Terrarium Gardening

Terrarium:  a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants.

Terrariums provide a wonderful indoor gardening activity  and are easy to make. The materials needed to create a terrarium such as drainage pebbles, soil and small plants are readily available and virtually any container can be repurposed into a terrarium.  Having greenery around during the winter months is a surefire way to beat the blues and terrarium gardening is a fun creative outlet. Low maintenance needs make terrariums very appealing.

To prepare this post I visited my local Terrain at Styers store for inspiration and to purchase plants. They have a whole section of ready made terrariums or all plants and materials to build your own. I created my own closed container terrarium and documented the process to walk  you through the step-by-step construction.  Then I met with my talented gardening friend  Missy who sells terrariums she creates, to have her share her best tips for successful terrarium construction and to teach us all her creative design secrets. You are in for a treat!

Terrain at Styers creation

Terrain at Styers creation

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Trio of 3 small open terrariums from Terrain at Styers

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Succulent composition from Terrain at Styers

A general rule for success is to decide where you will locate your terrarium and how much light it will receive.  This will determine the kinds of plants you need:  abundant light suits succulents and cacti while low light is more for leafy plants which do well in shade.  Succulents and cacti do best in open containers.  Shade loving plants do best in closed containers where they will thrive in the  moist ecosystem. Choose small plants and group plants that have similar light and moisture requirements.

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Different rocks are featured in the design of this taller terrarium from Terrain.

This very interesting vessel, open at both ends, makes for a captivating composition at Terrain.

This very interesting vessel, open at both ends, makes for a captivating composition at Terrain.

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Simple succulents with different textures, colors and heights from Terrain.

Not all terrariums are in glass: this beauty from Terrain is in a hollowed log.

Not all terrariums are in glass: this beauty from Terrain is in a hollowed log.

Step by Step Terrarium construction:

1-  Choose your container.  Vases, gold fish bowls, jars, bowls or true terrariums in all sizes can all be used to create a terrarium garden.

I chose an old terrarium of my son's that I spruced up with chalk board paint.

I chose an old terrarium of my son’s that I spruced up with chalk board paint.

2-  Envision your design:  Think about the number of plants you will use, different heights for visual interest and get creative with incorporating some interesting add-ins such as rocks, bark, moss, and whimsical objects such as miniature furniture, birds, colored glass and birds nests.  If you are dividing larger plants, trim some of their roots down.

3-  Prep your container:  Start with a drainage layer.  This will consitst of a 1/2 inch to 1 inch layer of pebbles, small rocks or broken recycled glass or clay pots.  The drainage layer helps ensure excess water doesn’t stay in soil and cause root rot. If you are using a glass terrarium, bear in mind that the drainage layer will be visible.  A drainage layer is mandatory.  If your container will be closed, it is a good idea to add a layer of charcoal on top of the drainage pebbles.  The charcoal helps remove toxins and odors from your terrarium.  Although horticultural charcoal is sold for this express purpose, you can use regular grilling charcoal briquettes that you break down into a finer consistency for a less costly option. Live mosses can also remove toxins in a terrarium.  Next, add a soil layer deep enough to cover the roots of your plants on top of the drainage material.  Always use new soil when planting a new terrarium.

My drainage layer: rocks.

My drainage layer: rocks.

4-  Plant:  Dig small holes in the soil and add the plants your have chosen.

A small fern is planted into the soil and natural accessories are introduced: a pinecone, a rock, some bark.

A small fern is planted into the soil and natural accessories are introduced: a pinecone, a rock, some bark.

5-  Accessorize:  Here’s where you can get creative and have a lot of fun. Add some personality, and interest to terrariums with natural elements.  Bring in some whimsy with artistic additions to your composition, several examples to follow.

Moss is added to cleanse toxins from the air and add another layer of texture and color to my design.

Moss is added to cleanse toxins from the air and add another layer of texture and color to my design.

6-  Water to saturate the soil.  Succulents in open containers should be sparingly watered about every 8 days.  Leafy plants in closed terrariums may require infrequent watering.  Using small medical plastic syringes or turkey basters can deliver water just to the plant roots, prevent overwatering and avoid unsightly water splashes on the sides of your containers.  Another invaluable Missy trick!

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My completed terrarium.

In the following photographs, Missy will share her many creative ideas for adding whimsy and art to terrariums.

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This tall terrarium was created in a vase fitted with an old picture frame for a top! Missy Fennimore design

The clever lid Missy fashioned from a similarly sized picture frame!

The clever lid Missy fashioned from a similarly sized picture frame!

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Missy added branches to fill some of the height of the terrarium. She hot glued some moss on the branches and created a bird’s nest and eggs out of sculpting clay. She nestled a small cardinal on the side of the nest.  Terrariums with whimsical decor are interesting to behold.  A little bling to make your terrarium design soar and shine!

 

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Sculpey clay is used to create all kinds of fun inserts for Missy’s terrariums: birds nests and eggs, snakes, flagstone pathways, custom gift tags. Limitless possibilities!  Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Clay gift tag strung on a pretty ribbon for gift giving a terrarium. So pretty and total custom touch.

Clay gift tag strung on a pretty ribbon for gift giving a terrarium. So pretty with a total custom touch.

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Miniature clay pots filled with artificial succulents and moss, flowers or left empty, add interest to Missy’s terrariums.

This classic terrarium was scored at a thrift shop. Missy says keep an eye for potential terrariums at tag sales and at thrift shops on your travels. You would be surprised what you can find!

This classic terrarium was scored at a thrift shop. Missy says keep an eye out for terrariums at tag sales and at thrift shops on your travels. You would be surprised at what you can find!

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Did you notice the adorable miniature cairn nestled in this terrarium? Missy makes them by stacking smooth rocks and hot glueing them together.

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These cairns totally rock!

My favorite take home from Missy: use a plastic medical irrigation syringe, available from drugstores or oral surgeons, to direct the watering right to the roots to prevent water splatters.

My favorite take home from Missy: using plastic medical irrigation syringes, available from drugstores or your dentist’s office, to direct the watering right to the roots of your plants.  This prevents water splatters or excess watering.   Missy buys many of her plants at big box store nurseries and divides them herself.  They are more economical to buy this way and one plant yields several smaller plants for use in a terrarium design.

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A small bird in a cage captures the imagination in this composition of Missy’s.  Look for small objects in your travels that can be used in terrariums.

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A garden table and chairs in fire truck red invites one to explore this terrarium more closely. This furniture was repurposed from Christmas ornaments.

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The Victorian green house terrarium Missy scored at a thrift shop and which houses the red table and chairs. Isn’t pretty?

Special thanks to Missy Fennimore for sharing her inspiring terrarium creations with us,  sharing design tips and showing us how to accessorize terrariums in the most creative ways.  I learned so much and hope you did too!  If you live in the Philadelphia region and are interested in having Missy design a terrarium for you, leave me a message and I will put you in touch with her.

Thank you to Terrain at Styers for always providing inspirational displays.

6 thoughts on “Terrarium Gardening

  1. I have often admired your beautiful terrarium and was happy to see its new display. Loved all the photos.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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