Friday, June 18, 2010

Make your own Terrarium

A terrarium is any glass or clear container where you can grow small plants. The invention of the terrarium as we know it is credited to Dr. N.B. Ward, a 19th-century London physician. A plant enthusiast, Ward was interested in growing many types of ferns in his backyard but had not been successful. While studying a moth emerging from a chrysalis he had buried in moist earth in a closed bottle, he was amazed to see a seedling fern and some grass growing inside. He watched them grow for four years, during which time not one drop of water was added nor was the cover removed. Long story short, he ended up writing a book about it, and the rest is history!

Not only are terrariums easy to take care of, but simple to make as well. I've had so many people comment one the one I made out of an old jar I got from my Grandma, that I thought I'd do a little tutorial on making your own!

Terrariums create an ideal environment for growing houseplants that may require more attention than usual, like ferns, or plants that are drought tolerant like succulents. Ferns like humidity, and for this reason should be placed in glass containers that have lids. On the flip side, succulents like a dryer habitat, and would utilize an open container that is watered sporadically. Since I haven't had much luck keeping finicky plants alive, I've chosen to create something more realistic for my lifestyle and harder to kill (succulents!)

To make your own, you need to gather a few supplies first.

Shopping List:

- A glass bowl or wide-mouthed vase (check your local thrift store)
- Gravel, river rocks or stones (IKEA sells bags of river stones in the candle department, or get natural fish tank gravel from any pet supply store)
- Potting soil
- 3 small succulents at various sizes
- Anything extra you may want to add for character, like seashells, crystals or mini gnomes... (I already had a ceramic mushroom and some tea light candles I am going to try)

I found a big selection of globes at Goodwill in their bric-a-brac for really cheap! I chose a fishbowl, a vase and a shallow bowl to show 3 different styles. For all of them it was only $10.00!

Next, I chose a variety of small succulents from the organic garden at my work. They have great prices (less expensive than Home Depot or Simpson's Nursery), plus it helps support the day program for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. You can tour the facility yourself during the week, just go to SMSC.

Since I knew I wanted succulents, I chose a hearty selection ideal for Southern California's climate. I ended up with a Zebra plant, Gator Aloe, Red Tipped Cactus, a Blooming Hybrid Crassula and a Topsy Turvy Echieveria. For the 4 pack it was only $8.00 and the rest were $4.00 each.

After you've cleaned the globes, you're ready to start assembly. The first step is adding the rocks or gravel, which acts as a drainage system so that the plants don't just sit in water. The exact amount depends on the size of the globe, but generally you should only fill it to about 1/4 the total size of the interior.

Next, add some soil till about half the vase is full. Make sure you leave plenty of room for the roots to be comfortable, at the same time remember the height of the plants. It's okay if they stick out the top a bit, just as long as the majority of the plant is still enclosed in the globe.

Now, you can arrange the plants inside. Start by taking them out of their containers and loosening up their roots. Place them in the center and as closely clustered as possible. It looks best if you use 3 different styles at various heights, but never mix a fern with a succulent. It's important to group plants with similar growing needs together so that they stay happy! Most of this information can be found on the back of the tag that comes with the plant, but generally succulents like a lot of sun and little water. Also, if you're including a figurine in your terrarium, use smaller plants and/or only use 2 so that it doesn't look too crowded when you're done. You may need to add a little more soil to cover the roots...

The last final touches: add a character if you're using one, or extra gravel to the top. Wipe down any access dirt from the sides. Then add a little water to each. For starters you should just use a little amount; you'll want to check the soil with your fingers in a few days to test how moist the soil remained, and determine a watering pattern from there. Usually just once a week is fine, enough to wet the soil but not saturate the bowl completely. If the plants start looking mushy or yellow, that means you're giving them too much!

Since I recently hung a vintage lantern over my dining room table, I don't have enough height for a centerpiece anymore but still wanted something green where I eat. This low bowl will be a perfect solution...

In the fish bowl, I used the ceramic mushroom stake I found in Target's garden section last year. I've seen similar items in Michael's Floral department as well. This style globe would be cute in a kids room, as you could use any miniature toy, like a dinosaur or faerie statue instead of a mushroom.

For the last example I used an artificial succulent candle inside, that I can utilize when I want a little candlelight in a bathroom or on a nightstand. If you chose to include a candle, make sure it is self contained! The tea light I used has a metal base to hold hot wax. Also, make sure it is placed away from any of the plants (so it doesn't start a fire) and not close enough to the sides to trap heat and crack the glass.

The total cost of making all 3 of these, including all the supplies was about $50.00 (not including tax)
- $10.00 for globes
- $5.00 small bag of sterilized potting soil
- $10.00 gravel
- $20.00 for plants

That's a bit over $15.00 for each one, which is half the price of what you would pay at Pigment. Plus, they make great gifts for just about anyone (even people who believe they can't take care of anything!)

1 comment:

  1. A hard to kill plant is the plant for me lol. Nice tutorial, Joy. Low maintenance + low cost = winwin. :)