Terrariums are making a big comeback – I remember the terrariums of old which were usually an ugly plastic globe-shaped container on a stand that darkened the corner of every 1970s lounge room. Thankfully much has changed since then and they are now an artform in themselves (see Paula Hayes and Clea Cregan).
So the other day I was buying something in one of those junk shops – you know the ones, they sell everything from pet collars to feather dusters and Batman costumes – and saw a bowl that would be perfect for making a terrarium. It’s also my Mum’s birthday this week and I was toying with the idea of making one for her too if my first one was successful. So far, so good – here’s how I did it.
large glass container
small pebbles or gravel
potting mix (succulent-specific if you can)
ornaments or pebbles for decoration
1. Wash the glass container and pebbles well to ensure no contaminants harm your plants.
2. Fill the base of the container with about 2-3cm pebbles for drainage. Top this with a layer of charcoal which will ensure your terrarium won’t smell.
3. Cover the charcoal with a thin layer of dampened sphagnum moss. This will ensure your soil doesn’t disappear into the cracks when it’s watered.
4. Add about 5cm potting mix and pat down gently – it should be firm but not too tightly packed.
5. Remove succulents from their pots. You can gently shake off about 90% of the soil leaving mainly the roots. Using a fork to dig, plant your succulents in the potting mix ensuring they are firmly in place and not likely to move.
6. Decorate your terrarium with any ornaments or pebbles (a fork comes in handy here for moving things around inside the bowl). Water your terrarium with a spray bottle so the soil is just moist. Only water again once the soil feels dry to the touch (approximately every 2 weeks).
Note: I was able to purchase everything except the container at a hardware store. Get creative with your container – you could use anything made from glass like a fishbowl, vase, wine carafe or even a lightbulb. One thing to bear in mind when selecting your container that the hole is large enough to fit your hand or an implement, otherwise planting and maintenance could be difficult. Keep a set of implements for maintaining your terrarium – an old fork is great for digging and moving things, and a small paintbrush is good for getting dirt off your plants. Succulents thrive in well-lit, dry conditions so consider different plants if your terrarium is in a darker room. Succulents prefer an uncovered terrarium, so a covered container is better for mossy, moisture-loving plants in low-light conditions.