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 ones 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 finally managed to convince Melissa to spill her terrarium secrets, which she was kind enough to share in this post! Read on to learn how you can make your own at home:
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 because glass containers don’t have bottom drainage holes like regular flower pots. You can use any size glass container to make yours, ranging from a jar or brandy snifter to a fish tank.
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 don’t overtake the container. I have tried lots of different types of plants over the two years my garden has existed, and some have done well while others have died. You’ll have to experiment to see what type of plants do well for you. The plants that have found to be the best suited are:
Once the plants are in, add rocks, driftwood, etc. to create the atmosphere of your choice. I couldn’t 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 it’s just a garden in a glass bowl.”)
You can find miniature plastic animals on Amazon (or most toy stores) and ceramic animals at GreatThailand.com. If you’d like to add people to your terrarium scene, check out stores that sell model train supplies.
The most important thing about the care of this type of garden is to avoid over-watering. As I mentioned before, there’s no drainage hole, so add enough water so that the soil is just moist. It’s best to err on the dry side because too much water will cause your plants to rot: there should never be a pool of standing water in the bottom pebble layer. I also recommend not fertilizing the plants in order to ensure that they remain small. My garden is placed on a coffee table in the center of a medium-sized room that has two windows, which seem to provide enough light to keep it alive and well.
Photos by the author, and via Josh Leo on Flickr Creative Commons