I’ve always coveted my friend Melissa’s fabulous terrarium, which is the centerpiece of her stylish, cozy Brooklyn apartment. I’ve secretly wanted one of my own for ages, and recently realizing that some artsy terrariums can sell for thousands of dollars, I decided it was high time to learn how to make my own on the cheap. After much pleading, I’ve finally managed to convince Melissa to spill her terrarium secrets…
How to make a container garden ‘terrarium’ – by Melissa Cotton
I found a large, clear, sphere-shaped glass bowl at a floral supply shop. A glass vessel of this shape is called a “rose bowl” and they come in many different sizes. Mine happens to have a 15″ diameter at the widest point. Part of the success of these types of container gardens is providing for good drainage. This is because the glass container does not have a bottom drainage hole like a regular flower pot.
1. Start with a 1 1/2″ layer of small pebbles on the floor of the container.
2. Cover the pebbles with a thin layer of loose charcoal, which will help keep the water in your garden from stagnating.
3. Cover the charcoal with an inch layer of sphagnum moss. Look in the aquarium/terrarium section of a pet store for the pebbles, charcoal, and moss.
4. Now add enough potting soil so that the total contents occupy about 1/4 of the container. There will be some settling of the layers. Mine settled about 3/4″ over about 6 months, so add extra soil to account for this.
5. Choose small or miniature plant varieties so they do not overtake the container. I have tried lots of different types of plants over the two years my garden has existed. Some have done well and some have died. You will have to experiment to see what type of plants do well for you. The plants that have found to be the best suited are asparagus fern, mistletoe fig, and succulent aloe varieties. Add rocks, driftwood, etc to create the atmosphere of your choice. I could not resist adding some “fauna” to my garden, which include a very cute, tiny ceramic turtle and a plastic 8-point buck. These happen to be the favorite additions for most guests. (Jill adds – “The miniature animals are crucial! Otherwise its just a garden in a glass bowl…”)
The most important thing about the care of this type of garden is to avoid over-watering. Like I mentioned before, there is no drainage hole, so add enough water so that the soil is just moist. Error on the dry side because too much water will cause your plants to rot. There should not be a pool of standing water in the bottom pebble layer. I also recommend not fertilizing the plants to ensure that they remain small. My garden is placed on a coffee table in the center of a medium sized room with two windows. This seems to be enough light to keep it alive and well.