Terrariums – my other passion

Just a short digression into my latest hobby – creating Terrariums.

I love gardening and plants in general (I used to be a professional botanist in a earlier life), but I have been very taken with terrariums recently. Perhaps it is because this last winter was so long and rainy, that I couldn’t get out into my real garden so I had to find a way to garden indoors. In any case, I believe plants are good for the air quality in homes that are closed off from the outside, like ours are during long Canadian winters. Gardening is good for my mental health too.

The middle picture in my “inspiration” collage of the orchid terrarium got me from just thinking about terrariums to actually making one – isn’t it gorgeous?

I have been trying to find Lady Slipper orchids to create my own, but they are really hard to find. (If anyone knows where to find them on Vancouver Island or Vancouver / Lower mainland, please let me know).

I started looking out for apothecary jars and other suitable glassware in TS, and found lots! For a few dollars one can find all sorts of lidded glass containers, and turn them into terrariums with a few small plants from your local nursery. Here are 2 I made from lovely “Apple and pear” glass containers:

One thing I learned fast is that you have to use plants that come in 2 inch pots – anything else has a root ball that is just too deep. Take note of the height of the glassware – it is the limiting factor.  The plants at the rear of the photo proved to be too big for my jar -it is a good idea to measure your jar before shopping for plants.

If the jar is sealed, SMALL  tropical plants, mosses and ferns are suitable choices. Sealed jars have high humidity, so the main problem you will find is that plants die because they don’t like their “feet wet”- they cannot tolerate soil that is too wet as it literally drowns the roots.

Rot and mould set in pretty quickly so one has to be very careful not to over-water. Misting your terrarium is miles better than watering. In fact, if your soil is damp, don’t add any more water – what  water there is will be recycled by the plants, and you will hardly ever have to water at all. If there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the container, remove the lid for a few hour to let it dry out.

Unsealed terrariums created with succulents and cacti are also great – that is next on my list of projects to do. Even if the jar /container is not sealed, it still acts as a hot house, so be careful of placing terrariums in direct sunlight or the plants will literally “cook” in the heat.

There are a lot of great sites with instructions regarding creating terrariums on the internet. This is a great project for children and can be a great opportunity to introduce them to recycling.

Here is my quick “how to”:

1. Find a suitable clear glass jar (Thrift stores are great for this). None of these cost more than a few dollars. Cookie jars, storage containers and large Mason Jars work just great!  To start with, select jars you can get your hand into. Wash and dry  them well to get rid of any possible substances that may kill your plants.

2. Place a 1/2 inch layer of washed pebbles on the bottom of the container for drainage:

3. Pat the pebbles down, then add a 1/2 inch of sand (if you use sea sand from a beach, wash it well first to get rid of the salt). Pat it down well. I like to see the well-defined layers…

4. Add about 1/4 inch of potting soil (very sparing if using cacti/succulents) – once you add your plants, you will add more soil.  Arrange  your plants in an attractive display outside the jar first, then remove them from their pots GENTLY. Place them in the jar, with some taller plants towards the middle and smaller ones around the outside. I like to use variegated plants to add interest. Miniature African Violets are great for adding a pop of colour.

5. Fill up the spaces between the plats with soil sparingly! It is a pain if you get soil all over the plants, so use a paper or plastic funnel to direct the soil to where it is needed.  Pat the soil down with fingertips.

6. Clean the inside of the glass again.

Here the large terrarium is in situ in my sunroom. I kind of spread mine around the house, but they look great clustered together like in the picture above.

Tammy has totally piqued my interest in tangerine..nothing says SPRING like tangerine!

Have a great day,



8 Comments on “Terrariums – my other passion”

  1. […] Terrariums – my other passion (tombazan.wordpress.com) […]

  2. anne maskell says:

    Hi Pippa. Thank you for visiting me! I always love company. Your terrariums are fabulous. Your post brought back so many happy childhood memories. My mum loved her terrariums, and was always dreaming up another version. You have inspired me to make one (or three, lol) myself! Have a lovely evening. Anne

  3. Marco says:

    I love that you have included a picture of one of my terrariums in your site 🙂


  4. sebastian says:

    Unfortunaley paphiopedilum do not do well in small terreriums like that. The heat and humidity build up to high. Also, paphiopedilum need plenty of air circulation to thrive. The Dracula genus do well in warmer and higher humidity enviorments. A much better bet for a jar terrerium. Or even better would be Drosera and Pinguicula (sundew and mexican butterwort)

  5. Hi! Im cristie, i saw one of my friends terrarium and i fell inlove with it. Now i wanna start my own. I love orchids,i grew up in tropical island. I saw your orchids and theyre so gorgeous, i wanna do it too. Any advice? Thanks!

    • tombazan says:

      Hi, Thanks for the feedback! I love orchids too, but they really don’t like humid conditions. They need air movement or the will get mouldy and die. Orchid growers often have big fans in their greenhouses.

  6. Deiryana Schultz says:

    Hi, this pin was great for me since I recenty too developed a passion for terrariums! Thank you

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