Ever gone green with envy walking past those gorgeous glass bowls filled with tiny plants? When everyone else has their snow globes collection, we plant enthusiasts have closed terrariums!
The idea of maintaining a closed terrarium used to be akin to a certain discipline: requires a strong dose of patience and artistry in mimicking a beautiful rainforest, right in the comfort of your home. However, I found that with a few basic supplies and simple steps, anyone can create their own lush mini oasis at home – no green thumb required!
But what is a terrarium? A terrarium is an open or closed glass container in which plants are grown. It is self-sustaining and self-waters through the continuous process of precipitation and condensation. Plants get nutrients from the soil provided and the light the terrarium receives. Air is produced by the plants themselves (plants breathe too, you know.). It is perfect for those who want an easy and fun bit of the outdoors inside your home.
With the right plants and know-how, this beautiful man-made ecosystem can be a charm for any home or office for a very, very long time.
Keep reading for an easy-to-follow DIY experience:
Table of Contents
Choosing The Right Mini Plants
While the concept of a bottled garden can be very appealing, not all plants can thrive in a closed terrarium. Closed terrariums mimic the conditions of the rainforest, so humidity and moisture-loving plants would be a great choice for this. Here are 9 mini plants that are not only easy on the eyes but to care for in your terrarium, especially for beginners.
Depending on the leaf size and growth span, ferns add a touch of green in a small to large-sized terrarium, like trees in a rainforest. Some miniature ferns can also act as ground cover to the soil, mimicking the rainforest floor.
Ferns are slow-growing and love humidity and moist soil, making them perfect for closed terrariums. They also only require bright indirect to medium light. Pruning ferns to keep them in shape can be done during the terrarium maintenance schedule.
Known for its various colors and the patterns and shapes of its leaves, the nerve plant can be a tricky plant to take care of as it has strict requirements for its care. Not to be mistaken for the equally popular polka dot plant (hypoestes phyllostachya), it grows smaller and is more right sized for a terrarium.
Found on the forest floor in its natural habitat, nerve plants thrive in humid and moist conditions. To avoid having this plant grow leggy, make sure the terrarium receives bright indirect light, as it tends to follow where the light is. Occasional pruning can be done during maintenance time.
From the dwarf varieties to the medium-sized option, peperomias are known for their beautiful, lush leaves and its compact size that thrives in humid conditions, one optimally provided by a closed terrarium.
Make the peperomia the star of your terrarium in a mid-size glass container along with other terrarium plants. Make sure your terrarium receives bright indirect light for the best foliage.
Syngoniums are known for their arrow-shaped leaves and lovely variegation (yellow, green, white, even pink ones). While this plant may grow bigger than most closed terrariums, its dwarf varieties are perfect even for small glass terrariums.
Dwarf syngoniums will be happy thriving in the low light, moist and humid conditions a closed terrarium provides.
Prayer plants may look elegant on pots, where its “praying” habit is more seen, and where their foliage is more appreciated. Prayer plants can also thrive inside a large closed terrarium, due to the plant’s love for indirect sunlight, high humidity and moist soil.
Prayer plants may grow slower inside a terrarium, and you would need to trim its leaves to keep it in shape.
With its signature rounded leaves, let these “baby tears”, a vine from the Pilea family, creep along the terrarium floor to provide that grass-like rainforest cover. This plant particularly likes moist and humid environments, caring for it outside a terrarium can prove to be a challenge for most plant parents.
Since it is a vine, pruning to keep it from looking overgrown is recommended. It will look lush and green in bright indirect to medium light.
This pint-sized plant is compact, low-maintenance, and boasts an adorable, almost cartoonish appearance that's sure to put a smile on anyone's face.
Plus, with a name like "Chinese Money," you'll be sure to attract both wealth and good fortune (or at least you'll have a cute plant to stare at while you manifest it). So why fuss with other plants that require excessive care and upkeep?
Begonias are known for their textured, brightly colored leaves and small blooms. They are an eye catching addition to any terrarium or indoor space which requires little care.
Begonias can thrive from partial shade to bright indirect light: exposing them to full sun might crisp their leaves up when outside the terrarium. They also need pruning to remove dead leaves and stems, and the occasional deadheading to remove spent flowers.
Supplies For Closed Terrarium
Make sure you have the following to create and maintain your terrarium:
Glass container with lid
Glass containers are the best ones to use for a closed terrarium for several reasons
- Visibility: You can see your plants in the terrarium, therefore you can notice visible changes and can prevent them quickly if needed.
- Precipitation: In a closed terrarium’s environment, the size of the droplets in the sides and lid of the container determine if there is too much or too little water in the container.
- Light: Glass can allow the most light in, which is essential for the growth of the plants inside. You can use old jars or bottles as your terrarium, just clean them thoroughly before building the terrarium, or you can buy custom containers from stores. Consider the size and number of plants that you will include in the terrarium in determining the container you will purchase.
- Gravel is considered the first layer in creating the terrarium and is essential in the water cycle of the whole terrarium.
- It separates the bottom of the container from the actual soil substrate where the plants are.
- You may use aquarium gravel as base, but you can also use ordinary gravel, just wash them before use.
- Activated charcoal helps keep the terrarium clean and healthy by preventing mould and preventing root rot.
- It also helps clean the water before it goes to the bottom, ensuring clean water circulates in the terrarium.
- The soil to be added in the terrarium depends on the kind of plants that will be placed.
- Since most plants which are placed in the terrarium are tropical plants, a tropical soil mix is recommended.
- Low maintenance ground cover for your closed terrarium? Try adding moss.
- Moss grows with the soil, so by simply providing the needed light and humidity requirement, moss will just increase on its own.
- Make your terrarium unique by adding different decorations to it.
- Make sure the trinkets are not made of metal, as these can rust and can be toxic to the plants inside.
- These tools help you maintain and move plants in the terrarium. Perfect for confined areas like digging, watering, aerating the soil, replanting, tidying up and trimming plants – these tools are ideal for succulents, bonsai trees or other small indoor plants.
Not sure where and how to start? We got you covered!
Everything you need to begin building your terrarium with your preferred glass container or jar is included in this starter kit from Cute Farms.
It already has the materials to layer the terrarium with (pebbles, charcoal, soil and even the ground cover: moss!) and the tools you need to place your plants in: tongs, a brush to clean the sides of the terrarium in case soil gets there, and other accents to the terrarium.
It also has plant food as fertilizer for your terrarium plants. Landscape your perfect garden in a bottle away!
DIY Guide To Making A Closed Terrarium
With the needed supplies and plants on hand, you can now set up your closed terrarium. Follow these steps:
- Drainage layer: Begin by layering the terrarium. Put the gravel first as this is your “false base”. It is recommended that you put a mesh on top of the gravel to prevent soil from reaching the base, as this can cause it to rot and cause problems for the terrarium.
- Soil: Add activated charcoal followed by adding in the soil. The ratio of the soil to the drainage layer (gravel and charcoal) should be 2:1, where the soil is twice as deep as the drainage layer.
- Plants: With the soil in place, add in the plants. Use the tools to maneuver and add in the plants as needed. Once this is done, it is time to water!
- Water: With a funnel, or if you have a watering tool or pipette with a narrow spout, let the water slowly run to the side of the container. You may need to add in more soil as water is mixed. Once the soil is damp and the roots are well covered, close the terrarium lid.
- Air: You may need to open the terrarium lid once every 2 weeks to help it achieve the correct condensation levels. Hydrate by light spraying with a spray bottle.
When taking proper care of it, a terrarium with its plants can stand the test of time. Make sure to do the following to keep your terrarium healthy and happy:
Place the terrarium in an area of the home where it gets a lot of bright indirect light, as most plants within the terrarium will thrive in this light requirement.
Check the condensation formed in the walls of the terrarium to determine if the water inside is still adequate. If the droplets are too few and there is little to no fog in the glass in the early morning, it is time to water. To do this, slowly add in water and check the condensation the next day.
If there are huge droplets and too much condensation, open the terrarium and blot the excess water with tissue paper then close it again. Repeat the process until the right amount of condensation (just foggy but you can still see the plants) is achieved.
Open your sealed terrarium once a month to allow fresh air to come in, and for you to do periodic maintenance (pruning, cleaning of the terrarium walls). Not doing this can cause the terrarium to get moldy, especially if there is too much water in the terrarium.
The process of setting up a terrarium may seem intimidating at first, but with the supplies, plants and knowledge on how to best take care of it—it can become an incredibly enjoyable experience! Make sure to remember all the steps and tips mentioned to ensure that your terrarium is in optimal condition. The plants inside will thank you for it! Good luck and have a blast making your own mini forest!
Happy Growing! 🌱💚