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How to Take Care of a Terrarium

When it comes to gardening, sometimes often varying and harsh weather conditions can damper our hopes for a yard full of flourishing plants. A good way to outwit Mother Nature is by experimenting with terrariums. These tiny, enclosed ecosystems are not only easy to maintain and care for, but they are perfect for gifts and/or décor in your home, creating breathtaking displays full of lush and thriving miniature plants.
Although terrariums do not require a lot of maintenance, there are steps you should take to help ensure your glass-garden stays successful and healthy:


When it comes to selecting your plants, you should keep in mind the size of your terrarium. You do not want a plant that will overpower the space by growing too tall or quickly; the best plant options are relatively small, thrive in humid conditions, prefer moist soil and do well with indirect sunlight.

Common plants used for these charming ecosystems are groundcovers/mosses and an array of ferns. Succulents also have been grown frequently, but if used make sure you have a terrarium that is not enclosed because these intriguing plants are not very successful in humidity. Remember: be creative! With a little research or a trip to a local nursery, and your terrarium in hand, you can discover an abundance of different types of unique plants sure to captivate onlookers.

Once you have selected the plants you wish to grow ensure their success within your terrarium. You should add stones or gravel to the bottom, to help with drainage; then you want to add a layer of charcoal to help keep the soil fresh. After the stones and charcoal are added, use a moist potting soil. Remember that because you want to keep your plants small, you should not add fertilizer. Once your plants are placed in your terrarium, you just need a little maintenance to keep it looking beautiful and healthy.

Light and water are two essential elements in the success of your terrarium. These little gardens are often seen in offices or given as gifts, because they can grow and survive well in indirect sunlight and little watering (if it’s an enclosed terrarium). Within your home, place the terrarium in a bright area with lots of indirect lighting. If you see your plants start to brown, they could be getting too much light and should be moved.

Besides proper lighting, terrariums need a proper amount of moisture as well. Since they are essentially self-contained ecosystems, thus recycling their own water, you should not have to water very frequently. Sometimes you can go without watering for months at a time. However, when it is time to add extra moisture, use a spoon, eyedropper or a water sprayer to help against over watering. If you see excess water on the sides or bottom of your terrarium, open the container and allow some time for it to dry.

Finally, remember to prune your plants to keep them at your desired size. You also will want to remove any dead plants, algae or fungus that might gather in your terrarium. You want it to remain healthy so therefore it needs to remain clean.

These are just some tips you can use to keep your terrariums looking spectacular. However, every terrarium is different; some can be enclosed or open, and the plants used can vary, thus causing the proper maintenance and care to vary as well.

Image: a2gemma
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Learn all about designing, planting and tending a terrarium from gardening and houseplant expert Tovah Martin in her book The New Terrarium.And grow all kinds of unusual houseplants with Tovah Martin's The Unexpected Houseplant.

Turn any bottle into a watering can with the fun, funky, recycled Eco Watering Spouts.

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Get four great guides to houseplants for a special low price with the Growing an Indoor Garden Value Pack.