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Frequently Asked Questions
Here we have a selection of common questions. Click the question below to read the answer
>What is a terrarium?
A terrarium is essentially an enclosed little garden for plants such as ferns which like humid environments. They were traditionally used to ship rare plants in the 1800s across the seas when it was discovered the plants survived the long journeys in those beautiful Wardian cases. It meant they had the appropriate water and light conditions needed to not only survive, but thrive. Now, the word 'terrarium' is also used to describe succulent and cacti arrangements in glass, but they are not technically terrariums as succulents and cacti will likely not survive for very long in enclosed spaces as they like dry, airy environments (their native homes tend to be deserts!)
Terrariums can also refer to vivarium environments that house lizards, insects, spiders and other creatures. They tend to be much larger and are planted in glass tanks. This requires a knowledge of recreating a delicately balanced eco-system with plants that are not going to harm the animals in your terrarium. However, our terrariums and terrarium kits are for people looking for a new creative hobby and a way to decorate their homes with plants in a unique way.
>I'm completely new to terrariums - where do I start?
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.
>Which pebbles should I choose?
The best pebbles to use for the drainage (bottom) layer of your terrarium are porous and lightweight substrates such as hydroponic clay pebbles ('pon' or 'leca') and perlite. These allow for greater root health due to the airier environments they create and absorb water well so that you don't have a pool of water flooding the bottom of your terrarium. Heavier pebbles or gravel are best placed on the surface of your terrarium as decoration only, but you can use these for drainage layers if you wish as long as you keep a watchful eye on the watering levels and even hide a layer of perlite or pon between the sphagnum moss and soil layers.
>How to prevent or treat mould in closed terrariums
Mould and fungus, which usually present as white and little fuzzy, thrive in dark, damp conditions. In a closed terrarium this is therefore a common problem. It is less of a problem in open terrariums but it is still possible, especially if you are overwatering. Succulents don't like their leaves getting wet so make sure to water the soil directly. Here are some tips on how to prevent or treat mould and fungus issues in your terrarium.
- Prevention is better than cure, so make sure before planting your terrarium you have thoroughly cleaned your glassware, and made sure your substrates are clean.
- Use the right soil or compost that drains well and doesn't retain too much moisture. Did you know you can bake soil in the oven to kill any harmful organisms? We use coconut coir (with added plant nutrients) as part of our kits which is usually much less prone to mould or fungus development.
- Add activated carbon to your terrarium. I sometimes mix some of the carbon in directly with the soil which can also help.
- Place your terrarium in a spot that is well-lit and where it is receiving indirect sunlight. To prevent mould, ensure that your terrarium is not in the dark.
- Remove mouldy bits as soon as you can before treatment, using long tweezers or chopsticks.
- Adding springtails to your ecosystem can also help. Springtails feed on decaying organic matter as well as mould and fungus and will excrete healthy nutrients back into the soil which acts as fertiliser. You can do this both as a prevention and a cure. Make sure not to mix neem oil (or other insecticide) with springtails as the neem oil will kill them.
- Open your terrarium once a week for a few hours every now and again to allow air to circulate. You can spray some neem oil over your plants and soil while it is open. The best mix is a teaspoon of neem oil to a litre of water and a drop of soap to help blend it together. Do this once a month or every two weeks until the problem goes away. A little goes a long way so don't saturate your plants with this mix.
>I have a 'brown thumb'. Is terrarium making for me?
Terrarium making is a hobby that is excellent for beginners and advanced gardeners alike. Our instructions are easy to follow, our substrates labeled step by step, and we are here to support you every step of the way. I actually got into terrariums because I struggled to keep my house plants alive - until I planted them in a glass container and then I watched them thrive and I wanted to share that joy with others. The main thing is to approach your new terrarium hobby with patience and joy, and to not worry too much about getting it 'wrong'. All new skills and hobbies take time to learn and become familiar with, so be kind to yourself and enjoy the process.
>What advice do you have for after care?
Succulent or Cactus Terrarium
If your new terrarium features a succulent and/or cactus arrangement, keeping it alive and thriving should be straightforward - assuming you have kept them in an open terrarium!
1. Keep it in a brightly lit spot, but away from direct light to avoid the glass burning the plants. For example, a spot in the centre of your living room table with a window that lets in a lot of natural light is a good spot. Right up on the windowsill where you get strong sunlight through the day (such as a north facing window) might cause problems.
2. Water it only when the soil is dry. In the summer this might be twice a month, in the water you might only need to water it once a month or less. Try to avoid watering on a schedule and instead make it a habit to check your plants and the soil to see what your terrarium needs.
3. Try not to water too much. If you water a little at a time, you will be able to see some of the excess water pooling in the drainage layers (such as the pebbles, gravel or perlite depending on what you've used). Make sure you don't let the bottom layers become completely full of water to avoid the risk of root rot.
If you have planted your succulents/cacti in a closed terrarium, try to keep it open as much as possible, avoid having too many objects inside it, especially reindeer moss, and water it a little at a time. You might have some luck with this, but generally these types of plants don't do well in the sorts of humid environments that a closed terrarium creates.
The classic closed terrarium is one that can be sealed shut and forgotten about. However, it is not always that easy and it is important we get it to a point where it's balanced before we can let it do its own thing. Here are some key tips on how to take care of your closed terrarium.
- Mist instead of water when you first plant it. Usually the soil, substrates and plants have enough moisture in them to recreate the humid environment that is needed for the tropical plants to thrive in.
- Keep an eye on it for the first few days. If you see some condensation on the glass, you know that the terrarium is working just as it should, as the water drips down into the soil and restarts the cycle of self-watering. However, if the glass is completely wet and you start to see some of your plants get a little droopy, it is probably too wet. Leave your container open for a while to let some air in and some of the water out. Only close it when the condensation has cleared. It might be a good idea to wipe some of the condensation off before closing as well.
- Make sure your terrarium is in a spot that doesn't get direct sunlight. This can cause the sunlight to burn the leaves through the glass. Indirect sunlight, such as in a hallway, is ideal for a closed terrarium. If you have a terrarium full of ferns and mosses, you can get away with placing it in a shadier spot, as long as there is still some sunlight available to it!
- Feel free to snip off any leaves or trim down mosses if you feel like the terrarium is getting too wild or overgrown. It is not necessary for the health of the terrarium, but can be good for a refresh and to allow for bushier growth and a cleaner look.
- Don't let the soil dry out, being careful not to overwater it, and mist it if you feel it needs some water. If your terrarium is closed you shouldn't need to worry about this, but if it is not watertight or there is a small opening somewhere, then this is important to keep an eye on.
>What are the best plants for a terrarium?
This depends on a couple of things:
- Is your terrarium open or closed?
- What sort of look are you going for?
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.
1. Is your terrarium open or closed?
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!
2. 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.
> I already have a terrarium/jar. What size kit do I need?
We refer to sizes by litres instead of width, height and length. This is because two terrariums can have the same capacity but look completely different due to having different shapes and sizes. You can find out how much capacity your terrarium has by placing it on a scale, setting to 0 and filling it with water. Once it's full, you can easily convert the KG weight into Litres (as they are equivalent when it comes to water).
We have a range of kits you can purchase without glassware in 5 different sizes (extra small to extra large) that include all necessary substrates - basic kit (no plants), moss kit, closed kit (including live mosses and plants), succulent kit (including succulents, sand and rocks), cactus kit (same as before) and the mixed kit which is a combination of succulents and cacti, substrates and decorative sand and rocks.
- Our extra small kits are perfect for little desktop companions and will fill a glass jar of about 500ml - 1.5 litres capacity.
- All of our small kits fit a jar with the volume of between 1.5-3L. This can be a large, half-gallon pickle jar, or a couple of smaller jars (such as for your tomato sauce).
- Our medium size fits terrariums with a 3-5 litre capacity. This might look like a fishbowl with 23cm diameter.
- The large size will fit a terrarium of about 5-10 litre capacity. This could be one of our smaller bottle gardens (that you can purchase here).
- The extra large size will fit a terrarium that has 10-15 litres capacity, such as this kit. Anything larger than that, please let us know so we can create a custom kit for you.
Some people prefer a 'fuller' look and others prefer something a little sparser. As long as there is enough soil if you're using plants, it doesn't really matter. The above is a guide. If you're worried about not buying a big enough size, always purchase the size above it so that you can be confident you'll have enough. If you have leftovers, you can have fun with an extra little project.