My First Terrarium

Hello friends, hope you all had a great weekend!

Delhi experienced torrential rains on Friday and Saturday and it was fun to see the constant cloud cover finally giving us some rain. The weekend was lovely and I would have appreciated it if Monday never came. Nevertheless, one has to live with these things.

Today, I will talk about a project that is close to my heart – my first terrarium. A terrarium is a small ecosystem in itself and is, ideally, self-sustained. There are two kinds of terrariums – closed and open. Closed terrariums are sealed and are ideal for moisture loving plants such as ferns, moss etc. Open terrariums are better for desert or drought-hardy plants such as cacti and succulents. I decided to try an open terrarium as I had a couple of succulents at hand.

I was reluctant to attempt a terrarium because the approach to handling them is different from that of regular plants. It meant my accepting the possibility that some plants might die. After some deliberation, I decided to give it a try. I made some mistakes, but that is how you learn, is it not?

I’m sharing the process for making a terrarium, step by step.

Please click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Step 1 – Container

A terrarium is usually made of glass – the more interesting the shape, the better. Some interesting containers could be wine glasses, coffee pots, decanters and fish bowls. Also, it does NOT have drainage holes. I chose a coffee pot I found while rummaging through old crockery.

The container has to be clean to avoid any fungus after planting, so I gave my coffee pot a good scrub with detergent and dried it completely.

My coffee pot

Step 2 – Line the bottom

Line the bottom of the container with pebbles. This will keep your soil from direct contact with water that will inevitably deposit at the bottom of your container. Add a layer of charcoal over the pebbles as a ‘good-to-have but not necessary’ step. Charcoal purifies the water and keeps fungus and infections at bay.

Lined at the bottom with pieces of marble
A layer of charcoal over the pebbles

Step 3 – Add a layer of moss

Another ‘good-to-have but not necessary’ step. I am not going water my terrarium very frequently since I am planting desert plants and there are no drainage holes. This may lead to other extreme of the plants getting dehydrated. Moss retains moisture when you water and ensures the plants get the moisture in a sustained manner and do not get completely dry. Wet moss is easier to work with than dry moss, and you won’t have to water your terrarium immediately either.

Moss lined up before putting soil

Step 4 – Fill soil

Choose soil suiting your chosen plants. Since I chose succulents, which need well-draining soil, I mixed my soil with an equal amount of sand to give better drainage. Ideally, 1/3 of the height of your container should be for pebbles+charcoal+moss; another 1/3 for soil and the last 1/3 for plants. Mine was not very tall so I added about an inch of soil.

Soil mixed with equal amount of sand for succulents

Step 5 – Choose plants and place them

Choose plants that do not go outside your container when soil is filled, to give space for the plants to grow up. Do not overcrowd the container, since the roots also need room to grow. I chose 3 types of succulents – 1 rooted plant and 4 cuttings, since succulents easily root from cuttings. Place your plants as you desire.

Succulents for planting – the second from right is a rooted plant and the others are cuttings
Plant them with enough gap for the roots to grow

Step 6 – Decorate!

Now that your planting is done, decorate as you wish! You can add figurines or anything really, to beautify your terrarium. I added a fresh layer of sand to cover the imperfections of my soil, and put some colorful pebbles and shells I had; since I was determined to make it within the items I already possessed.

A layer of sand to give a smooth finish
Colourful pebbles and shells for decoration

A few things to keep in mind – use a container with a large mouth so your hand fits in comfortably. You can use spoons or chopsticks if it doesn’t fit, but it’s uncomfortable. I know because I made this mistake. Also, water sparingly. A couple of spoonfuls about once a week should be fine. Place your terrarium near a window where it gets some indirect light. Direct sun through glass can burn your plants (Greenhouse effect, anyone?)

And now; admire your terrarium!

Close up 🙂

Mine isn’t as pretty as I had pictured, but I’m hoping it’ll look better once it fills up. I’ll be more careful and choose a wider bowl in my next attempt.

So what do you think of my terrarium? Are you going to attempt making one? Let me know, I’m always eager to hear your views 🙂


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