Terrarium Gardening

Terraniums are an easy, no maintenance container garden that you can plant and enjoy for many years.

In the latter 19th century explorers were sent out to find unusual plant life and ship it back to their country of origin. The boat journey could be long and plants needed to stay alive in a small amount of space for many months. Dr. Nathaniel Ward discovered that small plants would thrive when grown in a enclosed glass case where the moisture was not lost. This led to a trend of popularity in the Victorian times where conservatories were made to house plant collections.


Today, plants can be grown in the same manner using any suitable glass container such as a fish tank or small-faceted glass case to create a terrarium garden. Terraniums are an easy, no-maintenance container garden that you can plant and enjoy for many years. Plastic containers generally do not work as well as glass containers. If your container has a top, water droplets need to condense on the roof of the container and run down the sides to water the plants. If you do choose a fish tank you can tilt the cover of the tank so that the water will run down the sides and not drip directly on the plantings.

You can use the top of glass lamps, wide interesting liquor bottles make interesting containers as well. Containers can be placed upright or even on their sides if the bottle is stable and will not roll. The shape of the container is up to you and there is a wide variety of plants that are suitable to bottle gardens.


Look for plants that are slow growing with rather small leaves when choosing plantings for your bottle garden. The crassulas, ficus pumila and fittonias all look beautiful in container gardens. Many small foliage plants thrive in the warm stable atmosphere that terrariums offer. Look for varieties of ferns, ivies, bromeliads and plants in the dracaenas family. Although most flowering plants tend to be too large for most terrarium gardens, African violets tend to stay compact. Flowering begonias also make a beautiful terrarium planting. Moss is another nice addition.

Consider using a ventilated container for arranging a collection of cacti. Cactui can thrive in draught conditions as long as the glass is clear and not a dark tint.


The only tools you need in creating a terrarium are plants, a glass container, small rocks, soil and crumbled charcoal. Adding a layer of crumbled charcoal will help keep your garden fresh over a long period of time.

First add a layer of small river pebbles sized in proportion to the size of your container. Then add the soil and charcoal mixture. If your container has a very small opening you may need to tape chop sticks to a spoon or fork to use the longer handled utinsels for gardening tools. After you have planted the garden you can add moss, pieces of bark, pottery or other objects of interest to create a miniature landscape. Remember your plants will grow larger and you do not want your garden to look over planted. You may need to clip back the plantings once in a while if they are growing too fast or replant them as necessary.

Bottle gardens look great on a shelf or table and should not be placed in direct sunlight for long periods of time. The sunlight can evaporate the moisture the plants need and the glass will mist over.

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