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GardenSMART :: DIY Terrarium Project

DIY Terrarium Project

By Olivia Walder and Nikita Sorokin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

One of the most exciting ways to reinvent an object is to fill it with life. Whether it's that old jar that has been sitting around or that cool cloche you bought and are wondering what to do with, it can be transformed into a terrarium in a few simple steps. Don't be afraid to experiment with different containers, plants, and found objects.

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Terrarium Components

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Container: Any non-porous container without a drainage hole will do. Some terrariums have lids, others have open tops.

Plants and Decor: Mix plants, rocks, found natural objects and moss to create your own tiny landscape. Add more soil as needed to support the root systems of larger plants.

Soil: Use a high quality potting soil for the planting medium. You may want to mix a bit of sand with the soil if the plants you choose prefer it.

Moss: A layer of textured moss keeps the soil from slipping down into the bottom layers, preventing good drainage.

Charcoal: A layer of activated charcoal will provide additional help with drainage as well as acting as a natural filter to deodorize the terrarium and absorb toxins.

Rocks: Use small to medium sized rocks as the first layer to provide good drainage for the layers above.

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Terrarium Building Tips

• If the container you choose doesn't have a lid, use plants that like lower humidity like cacti and succulents. These plants will need a bit more sunlight, but avoid direct sun exposure, as the terrarium can act as a magnifying glass and burn the plants.

• If the container you choose has a small opening or a lid, use plants that prefer higher humidity like ferns and mosses. We find that a container with a removable lid like a cork or jar lid is a good option because you can regulate the humidity level inside as needed.

• Provide a greater volume of potting soil when using ferns and leafy houseplants. You may want to mix in some sand for cacti and succulents.

• Use a container with a wide opening for easy planting. If planting a container with a narrow neck, long-handled tweezers or other long-handled tools may help in planting.

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Terrarium Culture

Water: Most open terrariums will need to be watered at least once a week. Closed terrariums, if well sealed, may never require watering after the initial planting, watering and closure.

Light: Most terrarium plants (especially in closed terrariums) will do best in indirect light.

Humidity: Use a mister or spray bottle to create humidity in an open or partially open terrarium.

Cleaning and Pruning: Most terrarium plants won't require much maintenance, but over time you might need to clean out any dead plant material and trim any plants that are getting too large. This will help keep all your plants happy and healthy.

Learn more about how to create a botanical retreat for your terrariums here.

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