Terrarium Talk

Terrarium Talk


Last Sunday we held a terrarium workshop at Natureworks. The participants had so much fun.
I asked Kassie and Amber to share with our email readers the basics of how to plant and care for a terrarium.  Read on and learn how to enjoy this very creative and relaxing hobby. 

The best way to beat the winter blues and indulge the inner gardener is, by far, to make and maintain terrariums. These little bits of paradise date back to 500 B.C.E., but the terrarium as we know it was created by Nathaniel Ward in 1827. Originally used to keep and transport plant specimens they quickly became fashionable in London parlors.

Terrariums fall into two categories; Open Air and Closed. Open Air terrariums have larger venting holes that allow for more circulation which prevents collection of moisture on leaves, which can lead to mold and fungal issues. A Closed terrarium has no ventilation so care must be taken to keep plant material from touching the glass and sides of your terrarium. The benefit of a closed terrarium is that they require little to no maintenance or watering, but can have mold issues. Never use succulents in closed terrariums.

It’s all about the layers!

When making your terrarium make sure to layer your “ingredients” in the proper order.

  • First Layer – Apply enough rocks, beads, crushed glass to create a drainage layer. That water has to go somewhere!
  • Second Layer – Apply horticultural/activated charcoal (like the stuff in a fish tank filter). As the water passes through, this layer will clean it preventing stagnation and allowing it to be taken up by the plants again. You only need a little, like peppering your food!
  • Third Layer – Fill in with 1-3 inches of soil, or however much is appropriate for your container.


A fairy garden terrarium!


Before you start, decide whether you are going to use succulents (which are a category of plants that like dry soil) or more traditional house plants which will require more water. It is best to choose plants that have the same moisture and light requirements.



Children can participate in terrarium planting. Let them create special hand made gifts this holiday season.

Finishing Touches

Now you can add your moss, and other little

touches to make it special. Treat it as a miniature landscape and get creative! Keep your terrarium out of bright light and away from heating vents since you’ve just created a little greenhouse. Water plants directly when dry. Look through the glass and check the layer of rocks to determine how much water is needed. One or two shot glasses of water is plenty for a small terrarium. Because there are no drainage holes, water judiciously.