Creating and Maintaining a Terrarium

Terrariums – Creating and Maintaining

Choose an open container that will fit your needs, and choose plants that are compatible in lighting, watering, and humidity needs. Your plant foundation will consist of four layers:

  1. Bottom Layer (Drainage) – pebbles, pea gravel, or very coarse sand.
  2. On top of Bottom Layer – spread a thin layer of activated charcoal to help clean the air of the fumes caused when the organic materials begin to decompose
  3. Third Layer – thin cover of sphagnum moss spread over first two layers, This prevents the soil from sifting into the drainage layer.
  4. Final Layer – Potting Mix with one part course sand added – increase sand if creating a desert type terrarium garden. (Do not use beach sand.)

Inspect plants you are using for signs of insects or disease, or any other potential problem. Choose plants of varying height, shape, texture and color to create the desired landscape effect. Will the garden be viewed from all sides? If so, larger plants should be planted in the middle, with lower plants around it. If the terrarium will be viewed from one side, then the tallest plant should be placed in the back, with lower plants in the foreground. Experiment placement by moving in their containers until placement is confirmed. Remove plant from its pot, and place in a pre dug hole, Unlike planting in the garden, it is not necessary to loosen the plant’s roots. In a terrarium, you don’t want the plants to grow too quickly, and leaving the root ball compacted will slow the growth.

Firm the soil gently around the roots. Do not crowd the plants or place them directly against the sides of the container. Allow sufficient space for them to grow and spread. After planting, the soil should be slightly moistened. Never allow the soil to be soggy unless you are growing “bog” plants. A lid should then be placed on the terrarium (You may have to use your imagination to find the appropriate lid.)

Check the terrarium frequently for the appearance of condensation on the glass. If large water drops appear on the glass, the container should be left open for a while until any excess moisture evaporates. In some cases, it may be necessary to keep the lid slightly opened to allow for fresh air circulation. A balanced terrarium should have a certain amount of moisture on the glass. A completely enclosed terrarium requires little or no watering. If it is not totally enclosed, you may have to water on a weekly or monthly basis (more often for open terrariums or dish gardens).

The addition of water becomes necessary if no condensation accumulates on the glass. When water is eventually needed, it should be added a small amount at a time, since there is no place for the surplus water to run off. (Overwatering quickly increases the danger of fungus or mold.) Check again the next day, and if no condensation has appeared, more water may be added. When in doubt, always water less, but watch carefully so that the plants do not become too dry and wilt.

Generally, terrariums should not need fertilizing, but if the plants start to appear malnourished, you may feed them all-purpose houseplant food at ΒΌ strength. Occasionally, it may become necessary to prune or replace a dead plant. Diseased plants should be removed immediately.

A focal point may be added to your terrarium landscape, such as a rock or stick to simulate boulders or logs or a small statue as part of the garden.