Thursday, March 1, 2012

Terrarium Time

Update: My Polka Dot plants were dead within days and the stench was unbearable, so we dismantled the terrarium. Actually, I did it. Lissie wouldn't even come into the kitchen. I am planning to try again, once I find charcoal. And tiny ferns.

I'm not really a houseplant person. I like them, I buy them, and then all but the heartiest die within a few months. I wouldn't say I have a black thumb, exactly.* It's more like a lazy thumb. But lately, I keep seeing terrariums, and I think I love them. They are supposed to be low maintenance, so I thought setting one up would be a fun project as we ease into spring.

There are no doubt a zillion better tutorials experiments out there than mine, but here you go anyway. This is what we did, and our plants survived the first night, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

First, you need a glass container. I had this crooked cake stand a friend gave me. She thought it might be good for a Halloween party. And it would, but we haven't had a Halloween party yet and it's been sitting in the cupboard (the one we never go into, because of the mouse poop, but then one of the cats got stuck under the lazy Susan, and I saw the cake stand in there) for so long I wouldn't even have remembered to use it if we'd had a Halloween party last year.

Don't forget to wash your container really well to remove any mouse poop germs (you can skip this step if you don't have mice).

You also need small stones, soil, and moss. I added a clear drainage plate to hold everything in place because the base of the cake stand is flat. Some people recommend activated charcoal** too, but I am not exactly sure why. I read that it prevents odors, but I guess the lid should probably keep them in?*** I suppose if it starts to smell bad, I'll add some charcoal. Or just never open the lid.****

Start with a layer of stones.

Cover them with moss. This step may be optional, but the moss keeps the soil from migrating down into the stones so it won't get soggy. It seems like a good idea.

Cover the moss with soil.

Then you add plants. I didn't get a good picture of mine before they were planted, but obviously, you need plants that like high humidity and will fit inside your container. I used baby's tears (also called angel's tears), polka dot,***** and some kind of ivy. I bought the smallest plants I could find, and I did have to check a few different places to find tiny plants. I really wanted a fern, but I couldn't find any that would fit. I may add one later though.

You can sometimes separate the plants too. My polka dot container had four plants, but the roots were really tangled, so it looks like two plants. There were three ivies, but only two fit in the cake stand. It will be interesting to see how those two do vs. the one we planted in a pot.

It took some fiddling to get the plants where I liked them. Once I was done, we made sure the roots were covered with soil, and covered the soil with moss. I don't know whether that's necessary, but I think it looks nicer.

Then you add water****** and put on the lid. It only needs to be watered every few weeks (perfect for those of us with lazy thumbs), and if too much condensation builds up inside, the lid should be removed for a little while--which I guess is where the charcoal comes in handy.******* Dang.

*This is debatable.
**Definitely get the charcoal.
***It doesn't.
****Sometimes, you have to open the lid.
*****RIP Polka dot plants, we barely knew you.
******A tiny bit of water. Far less than you think you need.
*******Finally, I was right about something in this post.


  1. Your post is so funny :)thank you.

  2. You're welcome! I actually made a new terrarium that worked, but I keep forgetting to do a new post about it. :)

  3. I want to read it! Or see a pic!