Friday, September 5, 2008


Recently a client purchased an assortment of glassware for a project. Mostly botanical jars but a few more unusual glass jars of different shapes and sizes as well. I later learned they were all made into different terrariums, mingled throughout the decor.

wide mouth glass container
something to cover the jar top such as clear plastic wrap, a pane of glass, or Plexiglas
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)

Via P Allen Smith

First Image Flickr


hello gorgeous said...

Greetings - Wow! That first terrarium takes me back to my childhood. My 4th grade teacher taught us how to make them. She also brought duck eggs and an incubator to class and when they hatched let us bring home the ducklings for a weekend (my parents loved that!).

To this day, I can think of that weekend and smell duck poop. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm just starting to do a few terrariums... do you think moss is enough to plant the plants or do I really need potting soil? I would guess that if I use moss only I need a bit of fertilizer periodically...

C. said...

I've always wanted to try this - thanks for the tip!

Annie Empiric said...

Dr J - I think moss should be sufficient however, this article was very specific and possibly that is for good reason. I know the issue with terrariums is usually that they create too much condensation and it is hard to enjoy the interior oasis. Possibly the soil reduces that problem...