How to Grow Terrarium Plants

There are three different types of land environment: forest, desert and swamp. Each environment has certain characteristics, and these three types are very different from each other. When we explore these eco-systems, we will find out what type of plants belongs in which kind of environment, and we'll learn about the relationships between the environments and the plants. When we learn about eco-systems, each part of the environment is dependent upon each other. When we have decided what to create, we build it, and we watch the results of our work. Choosing terrarium plants an be difficult, because there are lots of great terrarium plants to choose from. These terrarium plants are so easy to grow, even a complete novice or a convicted plant serial killer can have success.  In a closed terrarium, plants almost never need water and will grow happily for years with minimal care. Make sure to buy plants that are small enough to fit into your terrarium jar, preferably without touching the sides. A cactus terrarium is its own mini ecosystem.

The bottom layer is for drainage, and consists of pea gravel, pebbles, or very coarse sand.
Proper drainage is essential to ensure that the soil doesn't become over-saturated, which may lead to root rot, and the death of your plants.
Depending on the size of your container, you will want to spread at least an inch of drainage material evenly across the entire bottom of your terrarium. For large or deep containers, up to 3 inches of material may be used.

On top of the drainage layer, it is a good idea to spread a thin layer of activated charcoal, like you would use in your aquarium filter.
This layer will help to clean the air of the fumes caused when the organic materials begin to decompose.

The third layer is a thin cover of sphagnum moss, spread evenly over the first two layers.
The purpose of this, is to prevent the soil from sifting down into the drainage layer, which would render it useless.

The final level is that of your soil. Many garden centers sell a potting mix specifically for terrariums. In reality, all that you normally get for the extra money is sand added to their regular potting mix. You may choose a pre-mixed terrarium soil, or if you prefer, just add one part coarse builders sand, and one part leaf mold (or humus) to each two parts of your usual mix.

Do not add any fertilizer to the terrarium mix. It already has enough nutrients to last a long time. Too much fertilizer will cause the plants to out grow their surroundings much too quickly.If your intent is to create a desert

type terrarium garden, be sure to add extra sand to the soil mixture, and additional gravel to the drainage level.

Creating Your Terrarium Landscape

While the bottom tree layers are laid in evenly, the terrarium will seem more realistic if you add contour to the landscape, with different levels of soil. You can create terraces, valleys, and hills. Use your own special stones or pieces of wood as landscape accents, just as you would use driftwood or boulders in your outdoor landscape. Use your imagination. The main difference in this case is that you must miniaturize everything you do. If you intend to add critters of any kind (like lizards or tarantulas) to your terrarium, be sure to create a 'lake' somewhere within the landscape for them to drink from. This can be made out of any shallow dish or saucer, depressed into the soil. Your terrarium plants should be chosen for their compatibility in lighting, watering, and humidity needs. Choose plants of varying height, shape, texture and color to create the desired landscape effect. Small specimens of plant varieties that do not grow too quickly are your best choice.

Terrarium Plants

Once your decision is made as to where you will set your terrarium up, and you have chosen the appropriate plants, you are ready to go to work. Your new landscape should be structured and set up for the best visual effect from the viewers point of view. For example, if the garden will be viewed from all sides, a large plant should be planted in the middle, with lower plants around it. If your terrarium will primarily be viewed from only one side, the tallest plant should be placed near the rear of the container, with lower plants in the foreground. It is sometimes a good idea to use something special as a focal point in the landscape, such as a rock or stick to simulate boulders or logs. In these cases, or if you should decide to include a small statue as part of the garden, be sure that it is about the same scale as the plantings. Before you do any planting, take your time and make certain that the arrangement of your plants creates the desired effect. While they are still in their pots, set the plants around inside the terrarium. In narrow mouthed containers, it is a better idea to put your ideas down on paper. Adjust the soil level to create hills at the back, and valleys in the foreground. Move your logs and boulders to different locations within the landscape. Step back a foot or two and see if your arrangement creates the desired effect. If not, do a little more rearranging, and check it again. When you decide that you have created the right 'scene', you are ready to do your planting. No special tools are needed for planting your terrarium, unless you are using a bottle or other narrow mouthed containers. Most likely, you will use a kitchen spoon as your shovel, a fork as your rake, and small scissors as your shears. Narrow-mouthed terrariums require special tools to get the plant down into the terrariumand into the right spot. (i.e. a funnel to add the soil, long slender sticks to dig with, and some type of 'grabber' (unless you are good with chopsticks) to lower the plants in, and to actually plant them. Once you have determined the arrangement of the plants and terrain, you are ready to landscape.bRemove the plant from it's pot, and set it into a pre-dug hole. Unlike planting in the garden, it is not necessary to loosen the plant's roots. In a terrarium, you don't want the plants to grow too quickly, and leaving the root ball compacted will slow the growth of the plants. Firm the soil gently around the roots. Do not crowd the plants or place them directly against the sides of the container. Allow sufficient space for them to grow and spread, without becoming entangled in other plants.
After planting, the soil should be slightly moistened. Never allow the soil to be soggy, unless you are growing 'Bog' plants!
A lid should then be placed on your terrarium. Normally, a clear sheet of glass is used, but you may have to use your imagination to find the appropriate lid.



Check the terrarium frequently for the appearance of condensation on the glass. If large water drops appear on the glass, the container should be left open for a while, until any excess moisture evaporates. In some cases, it may be necessary to keep the lid slightly opened, to allow for fresh air circulation. However, keep in mind that a balanced terrarium should have a certain amount of moisture on the glass. A completely enclosed terrarium requires little or no watering. If it is not totally enclosed, you may have to water on a weekly or monthly basis, more often for completely open terrariums or dish gardens. The addition of water only becomes necessary if no condensation accumulates on the glass. When water is eventually needed, it should only be added a small amount at a time, since there is no place for the surplus water to run off. Over watering quickly increases the danger of fungus or mold. Recheck the next day, and if no condensation has appeared, more water may be added. When in doubt, always water less, but watch carefully so that plants do not become too dry and wilt. Generally, terrariums should not need fertilizing, but if the plants start to appear malnourished, you may feed them using a watered down fertilizer. Occasionally, it may become necessary to prune or to replace a dead plant. Diseased plants should be removed immediately. Although confined plants tend to grow very slowly, any plant that has outgrown its environment should be replaced.


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