Terrariums are seriously in.
Integrating a modern style with soothing natural elements, they are stunningly eye-catching and make a stand-out feature in any room. People just can’t get enough of them at the moment. Plus, houseplants are always a good investment: they add incredible warmth and life to our room designs, they lift our moods (especially in the gloomy winter), and they even purify the air in our homes and increase oxygen levels.
However, though they may look modern, the terrarium was invented in Victorian times, and was used to protect plants from London’s polluted atmosphere or to transport them on ships from tropical climates. They quickly became fashionable at the time, and now they re seeing a huge resurgence.
There are two types of terrarium: open and closed. Both are made from a selection of compatible plants (plants that need the same growing conditions), and they live in an enclosed, or partially enclosed, clear container (which can be plastic, but is usually glass).
They also come in all shapes and sizes:
Whether you go open or closed depends on the type of plants you choose to go for. For succulents and cacti you will want an open container to allow you to control the moisture.
For tropical plants like ferns, orchids, mosses and the like, you will want a closed container to trap the moisture and heat. A closed terrarium can actually be a self-contained ecosystem, where sunlight evaporates the water within during the day, and at night the water cools and runs back to the bottom, just like the earth’s water cycle.
So let me show you just how easy it is to make a terrarium for your own house.
Now of course you can go out and buy some gorgeous terrariums (if you’re willing to fork out the stirling), but one of the coolest things about these beauties is that you can make your own out of almost any old glass container. They can be closed or open topped, and you can use anything from a little old jam jar to a repurposed fish bowl, or even an old coffee pot! Why not wander down to your local charity shops and have a rummage for interesting glasswear on the cheap?
Let There Be Layers
The trick to creating a good terrarium is all in the layers. At the bottom you will want a layer of small stones or gravel. This creates drainage to make sure your plants aren’t sitting in water. If you can get hold of some, a layer of crushed charcoal will keep your soil fresh (especially if it is a closed terrarium). Next add a layer of sand. Finally, add a good layer of soil. This should all add up to around a third of the height of your terrarium, and pay close attention to how the sides look as they will be on display.
Make sure your mix is sterile to avoid introducing harmful microbes; this is particularly important for a closed container.
Get In There
Now it’s time to get your terrarium plants in. Don’t get carried away – three is probably enough. You can do as many as you like, but just make sure it’s not too crowded, and that the foliage isn’t touching the glass. Start with the larger plants and then the smaller. You may need some long tweezers or something like it (chopsticks can work great too!). Most importantly, make sure your plants are compatible in their needs – ferns and cacti don’t mix!
For something really interesting try some air plants (epiphytes); many of them look almost otherworldly, they absorb moisture from the air, and seldom even have real roots.
Terrariums work best when they look like a miniature world of their own. Adding mosses, bits of wood, perhaps a couple of decorative stones and such will make it look like it’s own little landscape. Some people even add little figures for a real novel effect!
Now let’s look at aftercare. First off, don’t place it in direct sunlight or near a radiator, otherwise your plants will burn up in no time. You want a bright position with plenty of light, just not direct. For closed containers the moisture should recycle, but just keep an eye on it to see that it doesn’t need topping up. It may take a little trial and error to get it right. Open containers you just treat like any other houseplant. Best to use a spray of water rather than pouring for either type – it gives you more control.
Do remove any dead or dying foliage to prevent fungal diseases. Don’t fertilise your plants, and prune them if they get too large. You can also root-prune if you need to to keep them small. Remember, you don’t want the plants touching the glass.
So there you have it, a beautiful little world of plants in a stylish glass container. Wherever they go in the house, they will be an instant talking point. They can sit on the side like a normal plant pot, or you can create a hanging terrarium with some old twine for even more impact. And if you go for a closed terrarium, it should literally look after itself!
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and become a terrarium gardener.