I'm completely new to terrariums. Where do I start?
In today's post, we offer advice about how to start with terrarium making if you've never made one before. We highlight the key steps from start to finish, and then answer some common questions about what glass container to use, what substrates you need and why and which plants to use,
Step 1: Source your glassware, plants and substrates. (You can buy all of this in one go with our terrarium kits.)
Step 2: Make sure your glassware is clean - wash it out with warm, soapy water.
Step 3: Pour in your substrates one by one - pebbles, activated carbon, sphagnum moss then soil.
Step 4 (optional): Lay out your plants, mosses and decorative elements and decide where you want everything to go. Take a picture for reference. When you're happy with this, move on to the next step.
Step 5: Plant everything up! Place large decorative pieces first, followed by the plants (dig a small hole, place the plant root down, and cover and tap down with soil), then mosses, then any other finishing touches such as reindeer moss, small pebbles or rocks, pieces of wood, crystals or figurines.
What glass container should I use?
Your imagination is the only thing that limits you. As long as you make sure the glassware is clean before planting, you can use anything from old food jars, gin bottles, kitchen containers, vintage carboys and even light bulbs! (Yes, really! Although this is a little tricky as you have to ensure the insides are removed carefully first). You can find glassware in secondhand shops, online, and some home decor sections of high street stores. We have a selection available that we have picked out carefully that look beautiful and are also functional, that you can either buy separately or as part of a kit.
What substrates does a terrarium need?There are 4 main basic parts to a terrarium. The first part is the drainage layer which is made up of pebbles or gravel to create a space for any excess water to drain into. We then recommend activated carbon which can draw out toxins and prevent mould and fungus in the terrarium. Then we use sphagnum moss to create a protective barrier between the drainage layers and the soil, which also serves to retain water and nutrients in your terrarium. The final step before planting is the soil or compost, which is needed for plants that have roots on them so they can grow.
Some terrarium artists have started to use sand in the lower levels to create an aesthetic layering in the foundation of your terrarium but this is decorative and not necessary to the health of your terrarium.
What plants should I use?
This depends on a couple of things:
- Is your terrarium open or closed?
- What sort of look are you going for?
Is your terrarium open or closed?
If your terrarium is open, (such as a fishbowl vase) your best bet is to use succulents such as echeveria and haworthia, or cacti. This is because these sorts of plants' native homes are in dry, desert lands so the openness of your container would allow them to avoid humidity.
If your terrarium is closed (or can be closed with a lid, or has a narrow opening) then you can use plants such as fittonia, tradescantia, ferns, mosses, peperomia plants, pilea, African Violet if you want a flowering plant, ctenanthae, calathea, begonias. There are more, but those are some starting suggestions. We sell variety bundles of baby terrarium plants suitable for closed terrariums in our closed terrarium kit, taking the stress out of choosing!
What sort of look are you going for?
This is the really fun part. If you want a desert, dry look go for succulents and cacti. You can use dragon rock to create interesting texture and recreate the rocky landscapes. If you want a colourful look, you can select succulents and cacti that come in different shades, or cacti that produce beautiful, bright flowers.
If you're after a beach scene, it could be a fun idea to use sand to decorate the shore, but instead of using succulents and cacti, you recreate a luscious, leafy scene with tall ferns and mosses.
Similarly, if you want to recreate a leafy, woodlands scene then a selection of plants with a variety of heights such as asparagus fern, fittonias, and mosses.
If you want a combination of colours, go for a variety of begonias, tradescantia, fittonias, African Violets and even orchids. For a leafy green look, select ferns, pileas and peperomia.