How To Make A Terrarium

Very often in our lives we deal with times of chaos, stress, grief and sadness.  During these times we look for a place that offers silence, solitude, diversion and education.

Many people find a place in nature to help them come to terms with whatever they are confronting such as a walk in the woods, playing with children in the park, sending or receiving flowers, or just going for a long ride in the country.

Often times just placing flowers in our homes, a new plant for the office or bringing a piece of nature into our living spaces helps to make our home a sanctuary from the trials of our daily lives.

Wardian case terrarium

A Wardian Case. Photo credit: David Solganik

Another way to recreate a bit of nature in your home is to make a Terrarium.

A Wardian case, more commonly known as a Terrarium, uses a transparent container (with or without a cover) in which plants are grown.

A Little History Lesson

Dr. Nathaniel Ward, an English surgeon from London, England, accidentally discovered Glass gardening.  In the summer of 1829 he discovered a fern and some grass growing out of moist soil in a sealed bottle in which he had buried the cocoon of a sphinx moth.  He watched the growth for four years and then the plants died because the lid rusted which allowed the seal of the lid to break.  In 1832 Dr. Ward filled two cases with ferns and grasses and sent them to Sydney, Australia.  After they arrived safely (a mere eight months later), Australians refilled the cases and sent them back.  As a result, by the 1850’s Wardian cases were widely used to transport plants from all over the world because they provided the perfect microcosm for new plants to travel and be shared.

Did you know?

Basically what a terrarium does is create a miniature water cycle similar to the larger world. So, if you have tried houseplants in the past and have not been successful with them, a terrarium is one answer to bringing nature inside for you.

List of items needed for your project:

  • A glass or plastic container such as a cider jug, 2 liter plastic bottle (with the bottom cut off), cookie jar, aquarium, or mason jar
  • A funnel with a long nozzle or a piece of rolled cardboard
  • Pebbles
  • Aquarium charcoal
  • Soil
  • Plants with similar culture needs (sun, water, fertilizer)
  • A spray bottle of distilled water

Step by step instructions:

  1. Using the funnel, pour 1 – 2 in. of pebbles into the bottom of the container.  Shake until the pebbles are even.

    Using a funnel to add pebbles to terrarium

    Pebble step for Ryleigh and Blake. Photo credit: Craig Balzer

  2. Add ¼ to ½ in. of charcoal as evenly as possible to prevent any decay.
  3. Add 3 – 4 in. soil and spread evenly.

    Adding plants to terrarium

    Blake putting plants in. Photo credit: Craig Balzer

  4. Using tongs or chopsticks, dig holes in the soil where you want your plants to be placed.  Then, using the tongs, insert the plants in the holes.  Tamp down soil around each plant.

    Terrarium step 4 - Use chopsticks

    Chopsticks come in handy. Photo credit: Craig Balzer

  5. Mist with the spray bottle of water.

    Terrarium step 5 - Mist plants

    Misting the plants. Photo credit: Craig Balzer

  6. At this point, if the mouth of your container allows, you can put some special treasures into your “garden” such as seashells, miniature toys, silk birds, etc.

Helpful Hints:

  • If the container looks too soggy after a couple of days of being enclosed, take the lid off for a day or two to release some of the moisture and then reseal.
  • Water only when the container becomes dry.

Just for kids

Glass gardens are the perfect opportunity to share gardening with children or grandchildren as they require little care but provide much joy.

There is a simple way to make a terrarium as well.  Place a dish of potted plants onto a plastic dish and cover this with a plastic soda bottle (with the bottom removed).

This is an ideal terrarium for children to use in their rooms for their own bit of nature to enjoy all their own!

Finished terrarium

Our terrarium. Photo credit: Craig Balzer

Happy Gardening!

This entry was posted in Décor, Gardening, Nature and tagged , , , , , by Becky Balzer. Bookmark the permalink.
Becky Balzer

About Becky Balzer

Becky Balzer is a horticulturist with a great passion for anything green. As a young girl she grew up on the family farm nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The farm consisted of 27 acres and numerous pasturelands for harvesting hay as well as pasturing cattle. One of 13 children Becky could not wait to leave the farming life and endless chores behind. Ironically, while attending college she realized her career path pointed in the direction from which she came- nature. Becky graduated from VA Tech with a B.S. in Horticulture and a minor in Vocational Education in 1979. She has continued her education over the years with classes at both the University of VA and Mary Baldwin College. Her work has taken her through many areas of gardening with Floriculture being her real passion. Today she enjoys working at Townside Gardens in Roanoke, VA as well as speaking to groups and organizations about gardening. She also creates beautiful designs for weddings and other formal occasions. Becky says, “Nature is calming and peaceful. There are so many things you learn from nature that are beneficial for your psyche. Nature makes you realize that it is the simple things in life that mean the most.” Mother to three, grandmother to two, Becky takes real joy in knowing her love of nature has been passed down through the generations. You can contact Becky through email: rrb550@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “How To Make A Terrarium

  1. Where can you find those cider jugs? A terrarium in one of those jugs would look great in almost every part of your home!

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