How to Plant a Terrarium

Plants inside a terrarium in the sun

You can grow a variety of plants inside a terrarium. Image from Kat Juju.

Terrariums offer a self-contained environment for your plants. They’re a great option for a manageable garden that you can grow somewhere convenient, even on a tabletop. You can enjoy your own terrarium by following these easy steps:

1. Select your container

When selecting your terrarium container, choose a glass or a clear substance like plastic so light will pass through. If you want to grow sun-loving plants in natural light, use an open terrarium. If you want to grow plants that require high humidity, the container should be closed. In general, large glass containers work well for most kinds of terrariums. You can also purchase specially designed tabletop terrariums, hanging glass globes, or wall-mounted bubble terrariums.

2. Choose your plants

Decide what you want to grow in your terrarium. When thinking about which plants to grow, consider your environment. How much light will you be getting? All plants in a terrarium should have similar light, moisture, and other environmental needs.

Several hanging globe terrariums with plants

Air plants and small succulents look great in a hanging globe terrarium.

While almost any houseplant can be used in a terrarium, slow growing plants often work the best so that they don’t outgrow their containers. Choose plants of varying heights and leaf shapes. I also recommend adding some plants that offer color. Your plants should present a nice variety while still complementing each other. As for what plants to cultivate in your terrarium? Terrarium Man lists some common plants that are great for terrariums: Palm Neanthe Bella, Swedish Ivy, Bird Nest Sansevieria, Irish Moss, Scottish Moss, Croton, Pothos, Button Fern, Pitcher Plant, Butterwort, Miniature African violets as well as a range of succulents and herbs.

Air plants are terrific choices for the busy person or those not wanting to give too much attention to their plants because they are hard to kill. Air plants, also known as tillandsia, grow in forests, deserts and mountains of Central and South America and do not need soil to survive. Air plants are non-toxic and they have long alien-like tendrils so you can get creative. They do very well in in glass terrariums. Just remember to water your plant only once or twice a week.

3. Prepare your planting medium

You can use ordinary soil, but many gardening sources suggest Coir Bricks, which are made from coconut husk fiber. Soak the coir brick in a bucket with plenty of warm water for about 30 minutes and break it up with a trowel as it expands. You may also want to add an inch or two of expanded clay pellets to the bottom of the container, to help retain moisture. Make sure the soil or coir is at least 2″ deep, or even 3″ if the container is deep enough. Step back and make sure that the proportion of soil within the container is adequate.

In a small terrarium with tillandsia air plants, you’ll generally rest the air plants on top of sand and pretty pebbles, shells, or even smooth pieces of glass.

4. Decide how you will arrange your plants

Before setting plants into the terrarium, move them around on the tabletop to decide on the best combination and arrangement. Once you are satisfied, add your plants. Don’t be afraid to get creative and add accessories like small statues or even toys. You can turn your terrarium into a lush diorama.

Once your terrarium is planted, the plants won’t require much more than occasional watering and trimming. This low-maintenance indoor gardening option is a great way to add beauty to your home without adding a lot of work.

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