When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. ~Chinese Proverb
I love the Garden Department at Home Depot. I have made many a trip to this superstore in search of a houseplant to bring an element of nature into our house. I have also regretfully had to toss many plants in the trash can when my “black Thumb’ gets the better of me…
That’s why I have always been interested in Terrariums, these glassed-in environments that literally thrive on very little babysitting and do well indoors because of their need for high humidity.
Once the plants are placed in a glass container, a mini climate is born. The plants emit moisture that condenses on the glass sides and makes it’s way back down into the soil. This self-watering mechanism allows the terrarium to go for extended periods with little watering.
So the next time, you are considering buying a plant and then reconsider because of you have deemed yourself “plant challenged” (you are not alone!), make a Terrarium!
Here is a 3 things to do before you being to assemble your Terrarium…
1. Choose a container.
Terrariums can be made from anything but most are made in glass containers. Have an old fishbowl? A mayonnaise jar can even work. I saw a terrarium made from a Rum bottle! I picked mine up at Crate and Barrel. You can purchase it here ,
Plants that love Terrarium living are ones that are compact and slow growing. When choosing plants, consider one’s that will not crowd each other because ideally you do not want your plants to touch the sides of the glass. I chose a plant called “Baby’s Tears” which I bought at Mahoney’s Garden Center in Brighton MA.
3. Get your tools.
To prepare your plants for a long life, here are your supplies. I also picked them up at Mahoney’s Garden Center:
Coarse Pebbles or Stones
Plants (depending on size of vase and plant size)
Sheet, Cushion or Clump Moss Optional
Now to assemble your mini oasis..
1. Drainage Pebble or Stone Layer
Lay a 1”- 2” layer of pebbles or stones. If you use this container, I used ½” of pebbles. This will soak up any unnecessary water.
2. Charcoal Layer
Next using a large spoon, place a ½” layer of horticultural charcoal on top of the stones. For this container, I used ¼” of charcoal. The charcoal eliminates any odors from decaying plant matter.
3. Potting Soil Layer
With a large spoon, place a 1-2” layer of sterile potting soil. For this container, I used 1” of potting soil.
Keep in mind the height of your plants, holding them up to the container to make sure the tops of them will not be peeking out of the top!
4. Plant Placement
Your plant will come in its plastic pot. Extract the plant from it’s pot. Gently hold the leafy part of your plant and shake off most of the soil. You can pull a lot of the soil away with your fingers. Don’t pull all the soil away though! You should be left with the roots still being covered with soil. I saved this soil and used it to fill in around the plant once I have placed it in the glass vessel.
Next dig out a small cravass with your fingers and place your plant into the potting soil bed. Take some potting soil and fill in around the plant so the soil level comes up to the soil level of the plant.
Fill a spray bottle with water and give your terrarium a couple spritzes. Spray the sides of the glass walls instead of directly on the plants. Put the top back on and watch your plants grow!
Over time, condensation will develop on the glass walls. To cut down on the condensation, simply take the lid off once a day for a couple hours and move the terrarium to a shadier spot.
Tips for successful Terrarium living
You won’t need to water much,, encased plants can go months without water, watch the condensation, when it becomes extremely minimal it is time to water.
No need to fertilize – it will create toxic salts that kill plants.
Put your Terrarium in a bright area, but don’t put in direct sunlight it will bake (kill) your plants.
Common Plant Ailments
Yellow leaves or leaf tips turning brown?
Too much moisture, try taking the top off your case for a few hours a day until plants look greener.
Leaves falling off the plants?
Foliage is touching the glass, adjust your plants or prune
Not enough light