Build a Terrarium

by Amanda Allensworth 06/14/2020


Image by AndyFaeth from Pixabay

If you're searching for ways to introduce a little extra green into your home and at the same time learn a satisfying hobby consider building a terrarium.

Putting together a terrarium is a learning experience for grown-ups and can draw in kids as well. Not only do you see your handiwork grow and thrive, but you’ll observe a real-life example of a working ecosystem. A terrarium, if it’s a closed one, recycles its oxygen, carbon dioxide and water.

What Is a Terrarium?

In simplest terms, it’s a glass container for growing plants. There’s a variation called a vivarium, a similar construction with small animals, but plants are a great starting point.

Terrariums (either “terrariums” or “terraria” is an acceptable plural) can be either open or closed. Open terrariums are better for plants that can’t tolerate moisture buildup.

How To Build a Terrarium

  • First, find a glass container. For a closed terrarium, any glass container with a removable lid will work. You can order one or find one around the house. It could be a rectangular glass box with a top or a rounded jar with a stopper. A Mason jar, either upright or on its side. A covered fishbowl. A cookie or candy jar. You can also use plastic if it’s clear and resists fogging.

  • Lay down a base. Use rocks, plain or colored gravel, seaglass or other decoratives. This is your drainage layer. It should be about an inch deep, but that can vary depending on the size and shape of your container. The finished product will need enough “headroom” for your little garden. The base layer doesn’t have to be flat; you may shape it to create peaks and valleys.

  • Some sources recommend a ½ inch layer of charcoal next as a water filtrate.

  • Create a barrier for your soil with sphagnum or sheet moss. Soak it briefly, squeeze out the water and mold it into place.

  • Add about two inches of soil. Common potting soil is good for most plants. If your gravel layer is flat your can shape this to make miniature hills and valleys.

  • Now you’re ready to plant. Use slow growing vegetation and dwarfs. Peperomia, ferns (maidenhead, button ferns), pilea and dwarf palms are good choices, as well as miniature coleus, violets, begonias. There are suitable lichens and mosses.

  • As for maintenance, there’s not much. After an initial watering, you have only to keep it moist. For a closed system, which recycles water, a light mist every few weeks is adequate. Once a week, briefly remove the cover to rebalance the air. Trim plants to keep them small. Terrariums do best in indirect sunlight. The glass can magnify direct rays.

  • About the Author
    Author

    Amanda Allensworth

    Do you want more space in your apartment but don't want to sacrifice the things you love about the city? Tell me what you want out of your dream suburb and I can help you find it. My name is Amanda Allensworth and I was born and raised in Westchester. After over a decade in the city, I came back to find more space. I've lived all over Westchester and know all the ins and outs of it's towns and cities. I can help you find a house big enough for all your things that you can still walk to get a latte and get good delivery food, most likely for what you're currently paying in rent. Except now you won't have to drive around to look for street parking.

    Break up with your space, find your place.