How To: Terrarium-ing

For those of us who don’t have a piece of the outdoors to call our own, scattering a bit of green about the house helps ease the pain.

Such a pretty little thing.  It had us at hello.

Terrariums are a low maintenance and low cost way to do just that (ours cost under $5).  Plus, they come in a jar.  And we’re firm believers that everything is better in a jar.  See here for proof.

What you’ll need:

1. A container.  We used an old pickle jar, but use your imagination.  Just make sure it’s clear glass to let the sun shine through.

2. Soil, sand, or gravel + charcoal.  You need one or more of these to serve as an anchor for your little green things.  We used potting soil and small white stones collected around the neighborhood. Adding a layer of stones helps with drainage (make sure they’re little).  Adding activated charcoal really helps with drainage.

3. Plants! The soul of your terrarium.  Stick to varieties that come in 2”-4” pots, and make sure the greens you choose have the same basic needs (see below for more detail on this).  We chose a baby succulent and some moss we foraged from outside (#thievery*).

*Full disclosure: we may or may not have (we did) gotten some weird looks as we dug up patches of moss using a silver spoon.  But we also felt kind of smug about our resourcefulness.  Take it or leave it.  Just make sure your city/state allows this kind of “borrowing” and to take only what you need (best to take small patches from a variety of areas).   (#lawyerkatie)


What to do:

1. Clean and dry your container (inside and out)

2. Pour about an inch of soil or sand into the bottom of the container, along with a handful of charcoal, followed by a layer of pebbles or stones

3. Burrow a hole in the center of your soil/stones and nestle your plant(s) down into it.  Add more soil/sand if necessary to make sure all plants are fairly well anchored

4. Add moss in small patches around the edges of the terrarium

5. We kept it simple, but add decorative whatever decorative materials strike your fancy

 More intimate details:

Economics: Our terrarium set us back under $5 — $2 for the succulent and $2.50 for a bag of potting soil (both found at Home Depot).  We used an old jar as our container and gathered the pebbles and moss from around our neighborhood. Keep your eye out for charming and cheap jars and cloches at thrift stores (dollar stores are also a great place to find glass containers and small stones).

Open or closed?  A closed, lidded terrarium keeps humidity inside, so choose plants that will thrive in humid, stagnant air (think: ferns, mosses, and tropical plants).  An open terrarium is best for orchids, airplants, or succulents (these guys like fresh air).  If you go the closed route, keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight and, if possible, air it out when condensation forms on the inside of the glass.

Soil or sand?  Succulents and cacti do best in a soil mix containing lots of sand and grit (you can buy special cactus and succulent potting soil).  Typical house plants will do just fine in regular potting soil (but avoid those with fertilizers).  A tip: if you’re going the sand route, don’t use what you brought back from the beach!  Salt will kill off your plants.  No matter which you choose, we think it’s a good idea to add a layer of small rocks or pebbles to aid drainage.

Stayin Alive: A few tips.  All plants need light, so keep your jar in a well-lit area (indirect sunlight is ideal).  Terrariums do much better indoors than outdoors. If your terrarium is open, lightly water it 1-2 times per week.  We usually just put an ice cube in and let it melt.  If your jar is closed, watering is unnecessary unless your plants start to wilt/dry out.

Don’t fret: If a component of your terrarium dies off, just gently remove it.  You should be able to salvage everything else.

More advice & inspiration:  some pretty from urban comfort & some whimsy from apartment therapy. 

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One response to “How To: Terrarium-ing

  1. Pingback: 10 Things: Getting Crafty |·

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