Let’s kick start this discussion by understanding what a terrarium is and how does it operate. In short, a terrarium can be defined as a small miniature garden set up in transparent sealed jars or bottles—the plants and soil release water vapor. The vapor collects on the walls of the container and slowly runs down to the soil, essentially recycling the water. People choose terrariums for different reasons. Below are some top reasons:
- They fit in small spaces-Individuals with small spaces that love gardens can easily set up a simple garden.
- They are generally low maintenance. Terrariums require little care as they are self-sufficient and self-contained. Most can go for months in between watering.
- Terrariums are attractive and can be one of the best ways of enhancing the beauty of a business or home environment.
You can purchase readymade Terrariums or come up with your own using readily available local materials.
The Best Plants To Grow In a Terrarium
As mentioned above, terrariums operate through evaporation and condensation. The soil and the plant inside the terrarium release water in the form of vapor. The vapor then condenses on the container walls. Through this, plants can self-nourish for a long time.
Terrariums come in different shapes and sizes. Before jumping to the best list of plants, it’s important to mention that foliage or slow-growing plants are recommended when building a terrarium. Another tip is to choose plants that will fit easily to the size and dimensions of the terrarium.
Examples of plants that grow well in Terrariums include:
Originating in the rainforests of Peru, this tropical plant is most commonly characterized by patterned leaves that are bright green, with silvery-white veins, and you can readily find varieties with white, pink, and green veins.
Additionally, ensure the soil is regularly and evenly watered for this plant to grow properly. The nerve plant can grow 3-6 inches tall and should be placed in bright indirect light. The best temperature range is 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity between 60-90%.
Polka Dot Plant
The Polka Dot Plant finds its place of origin in Madagascar. Showcasing vivid leaves with unique speckled patterning, ever so popular, this plant can be found in a wide variety of colors which makes this a statement plant for any terrarium.
The plant enjoys bright indirect light but can do well in low-light situations. The plant requires high humidity of 60-90%, a temperature of 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and like the Nerve Plant, they require regular and even moisture.
Finally, the Polka Dot Plant can grow quite tall, anywhere from 10 to 20 inches. Regular trimming might be necessary if your terrarium is limited in size.
The Aluminum plant is native to the tropical Southeast Asian rainforests. It is often referred to as Watermelon Pilea. This plant is mainly desired for its attractive oval, slightly jagged medium green leaves that show almost iridescent white markings. This is what makes the plant beautiful.
On very rare occasions, the plant has produced tiny, off-white flowers in color and rather plain-looking. Given the proper care, the plant is capable of growing up to 12 inches.
The Aluminum Plant should be placed in dry and well-drained soil. The desirable climate conditions are a humidity of 67%, a temperature of 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peperomia plant is a slow grower and an excellent choice for a closed sealed terrarium. The plant displays a couple of common colors on its leaves. They either have green leaves or leaves that are blushed with some red.
The plant rarely produces eye-appealing flower spikes that add an excellent color scheme to the terrarium.
Placement should be in low to bright indirect light areas. The plant requires relatively little water, and it’s recommended not to over water.
The African Violet originates in eastern tropical Africa, in Tanzania and Kenya. The word ‘Violet’ comes from the Latin name ‘Viola.’ The plant thrives in humid conditions, making it an excellent choice for terrariums.
The African Violets come in different colors burgundy, purple, pink, white, and even bi-colored. Additionally, these plants come in varying sizes and can accommodate different sizes of terrariums.
The plants do not do well in standing water. To avoid this, you should layer sand, moss, or gravel at the bottom of the terrarium.
African violets let you introduce some color into green terrariums, and the terrarium provides a less challenging way to grow these plants.
Materials Needed For Setting Up a Terrarium
You can easily set up your terrarium using materials found in most hardware stores. You can make a basic terrarium in less than an hour using inexpensive material. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Rocks and soil are used for the bottom. The rock material can be sea glass, marbles, or small crushed stones. Any of these materials encourage drainage away from the roots of your plants. For the soil, choose a sterile potting mix.
- A glass container is preferred—select the size of container that can accommodate materials and plants. Plastic containers can also be used as substitutes for glass containers. The container should not have any holes on the bottom. A top is optional.
- Sheet moss or Sphagnum moss should be used. This material ensures the terrarium soil doesn’t fall into the rock layer.
- Paper towels to wipe down the glass in the terrarium to prevent foul odors or mold growth.
- Long sharp scissors are required to trim the plants and adjust the soil or rocks as needed.
- Activated charcoal. This can be found at a nursery or pet supply store.
Small plants are recommended when setting up your basic terrarium. Tall or wide plants require larger space inside the terrarium and may not be a good choice for a person’s first terrarium.
How to set up your terrarium
Terrariums allow you to display beautiful slow-growing plants. In most instances, the enclosed small garden is stored indoors. Start this process by picking the right plant, depending on your ecosystem. Your ecosystem can be either humid or dry.
Form a bottom layer of rocks, preferably crushed stones, to create a drainage layer. The size of the bottom of the terrarium determines the number of stones you will use. Start with about a two-inch layer or so.
Next, use a large spoon to about ¼ to a ½-inch layer of activated charcoal. This will help drainage and help to control odors.
Next up, you’ll need to layer in some Sphagnum moss or Sheet moss. This will keep the next layer, the potting soil, from mixing in. Additionally, it adds a visual aspect to your terrarium.
Finally, add sterile potting soil on top of the moss. Ensure there is enough soil so that the roots of the plant are comfortably seated in the mix. An important word of caution, do not use a mixture that contains fertilizer. Terrarium plants do not need extra fertilizer.
Use a long scissor or bladed instrument of some kind to make a hole to accommodate the roots before gently placing your plant inside the soil. Flatten the layers to ensure the plant roots are well seated. Always space the plants to allow for growth. Never cramp your plants inside the terrarium.
There are instances where you are placing more than one plant inside your terrarium. In such situations, plant long plants first.
Tips on How to make Your Terrarium Thrive for Long
Your terrarium can thrive for a long time. But, first, understand what you have been doing wrong and familiarize yourself with tips on making it thrive. Below are common mistakes people make while managing their terrarium:
- Dirty glass is a problem, so regularly clean your terrarium inside glass surfaces, especially if it is foggy or cloudy. A dirty or foggy glass limits the light reaching your plants. Paper towels are the recommended choice for cleaning. Avoid cleaning chemicals because they might harm your plant.
- Choosing the wrong plants for your terrarium is another problem to avoid. You can have either an open or closed terrarium. Therefore, choose plants that can survive on the selected terrarium. It ensures a plant thrives for a long time.
- Over-watering your plants is a widespread problem. Avoid direct watering. Instead, use a spray bottle. Paper towels should be used to get rid of any excess water in your terrarium.
- Not removing dying plants promptly. Plants inside your terrarium can become infected. Be watchful and remove them immediately before they infect other plants. A long spoon or chopsticks are recommended when uprooting a dying plant in your terrarium.
- Allowing your plants to overgrow. Never let your plants overgrow in your glass garden. Keep your terrarium neat at all times through trimming. You can also prune the plant’s roots whenever they start overgrowing.
- Trying out succulents in closed terrariums. This is another common mistake people make. Succulent plants can’t survive in a closed terrarium for long. They thrive well in low moisture and high light. Unfortunately, a closed terrarium has high humidity, which makes it unfavorable for succulent plants.
- Over-fertilizing your terrarium. Most terrarium plants don’t require fertilizer. Fertilizer increases the growth speed of plants, and overgrown plants can’t thrive well in a terrarium.
Be careful when selecting plants for your terrarium. First, determine if your location favors an open or closed terrarium. This will influence the types of plants to choose. Next, choose from the above list of plants that can thrive well in a terrarium. Finally, understand the requirements of a plant before making your choice. For example, some plants thrive under low light, whereas others require medium light.
Identify a perfect location to place your terrarium. It should be away from heat sources as they will kill your plants quickly. Be thoughtful and creative when setting up your terrarium, as it will give out much beauty for all to enjoy.