and then flows back into the soil.
Science aside, I find a terrarium fascinating to look at, like a miniature landscape in a jar.
Don’t be intimidated by the process of building a terrarium. With all the supplies in hand, you can put one together in a few hours.
- wide mouth glass container
- something to cover the jar top such as clear plastic wrap, a pane of glass, or Plexiglass
- potting soil
- small plants
- pea gravel
- watering can or spray bottle
Select a container for the terrarium. For easy access, choose one that has a wide mouth. A fishbowl or aquarium is a good choice. I used an apothecary jar with a glass top. If your container does not have a lid, you can cover it with clear plastic wrap, a piece of clear Plexiglas or a sheet of glass.
To avoid insect and disease problems wash the gravel with hot water and use top quality, sterile potting soil.
Fill the bottom of the container with about 1 inch of gravel. If you container is especially deep, you may want to use 2 or 3 inches.
Top the gravel with 3 inches of soil.
Now comes the fun part, planting the landscape. When you choose plants, select varieties that all have the same growing requirements: light, water and humidity. Slow growers with small leaves are best suited for the confines of a terrarium.
Remove the plants from their pots and plant them in the terrarium just like you would in the garden. Place the taller plants in the back, mid-sized plants in the middle and low growing things like moss toward the front. If possible, keep the foliage away from the sides of the container.
Once you have the plants in place, moisten the soil lightly and put the lid in place.
How often you will need to water your terrarium depends on how tightly the lid fits. A loose fitting lid lets moisture escape. A good indication of when to water is the condensation on the glass. If there is no condensation, water the soil very lightly. If there is heavy condensation, remove the lid to allow the terrarium to air out.
The neat thing about terrariums is that you are only limited by your imagination. Add large rocks to represent craggy mountains or small mirrors for ponds. You can even create a desert landscape with succulents and cacti.
Good Terrarium Plants:
- African Violets
- Creeping Fig
- Maidenhair Spleenwort
- Needlepoint Ivy
- Prayer Plant
- Peacock Moss (Selaginella uncinata)