Terrarium: a collection of compatible plants grown in an enclosed, or partially enclosed, clear container.
There are many different ways you can go about designing a terrarium. Your imagination is the key! This 'ible is the easiest, dare I say, most effective, nay, best, way I know how to go about assembling these tiny worlds....I hope many of you feel inspired and send pictures!!
- A terrarium is, or can be, its own self-sustaining eco-system, within the transparent environment, sunlight penetrates the glass causing entrapped water vapors to rise, the vapor rises to the "roof" and falls at night as temperature cools, much like rain on Earth, creating a cycle of water. The cycle allows for life to flourish creating a self-sustained eco-system.
- Closed terrariums: Generally for tropical plants such as Moss, Orchids, Air Plants - These plants thrive in moist, mostly-shade environments. Keeping the glass closed allows moisture to be trapped creating the rain effect. A closed terrarium can be as small as a sealed thimble sized glass container, to the extra large greenhouses you find in backyards, farms, and city-gardens (dare I say "Viva los Bio-Dome!")....the larger the container, the more you may have to do to maintain the eco-system
- Skeptics say the idea that you can close them forever is a myth, because mold will form and could destroy the eco-system...but I say, and i am sure there are most who will agree, mold IS an organisim, AND plants are resilient and overcome all types of atmospheres.
**Side note, I recently watched "The Secret Language of Plants" on Netflix. If you enjoy gardening or just How-Things-Work, I highly suggest this PBS gem.
- Check out this 42 year old sealed terrarium!
- Open terrariums: (This is what we are making) are more commonly assembled using "dry" plants, such as succulents, cacti, airplants, ferns, etc. Not all plants thrive in moist environments open terrariums use open-glass containers to allow some of the moisture to disipate slowly overtime.
Here are some more Instructables Terrariums: Remix Inspired
Lets Move Along...if you are looking for Care instructions, Check out the Last Page...
Your planting foundation will consist of four layers.
The bottom layer is for drainage:Consists of pea gravel, pebbles, or very coarse sand.
- Why? Proper drainage is important in terrarium health so the soil doesn't become over-saturated, which can lead to root rot, and the death of your plants.
- Depending on the size of your container: 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: Athin layer of activated charcoal, like you would use in your aquarium filter, should be used.
- Why? Charcoal will help to clean the air from the fumes caused when the organic materials begin to decompose, think "air purification", while these eco-systems are basically self reliant, little air scrubbers, they still could use a boost seeing as there will be no actuall rain to do the job
The third layer is a thin cover of sphagnum moss: While this step is optional, and I opted out, you can spread evenly over the first two layers.
- Why? To prevent the soil from sifting down into the drainage layer, which would render it useless, I opted for a healthy potting mix, Miracle Grow, which is course enough not to sift to the bottom, yet dense enough to supply the moisture retention and nutrients for the plants to grow.
The final level is that of your soil: Some gardening/nursery stores stock potting mix specifically for terrariums. However, all 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. Again, though, Miracle Grow has a superb product, and that is what we are using here
- Important Note: Never use beach sand in any potting mix! Due to the different microbes, salt content, bacteria, molds, fungus, etc, beach sand has a higher probability of killing your terrarium long before the eco-system even has a chance.... you have been warned.
Fertilizer: Some say nay-nay, some say yay!, I say, like any transplant, new planting, cutting, etc, sometimes your plants need a boost. I opt for a diluted mixture of Superthrive. I have read reviews about how poepl think it doesnt work, but at the same time, I have had alot of luck...so It can't hurt, as long as you dilute the mix! You can always add more, but you can never take away....so be thoughtful!
- Remember: Too much fertilizer will cause the plants to out grow their surroundings much too quickly.
For a Desert type terrarium garden: Follow the same procedure except: add extra sand to the soil mixture, and additional gravel to the drainage level.