My daughter Flynne asked for a terrarium last Christmas. I decided to build a terrarium and here’s what I learned.
I had a professor during my undergraduate years in the landscape architecture program at the University of Georgia who related to us that the day a plant is grown inside is the day it begins an inevitable journey to its demise.
1. Find the right container. This is by far the toughest part of your terrarium journey. Glass is preferable (acrylic and such scratches easily), and you need something with character. Patience is needed. I casually kept my eye out for the past year until finally stumbling across a good candidate. Unlike almost everything else we grow, a terrarium’s drainage should be airtight.
2. Find the right plants.
I chose cactus for this first endeavor, primarily because cacti, in general, need watering only rarely…this seemed a prudent move with a young gardener where the biggest danger is over-watering. The potential downside is that cacti need a lot of sun, but truly, I find cacti to be remarkably forgiving…most have a relatively wide tolerance of growing conditions.
To learn more about terrarium building, check out the terrarium forum over at GardenWeb.
3. Plant the terrarium.
For gardeners, this is pretty straight-forward. Remove plants from containers, arrange artfully around the terrarium, water in, and find a good spot with appropriate lighting. But…go down to your local garden store (or search the web) and buy some activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal serves several crucial functions, with the most important being drainage and toxin removal. On the bottom of the terrarium, spread a layer of charcoal (around 1″ seemed to do for me), and you will eventually cover with approximately 4″-5″ inches of soil…one of the things that surprised me while researching terrarium building was that the experts are not shy about the soil layer.
Due to the relatively crowded nature of terrariums, I found that the following method of planting worked best: Place an inch or so of soil on top of the charcoal and then arrange your plants as desired. After plants are arranged, fill in around them until the fill is level with the existing soil level of the plants.
I hope she likes it.