Creating a Terrarium

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Terrariums are one of the most intriguing and straight forward ways of creating a small, easy to manage green space in the home. With virtually no major maintenance required, they are effortless to make and allow you to become creative with your designs. Terrariums are guaranteed to add vitality to the home and leave guests in awe. Many of us enjoy keeping indoor plants, but know it’s not always so easy considering the central air and heating systems that are infamous for causing plants to dry out and become aesthetically unpleasing - we Minnesotans know this dreaded fate all too well! 

The main purpose of a terrarium is to retain its own moisture. When plants are kept in a glass enclosure, they tend to do surprisingly well.  With no drainage system and an enclosed top the humidity created is very beneficial to plants that are difficult to grow otherwise; like delicate ferns, orchids, and true mosses. With watering no more than once a month and a small amount of trimming and sprucing here and there – what’s your excuse for not owning one? Most likely you have an old glass vessel not in use somewhere. There are infinite design possibilities and types of environments you can create in your very own “mini greenhouse” – so let’s get started!

For a basic moist terrarium you will need: 

  • Your glass piece: open/enclosed top (enclosed allows you to better control humidity and water vapor retention)
  • Rocks/Pebbles for bottom layer
  • Carbon Filter or Charcoal
  • Citrus Soil/Orchid Soil or any soil with woodchips that gives adequate drainage
  • A variety of green plants

Popular examples include maidenhair fern, lace fern, bird’s nest fern, palm plant, espicia, sellaginella (true moss), pepperomia, elephant ear. (The choice of plants will decipher what kind of environment you are creating ) 

  • Decorative Items: Stones, Seashells, Moss: (Sheet moss, Spanish moss, Reindeer moss)

To begin, make sure the vessel is clean but do not use any harsh chemical cleaners to clean the inside.

Create your layer of drainage (pebbles) at least 2/6 of the container height.

 Then add about ½ inch of carbon or charcoal. Begin to add soil making sure there is room for adequate root growth. 


Next, add your plants – be sure to remove excess soil and break a part bottom segments of roots - this will promote growth and allow better mineral absorption.


Once plants are placed where you like, begin to add more soil, gently pushing and tapping around base of stem for support. This tends to get a bit tricky if your vessel has a small opening. It is helpful to use a spoon or a paintbrush to even things out if you are having difficulty. 

You’re almost done! Once plants are tucked in, you can water immediately but should not need more than ½ cup. 

Lastly, place your decorative touches in and leave be. 

Be sure to consider the requirements of the plants you choose as some or more partial to shade or indirect sun. Ideally you want plants that enjoy moisture and will thrive together. Most green lush plants (like examples listed above) prefer indirect bright sun and adequate humidity. Your terrarium should have significant growth within the first two months of planting. 

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