If you have a green thumb but minimal green, why not create your own mini-world full of lush and beautiful plants by making your own terrarium?
A terrarium is a container designed to hold small plants in controlled conditions. Plants are grown in closed or open glass (seeable) containers. Terrariums are easy to make, low maintenance gardens and can last almost indefinitely with minimal water. These are enclosed replica of natural environment that is in contact with the Earth.
Without a doubt, adding a jolt of greenery to your home is a quick way to liven up any room.
Isn’t is beautiful to have live plants on your table or growing indoor?
Originally popularised during the Victorian Era in the form of Wardian Case, today terrariums are making a big come-back.
This mini open –air table top garden is a fun and easy way to add a little greenery to any indoor space.
To get started, you will need the right supplies and it takes less than an hour to make a terrarium.
- Glass Vessel
- Activated Charcoal
- Pebbles or Stones
- Coco Peat
- Potting Soil
- Clay Mould
- Terrarium Plants
- Watering can or spray bottle
Selection of Plants:
As for the plants, the sky is the limit, but generally speaking look for small plants that you can fit inside your jar and won’t grow too tall. Some plants will have multiple stems so you can break them up even further. To ensure that your terrarium will be successful, keep succulents and cacti together, and keep fern and tropical plants together, because they require different amounts of water and soil. You’ll want cactus soil for the succulents and regular old potting soil for everything else. The rocks are used as a false drainage layer while the activated charcoal helps keep the terrarium healthy, and the moss can be used for decoration and to help soak up and retain water.
Plants are remarkably versatile, and you can rest assured that there are plenty of species ideal for your space. Just like observing a garden to ensure that you’ll plant the right varieties that’ll thrive in the light, shadow and humidity there, observe the room in which you’re planning to keep your terrarium.
Plants for Low Light Conditions:
- Club Moss (Lycopodium Clavatum):
- Best grown in a terrarium environment, this creeping moss needs cooler temperatures, low to moderate light, good air circulation and moist, rich soil.
- Can be propagated by cuttings.
- Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens):
- Climbing or hanging plant with dark green, 2-3” heart shaped leaves.
- Tolerates low light and low humidity well.
- Prefers to be kept slightly root bound in rich, moist soil.
- Provide a bark type support for climbing.
- Rattlesnake Orchid (Goodyera pubescens):
- This native woodland orchid requires shade, cool temperatures and moist, slightly acidic soil.
- Feed with compost tea in the spring and again in mid- summer.
- Propagate by division in the spring.
- Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata):
- A 3”-3” tall succulent that should always be watered sparingly but regularly, will survive in almost any light from sun to shade.
- Prefers to be kept somewhat root-bound in poor soil.
Plants for moderate light condition:
- Aluminum Plant (Pilea cadierei):
- Aliminum Plants are fast growing, easy to care for plants that branch freely and grow 12’-18’ tall.
- These plants have 3’, deep green, lance shaped leaves arranged in pairs along their upright, succulent stems.
- The fleshy leaves are accented with bold bands of metallic silver.
- Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium podophyllum):
- Syngoniums are fast growing vines that grow to about 3 ft.
- Easy to grow plant for bright indirect light or light shade.
- Allow rich, well-draining soil to dry before watering.
- Pinch tips to induce bushiness.
- Green, copper and variegated varieties are available.
- Artillery Plant (Pilea microphylla):
- The Artillery Plant forms an umbrella like canopy of tiny, bright green leaves on fleshy, 6”-12” stems.
- The name Artillery Plant comes from the way that its seed pods forcibly eject their pollen or seeds when the frond is touched.
- An excellent plant for terrarium environments.
- Asparagus Fern (Protasparagus setaceus):
- The Asparagus Fern is a very popular plant for florists who commonly use the lacy, horizontal fronds in flower arrangements.
- These decorative vines will grow up to 10 feet with support, or they can be kept to a more compact size by regularly removing the tips from new growth.
- Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii):
- Excellent, moss like ground cover plant for dish gardens and open terrariums.
- Needs moderate light.
- Soil should be kept constantly moist but water on the tiny foliage should be avoided.
- Can be propagated by division.
- Begonia Rex (Begonia rex-cultorum):
- Known for the beautiful painted patterns on the foliage.
- Needs moderate to bright, indirect light, higher humidity, and peaty soil.
- Soil should be kept moist, but water on foliage should be avoided.
- Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus):
- A tropical, epiphytic fern that, in nature colonizes in trees or on rock faces.
- Requires warmth, high humidity, moderate light and rick, well-draining soil.
- Light green fronds slowly grow to 1-3 feet.
- Emerald Ripple Peperomia (Peperomia caperata):
- Mounding 12” plant with deeply corrugated, 1 ½” heart shaped leaves.
- Needs moderate light.
- Allow soil to dry thoroughly before watering.
- Do not over water.
- Seldom needs reporting.
- Feed occasionally with a good house plant fertilizer.
- Strawberry Begonia (Saxifraga Stolonifera):
- This ‘Mother of Thousands’ spreads by strawberry-like, easily rooted runners.
- Needs moderate light, cooler temperatures and moist, rich soil.
- Feed monthly in summer with house plant fertilizer.
- Nice hanging plant.
- Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens):
- This aromatic, 6 inch tall woodland mini-shrub is a source of wintergreen oil used in liniments.
- Needs moderate light, cool temperatures and rich, moist soil.
- Have white flowers in the summer, bright red berries in winter.
Plants for Bright Light Conditions:
- African Voilet (Saintpaulia ionantha):
- African Voilets were first collected from eastern Africa and Tasmania in the late nineteenth century.
- Their attractive, velvety foliage, compact growing habit and wide variety of long blooming flower colours have made the African Voilet the most popular flowering house plant in the world.
- Bloodleaf Iresine (Iresine herbstii):
- Small, branching plant with blood red foliage grows to 24”.
- Needs rich, loamy, well-draining soil and bright light with some sun.
- Keep soil evenly moist.
- Pinch tips to induce bushiness. Propagate by softwood cuttings in the spring.
- Button Fern (Pallaea rotundifolia):
- This low growing, spreading fern from Australia prefers bright indirect light, protection from drafts and evenly moist soil.
- Fills in any space quickly. Susceptible to attacks from scale insects.
- Dragon Tree (Dracarna marginata):
Tree-like plant that is tolerant of lower light but appreciates bright, indirect light. Allow to dry slightly between waterings. Sensitive to fluoride, so allow water to set for 24 hours before watering. Propagate by air layering or cuttings.
- Earth Star (Cryptanthus bromelioides):
Rosette forming, epiphytic Bromeliad from Brazil will grow to 12”. Needs bright light but no direct sun and high humidity. Should be planted in a potting mix containing sphagnum moss or peat. Susceptible to mealy bugs and scale insects.
- False Aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima):
Will grow to five feet tall. Keep compact by pruning. Prefers bright indirect light, barely moist, acidic soil. Prefers night temperatures of 70⁰ -85⁰. Grow from seeds that need light for germination.
- Flame Voilet (Episcia dianthiflora):
Trailing,6” relative of the African Voilet from South America. Requires constant warmth and humidity, bright indirect light and should be planted in a porous, peaty potting mix. Keep soil moist at all times.
- Friendship Plant (Pilea involucrata):
Friendship Plants are native to Central and South America, where they are known as Panamiga plants. They are creeping plants that form dense, 8”-12” tall mounds of deeply textured, oval, 2 ½” leaves. The foliage colour varies, but the most common variety has dark, reddish brown leaves gilded with silver or copper.
- Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum):
Golden Pothos are one most popular of all house plants. They are attractive, durable and easy to grow vines that have smooth, leathery, heart shaped leaves with distinctive marbling alternating along rope-like green stems. Pothos vines are among the top ten air purifying plants for indoor use.
- Ivy (Hedera helix):
Ivy grows best with four or more hours a day of direct sunlight but will grow fairly well in bright indirect light. Keep soil evenly moist. Pinch tips to induce bushiness. Feed monthly with half strength, balanced fertilizer.
- Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum raddianum):
Prefers bright indirect light, rich well- draining soil and high humidity. Keep the soil evenly moist, but decrease watering slightly in the winter. Grows best when night temperatures are cooler (55⁰).
- Miniature Peperomia (Pilea depressa):
Miniature Peperomias are low growing, creeping plants with paris of tiny, opposing round leaves on rigid stems that readily root at each node that contacts the soil. This Pilea prefers lower humidity and drier soil. A nice, but fairly plain plant for hanging baskets or to cover the soil in large planters.
- Moon valley (Pilea ‘Moon Valley’):
Moon Valley is cool little plant that grows to about 12” tall. Their greatest feature is their saw toothed edged, chartreuse leaves with deep texturing like the craters and valleys on the moon. Excellent for terrariums.
Plants for a Desert Terrariums:
- Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra):
Prefers bright light but will endure in moderate light. Pot in a 50/50 mix of coarse sand and potting mix. Allow soil to dry before watering, except in fall and winter only water once every 2-3 months. Propagate by softwood cuttings.
- Haworthia (Haworthia attenuata):
Grow in moderate light. Pot in a 50/50 mix of coarse sand and potting mix. Allow soil to approach dryness before watering. Feed in spring and again in the fall with half strength house plant fertilizer. Propagate by offsets.
- Hen and Chicks (Echeveria elegans):
Plant in rich, sandy soil and give at least 4 hours of direct sun every day. Prefers warm days (70-75⁰) and cooler nights (50-60⁰). Allow soil to dry before watering. Propagate by removing offsets them or by seed.
- Houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum):
Should be grown in bright sunlight, in light, well-draining soil. Water liberally, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Propagation is by softwood cuttings in the spring or summer.
- Jade Plant (Crassula argentea):
Jade Plants should be grown in bright sunlight with low humidity. Plant in rich, sandy soil. Water liberally, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Feed every two weeks when growing but none while dormant.
- Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa):
Panda Plants prefer average to warm temperatures, bright light and well-draining soil. Allow soil to dry before watering. Avoid getting water on the foliage. Feed monthly when growing actively. Propagation is by softwood cuttings.
- Plush Plant (Echeveria pulvinata):
Plant in rich, sandy soil and give plenty of bright light every day. Prefers warm days (70-75⁰) and cooler nights (50-60⁰). Allow soil to dry before watering. Avoid getting water on the foliage. Propagation is by softwood cuttings.
- tri-coloured Sedum (Sedum spurium tricolor):
Forms 4-6”rosettes. Should be grown in bright sunlight, in rich, sandy soil. Water liberally, then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Propagation is by offsets.
Maintenance of Terrarium:
Maintenance of Terrarium is minimal once the plants are established. As they grow, you may need to trim any branches or leaves that grow out and over the top of the container.
Pull off any leaves that show signs of yellowing or damage and prune plants if they grow too large.
Don’t place the terrarium in direct sunlight. Remember that these are essentially little green houses and direct sunlight through these glasses will trap heat and scotch the plants. Place in indirect light for best results.
Don’t plant too closely, allow some room for growth. Your terrarium won’t look instantly lush, plants need time to adjust and settle in.
You can clean the glass surface with the help of newspaper. Do not use glass cleaners as it would make your plants sick.
In most cases, fertilizer or compost should not be used unless you want your plants to outgrow and/or overshadow smaller plants in your terrarium. While fertilizer is great with individual potted plants, little ecosystems like terrariums balance themselves out on their own with minimal care.
Watering of Terrarium:
Use a spray bottle or watering can with a hose attachment on the sprout to water your terrarium. Just sprinkle water on the plants, excess water is not advisable.
Watering is needed within a couple of weeks (14 days).
Feel the soil to see if it is dry and add water if it is.
Making of Terrarium:
- Prepare the container
Look for a jar or container with a wide mouth. While it is possible to use something with a small opening, it is much easier to add plants if your container has a wide mouth. Also, keep in mind that ideally, you don’t want your plants touching the sides of your jar; so the wider the bowl the more plants and soil you’ll be able to fit.
Also, keep in mind, that if you use a large container, you will have a greater choice of types and size plants you can use as well as the option of fitting in decorative elements, such as shells, figurines or ornaments.
Remove any price tags or stickers from your vessel and wash both the interior and exterior thoroughly to ensure that there are no unwanted residues that could affect the health of your plants.
- Add Your Drainage Layers
Once the container is ready, fill the bottom with rocks or pebbles. Shake it a little to even it out. This is to create a false drainage layer so water can settle and not flood the plant. The depth of the rocks totally depends on the size of your container, but aim for 1/2″ to 2″.
- Add the Activated Charcoal
The charcoal looks exactly like what you would expect it to and it’s messy. Sometimes it comes as small granules and other times it comes as shards—either works. You don’t need much, just enough to cover the rocks. The charcoal will improve the quality of your little world including reducing bacteria, fungi and odours.
- Add Soil
Next, spray your potting soil with your filtered water until it's very moist. You are getting the soil ready by letting it compact itself by absorbing the water. This way, you don't have to keep adding and adding soil later when you realize you don't have enough after you water. And you won't have to add even more water later. It's a win-win situation.
Again, cactus and succulents need a special soil compared to most other plants, so be sure to get the appropriate bag depending on which plants you’re using. Add enough soil so the plant roots will have plenty of room to fit and then grow. Aim for a depth slightly greater than the height of the plant’s pot.
Now, take you first plant and gently hold loosely onto the base of the stems coming out of the pot. Use your other hand to squeeze the sides of the pot as you turn it slowly while doing so to ease out the plant. The less stressful you are to the plants now the less jarring it is to them to become accustomed to their new environment.
Hold your plant over your container and gently tease out the soil around it's roots. You don't have to get out all the soil but enough to be able to spread the roots out in it's new home. If you have a plant that is "pot bound" (a twisted root ball), teasing may not be enough. You may need to cut into the ball about half way and pull a bit to spread the roots.You may also want to trim the roots if they are especially long; don’t worry, they’ll grow back. . Using a spoon, your fingers, the end of a brush, or even a pencil, dig a well to place your plants roots in. Add more soil around the top and compact the soil down around the base of the plant. Continue placing your little plants in the container and try to keep them away from the edges. The leaves are likely to touch the sides but aim to keep them away as much as possible.
Do the same with the rest of the plants you may have and place your plants in an aesthetically pleasing arrangement within the container.
- Add Accessories
Next take your potting soil and fill in the gaps around the plants and along the edge of the container. Remember to firmly pack the soil when placing to avoid air "bubbles" as it were.
After you’re done planting you can add little accessories like a blanket of moss (dried or living), little figurines, old toys, glass beads, shiny metal object, sticks, stones, or even a layer or rocks. This is your little world and you can put whatever you’d like in there.
- Clean and Water
Now that you've filled in the gaps, take your spray bottle and spray your Terrarium several times until you can see some water well up along the insides of the container. Make sure the bottom where the charcoal is not soaked but only has a little drizzle. Spray under the foliage if you have to get the soil moist.
You’ll likely have dirt all over the sides of the container, so wipe them down so you can enjoy the beautiful living world inside. Unlike most of your house plants, a terrarium doesn’t need to be soaked: just a couple of shots of water should get it started.