For the last few years I have had a black thumb, so much so that we had no plants in our house. I had begun to prefer cut flowers, because I know it is not my fault when they die. It is odd because I actually have a degree in Biology and maintained all the plants in my university greenhouse. I seem to just forget about caring for the ones in my own home.
I want to be better. I want to get my green thumb back. I love teaching my kids about nature. Last spring, I was pretty successful planting a container garden with my son that produced strawberries, broccoli, and peppers. He faithfully maintained his garden.
Now that it is winter I want him still to have an opportunity to garden indoors. I thought the ideal solution for my recent inability to keep plants alive and his interest in plants was a terrarium. We made it a weekend project to assemble a terrarium.
I had already found a glass vessel at HomeGoods for $12. I think they have a great, inexpensive selection of vessels perfect for terrariums. The one I found had this unique bell shape with a narrow opening and wide base. The price was amazing for a vase this size.
I took my boys with to the local garden centers to select the plants. I was mildly disappointed there were no succulents to be found. Instead we opted for schefflera, a gorgeous aubergine bromeliad, and purple passion. Obviously I was distracted by kids and forgot my greenhouse training, because I purchased plants with all different lighting requirements. I decided I could make it work. I would just position the completed vessel carefully so the high light plants face the window and the lower light plants get less direct light on the other side.
- Glass Vessel – open or with a lid
- Decorative Rock (I chose white crushed marble)
- Potting Soil
- Small plants (try to choose a variety with similar lighting and water needs)
- Activated Charcoal (optional, I could not find it at my garden center, but I hear it helps the little terrarium ecosystem)
- Decorative Elements (optional, I used a glass ornament and river rock)
Terrarium How To:
- Remove the plants from their containers. I prefer to water the plant in the container and then gently roll the container on it’s side will pushing down slightly. The soil will loosen from the container and you will be able to remove it altogether without damaging the roots.
- Carefully remove the excess soil from the roots and separate the plants. I purchased one pot of schefflera that had two plants in it. The purple passion had four plants in one small pot.
1. Add a layer of decorative rock to the glass vessel. It should be 1-2″ thick. The rock creates a place for excess water drainage. I chose crushed white marble as a decorative element, but you can also use a more natural or darker colored rocks to blend in better with the soil.
Optional: Add a layer of activated charcoal on top of the rocks. I skipped this step because my vessel is open and my local garden center did not have activated charcoal. I have since heard you may also be able to find it at pet stores for fish tank filters. I think it is more important for a closed lid terrarium, because it serves as an air filter.
2. Add a layer of potting soil. It should be deep enough for planting. My soil was about 3-4 inches deep.
3. Place the plants in the terrarium. Use your fingers to dig a small well where you want each plant to go. Lower the plants roots into the well and then backfill with soil. I planted the smaller plants first and then did the larger plants, because the opening of my vessel was very narrow. Also, due to some
kid distraction mis-estimation at the garden center, the bromeliad we selected was too large for our glass vessel. We decided to plant it in a separate pot.
4. Add desired decorative elements. Since we ended up with only two plant varieties in our terrarium, we added some additional interesting visual elements. I used a smoke glass ornament to add a gazing ball type decoration. My son carefully selected some decorative river rocks to sprinkle on the soil.
We made a home for our terrarium atop a stenciled tray on the dining room table. We potted the bromeliad in a cute lime green pot and added it to the tray. Two silver jack sculptures from Z Gallerie rounded out the look.
The best part of this project was the proud look on my son’s face as he marveled at his creation. Now I just hope I can help him keep it alive.