How to Make an Open Terrarium

Written by m.h. dyer Google
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How to Make an Open Terrarium
(Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

A terrarium is a miniature enclosed ecosystem that can add interest to a desk, shelf or tabletop. Creating a terrarium isn't difficult, and can be an enjoyable hobby that will allow you to use your creativity and gardening skills. Closed terrariums are sealed, creating a warm, humid environment for the growing plants. An open terrarium is easier to maintain and the plants are less susceptible to disease, making open terrariums a suitable choice for beginners.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Open-top glass container
  • Dish detergent
  • Clean gravel or small pebbles
  • Activated charcoal
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Commercial potting soil
  • Small plants

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  1. 1

    Scrub a glass, open-top container with hot, soapy water, then rinse thoroughly. Any sturdy, clear glass container, such as a small fish tank, ceramic bowl, gallon jar, fish bowl, quart-jar turned on its side or a large brandy glass will work as your terrarium.

  2. 2

    Spread a 1/2-inch layer of clean gravel or small pebbles in the bottom of the glass container. Cover the gravel or pebbles with about 1/2 inch of activated charcoal. The gravel or pebbles will improve drainage and the charcoal will keep the terrarium fresh.

  3. 3

    Cover the layer of activated charcoal with a thin layer of sphagnum moss. Place about 2 inches of good quality commercial potting soil over the moss.

  4. 4

    Select an odd number of plants for your terrarium. For most terrariums, three or five plants is optimum. Choose plants that are slow growers and can tolerate low-to-moderate light levels and a humid environment. Look for plants such as small ferns, African violets, philodendron or English ivy. Choose a variety of sizes, shapes and colours to add interest to your terrarium. The terrarium environment is too humid for cacti and succulents.

  5. 5

    Arrange the plants in your terrarium, but don't plant them until you're pleased with the arrangement. Put the tallest plant in the terrarium first, then place the smaller plants around the taller plant. Stand back and look at your placement, then adjust the placement, if necessary.

  6. 6

    Use your hands to create a small hole in the potting soil for each plant. Place the plant in the hole and pat the soil around the roots. Sprinkle water slowly over the potting soil, until the soil is lightly damp.

  7. 7

    Add embellishments to your terrarium, if desired. Use natural embellishments such as rocks, small pieces of driftwood, or small ceramic elements.

  8. 8

    Check the terrarium at least once a week. If the soil feels dry, sprinkle a small amount of water over the soil. The soil should be kept only slightly moist, as wet soil will rot the plants. Rotate the terrarium occasionally so all the terrarium plants will receive equal exposure to light.

Tips and warnings

  • Terrariums don't require fertiliser, which will make the plants grow too fast. If you think your terrarium plants need fertiliser, water them lightly with a water-soluble indoor fertiliser diluted to 1/10 of the suggested solution.

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