Terrarium: a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants.
Terrariums provide a wonderful indoor gardening activity and are easy to make. The materials needed to create a terrarium such as drainage pebbles, soil and small plants are readily available and virtually any container can be repurposed into a terrarium. Having greenery around during the winter months is a surefire way to beat the blues and terrarium gardening is a fun creative outlet. Low maintenance needs make terrariums very appealing.
To prepare this post I visited my local Terrain at Styers store for inspiration and to purchase plants. They have a whole section of ready made terrariums or all plants and materials to build your own. I created my own closed container terrarium and documented the process to walk you through the step-by-step construction. Then I met with my talented gardening friend Missy who sells terrariums she creates, to have her share her best tips for successful terrarium construction and to teach us all her creative design secrets. You are in for a treat!
A general rule for success is to decide where you will locate your terrarium and how much light it will receive. This will determine the kinds of plants you need: abundant light suits succulents and cacti while low light is more for leafy plants which do well in shade. Succulents and cacti do best in open containers. Shade loving plants do best in closed containers where they will thrive in the moist ecosystem. Choose small plants and group plants that have similar light and moisture requirements.
Step by Step Terrarium construction:
1- Choose your container. Vases, gold fish bowls, jars, bowls or true terrariums in all sizes can all be used to create a terrarium garden.
2- Envision your design: Think about the number of plants you will use, different heights for visual interest and get creative with incorporating some interesting add-ins such as rocks, bark, moss, and whimsical objects such as miniature furniture, birds, colored glass and birds nests. If you are dividing larger plants, trim some of their roots down.
3- Prep your container: Start with a drainage layer. This will consitst of a 1/2 inch to 1 inch layer of pebbles, small rocks or broken recycled glass or clay pots. The drainage layer helps ensure excess water doesn’t stay in soil and cause root rot. If you are using a glass terrarium, bear in mind that the drainage layer will be visible. A drainage layer is mandatory. If your container will be closed, it is a good idea to add a layer of charcoal on top of the drainage pebbles. The charcoal helps remove toxins and odors from your terrarium. Although horticultural charcoal is sold for this express purpose, you can use regular grilling charcoal briquettes that you break down into a finer consistency for a less costly option. Live mosses can also remove toxins in a terrarium. Next, add a soil layer deep enough to cover the roots of your plants on top of the drainage material. Always use new soil when planting a new terrarium.
4- Plant: Dig small holes in the soil and add the plants your have chosen.
5- Accessorize: Here’s where you can get creative and have a lot of fun. Add some personality, and interest to terrariums with natural elements. Bring in some whimsy with artistic additions to your composition, several examples to follow.
6- Water to saturate the soil. Succulents in open containers should be sparingly watered about every 8 days. Leafy plants in closed terrariums may require infrequent watering. Using small medical plastic syringes or turkey basters can deliver water just to the plant roots, prevent overwatering and avoid unsightly water splashes on the sides of your containers. Another invaluable Missy trick!
In the following photographs, Missy will share her many creative ideas for adding whimsy and art to terrariums.
Special thanks to Missy Fennimore for sharing her inspiring terrarium creations with us, sharing design tips and showing us how to accessorize terrariums in the most creative ways. I learned so much and hope you did too! If you live in the Philadelphia region and are interested in having Missy design a terrarium for you, leave me a message and I will put you in touch with her.
Thank you to Terrain at Styers for always providing inspirational displays.