Why is it that the moment a miniature version of something appears, we go crazy for it? There’s something about tiny things that make us smile, and a terrarium is no exception. It’s all that we love about a garden–the beautiful colors, textures, and scents–shrunken down to something we can hold in our hands.
The word terrarium simply means a place for containing earth, coming from the Latin word terra, meaning earth, and the suffix arium, meaning a place for holding or containing something. (Sorry–the English teacher side of me just took over momentarily.) We know that a terrarium is much more than a jar of dirt, though, and worth every second it takes to make.
There is no one way to create a terrarium, but there are a few basic steps to follow.
What You Need:
- Clear glass container
- Small rocks or pebbles
- Activated charcoal/activated carbon – can be found in stores selling aquarium supplies (optional)
- Dried sphagnum moss (optional)
- A breathable piece of material with holes, such as burlap, mesh, or yard material to help with layering (optional)
- Potting soil
- Small plants
- Accessories for your garden: rocks, shells, moss, tiny gnomes
- *A number of these materials are optional. At a very basic level, all you need is a container, rocks, dirt, and plants. These extra items help the health and look of your terrarium.
What You Do:
- Start by cleaning your glass container well. I’ve used all sorts of different containers: old candle jars, mason jars, apothecary jars, vases, fish bowls, hanging balls. Look around your home – you’re sure to have something!
- Mix your pebbles with a generous amount of the activated charcoal. This is supposed to keep the soil fresh, and I’ve found that it does help quite a bit with terrariums that are enclosed, such as an apothecary jar. You can also simply make a layer of the activated charcoal on top of the pebbles if you’d rather do that.
- Place a layer of pebbles along the bottom of the terrarium, at least a couple of inches high. This helps with drainage so the soil and roots are able to dry out.
- Layer a piece of the breathable material, cut to the size needed. This is optional, but if you want your layers to stay separated, it helps.
- Next, place a layer of sphagnum moss, which can be found at any garden shop. This type of moss is amazingly absorbent and again will help with drawing out extra moisture. You can follow this with another layer of the breathable material.
- Follow with a good amount of soil, at least 3 or so inches. Pack it down so it’s a nice sturdy piece of earth for your plants to grow in.
- Prepare and add your plants. Gently separate the plants and spread the roots. Then, make a hole in the soil and plant them. Press firmly around them so they stand up nicely. You may even use a rock to help prop them up at first.
- Accessorize! Add rocks, shells, green moss, tiny garden pieces.
- I like to add flowers to my terrariums to make them feel extra special. They don’t last too long, but they’re a fun addition.
How to Care:
- Plants need light, so your terrarium needs to be somewhere lighted. It doesn’t need to be direct light; in fact, direct light at times may be too hot for the glass containers. A bright kitchen, mantel, or bathroom may be the perfect spot.
- More often than not, plants die from overwatering. A terrarium doesn’t need a lot of water, and I find it’s best to let the soil dry out before watering again. Typically, I water my terrariums about once a week, but again, if the soil is wet, I don’t touch it!
- If your glass container has a lid, you’ll see condensation, and that’s okay. You can let it air out for awhile.
- Pay attention to the health of your plants. If one dies, remove it quickly. Generally, the plants should look happy! If they’re not, that’s your cue to adjust the light and/or watering. At times, you may even find that the soil is the problem and needs to be replaced.
Pictured below are a few of my terrarium creations. If you have made one, we’d love to see it! Send us a picture or share it with us on Facebook! And as always, if you have any tips to add, please do!
So, is everyone as crazy about these as we are?