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How to make a Terrarium?

There’s something about a Terrarium that is so soothing to look at and very satisfying to make. I think I've caught the terrarium flu, anyone else? Making a terrarium is not difficult. That is, once you know where to source the materials. Unfortunately for those who don't live in the United States, finding the right material and container can be a bit of a challenge. To save you time here's a no nonsense guide.

Step 1 - Find an appropriate terrarium container.

The simple nature of terrariums is that the container needs to be all glass. Any home store should have glass vases however if you are as pedantic as me the difficult part is locating one you like. After loads of research we found ours. And because it was do difficult we've also decided to stock them under our lifestyle banner.

When choosing the type of container think about what you would like to plant. An “Open” container is great for succulents, while a “closed” container is great for plants preferring higher humidity. Closed, meaning a container with a lid.

Never place terrariums (particularly ‘closed’ container terrariums) in direct sunlight otherwise you’ll have the risk of cooked plants. The glass magnifies all light coming through. Indirect light is optimal.

Step 2 - Prepare the layers

Similar to pot plants, drainage is super important since there are no drainage holes. The required layers in order from bottom up are:
1. Pebbles – Act as drainage and prevents roots from rotting. Think about the aesthetic you would like to achieve as they come in a range of colours. We found ours at Bunnings and had preference to the more natural looking ones.
2. Activated Charcoal – Activated simply means the charcoal has gone through a process making it more porous. Charcoal helps to keep our soil fresh by absorbing and removing nasty smells. Purchase at speciality garden stores or an aquarium store since it's often used in fish tank filters.
3. Sphagnum moss – The moss stops the soil from settling into the lower layers. Soak the moss in water for several minutes, squeeze out the water and pat layer onto the surface to ensure an even barrier. Available at Bunnings. Sometimes called Sheet Moss.
4. Potting mix – Use potting mix that is suitable for the plant you are going to use (eg. Succulent mix). Ensure to use potting mix (as opposed to garden soil) to keep your soil sterile. After all the effort you do not want your terrarium ruined due to contaminated soil.
Note: The rule of thumb is that all the layers should be around 1/3 of the height of your container.

Step 3 – Select your plants and visualise how they will be placed

Now the fun part is selecting your plants. The rule of thumb is to select "like" plants. That is, they must require the same amount of sun or water. eg. All succulents. Also think about mixing colours and textures. Or creating various heights.

Plants suitable for moisture loving / low light Terrariums:
Ferns, mosses, baby’s tears, hypoestes, fittonia, ivy, peperomia, sanseveria, schefflera

Plants suitable for high light terrariums:
Succulents, cacti and sedums

Planting Tips:

  • Use a plastic spoon as a shovel.
  • Use paper to funnel your soil into the container. This prevents the sides from getting dirty.
  • Tape a 5 cent coin to a pencil. This can then be used stamp the soil after planting.

We found this video to be useful.

Step 4 – Watering Terrariums

Never over water a terrarium. It is better to have the terrarium too dry than too wet as it is difficult to remove excess water. When you are finished planting, give your terrarium a good water.

For more inspiration check out our Pinterest Board. Be Inspired, Be Inspiring.


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