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How to Build a Fantastic Terrarium!

As autumn puts outdoor gardens to bed, put your creative mind to work by building a tiny magical garden indoors. Terrariums are a great way to keep green in your life, year-round!

Materials

  • Glass container with lid
  • Small pebbles
  • Horticultural charcoal
  • Indoor potting mix
  • Terrarium-appropriate plants
  • Fun decorations, accessories, and figurines

Humidity-loving plants for your terrarium

  • Fittonia argyroneura (Nerve Plant)
  • Ficus pumila quercifolia (Miniature Oakleaf Creeping Fig)
  • Pellaea rotundifolia (Button Fern)
  • Peperomia prostrata (String of Turtles)
  • Peperomia caperata (Emerald Ripple Peperomia)
  • Pilea glauca (Aquamarine)
  • Selaginella (Clubmoss)
  • Saxifraga stolonifera (Strawberry Begonia)
  • Soleirolia soleirolii (Baby Tears)

The Build

  1. Gather your materials so everything is together at your worktable.
  2. Fill the bottom 1/4 of your container with pebbles. We add a spoonful of horticultural charcoal (this acts as a filtration system for mold problems and odor) to mix in with the pebbles.
  3. With a spoon or funnel, add your fine potting mix. You want enough soil to be able to plant in but try to keep it at, or below, the halfway point of the container
  4. Now you are ready to plant! Choose a range of textures and colors but be mindful about the space you have. You don’t want the plants smashed up against the sides of the jar. This means you may only have room for one or two plants if you choose a tiny vessel like a salt shaker or an apothecary jar. Trim leggy bits and bruised leaves right off the bat to save you some maintenance chores later. Plant the largest plant first and then plant the littler ones around it. Make sure your roots are buried in the soil and not sitting on top of it.
  5. Time for the initial watering. You can use a spoon, an eye dropper, a soaked cotton ball or rag, a spray bottle… anything that allows you to really control the amount and the application of water. Dripping and/or spraying is always better than pouring, which can dislodge your plants and wreak muddy havoc in your beautiful artwork. A wet piece of towel or cotton ball can be wrung out slowly into the container. After a few regular waterings, there should be enough water vapor let off by the plants to start their own water cycle (if the container is closed).
  6. At this point you have a viable terrarium so everything else is decoration. Have fun with this! We like to use colorful pebbles, raw quartz, shells, sand, preserved moss, driftwood, tiny furniture, beads and marbles, fairy and animal figurines… basically any bits and bobs that catch your eye. Let your inner magpie free! Just remember that things made out of paper or cardboard will likely degrade in the humidity and sometimes dyes will bleed into your soil.
  7. Place your terrarium in bright, indirect light (away from heaters and direct sunlight) and enjoy for years to come!

Maintenance

  • The number one problem is overwatering! Especially with a closed system. You want the soil to be gently damp but not soggy. The air should be humid enough to leave condensation on the jar walls. If you aren’t seeing condensation buildup then you can very carefully water. If you accidentally overwater, put pieces of paper towel inside to soak up excess and leave the lid off until the moisture level is under control.
  • Don’t be afraid to get in there with tiny snips and trim back leggy stems. Choosing not to fertilize will help in this department since you won’t be encouraging wild growth. Also, immediately remove dead or diseased vegetation to prevent it from spreading rot.
  • Clean the glass inside and out every once in a while. If your bottle neck is very narrow you can use tweezers and a cotton ball to reach the glass inside.
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