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How to Make a Terrarium

Terrarium making is a rewarding hobby that combines art and nature. You can make a nice terrarium in an hour and then enjoy caring for it and looking at it for years to come.

With a few tips and guidelines you can make some wonderful terrariums that are extraordinary.

A vivarium is an area, usually enclosed, for keeping and raising animals or plants for observation or research. A vivarium may be small enough to sit on a desk or table, such as a terrarium or an aquarium, or may be a very large structure, possibly outdoors.

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is a small environment where plants and sometimes animals live together in their own little environment. Generally, this environment ranges in size from that of a two-liter bottle of soda to a thirty-gallon fish tank.

There are two basic types of terrariums: closed environment and open environment.

In a closed environment the terrarium is sealed and it is an ecosystem unto itself that needs very little except occasional watering and moderate sunlight.

An open environment terrarium is more common and is usually one where the top is open. This type of terrarium is more durable and easier to maintain. I recommend that you make an open top terrarium if this is your first attempt at making a terrarium.

The Basics:

Plants in a terrariumEnclosure selection: The most important decision you make when making a terrarium is choosing what type of container to put it in. This container has a dramatic impact on how the terrarium looks so you should choose something that looks nice. Some common choices include large brandy glasses, large bottles, fish tanks or even ceramic bowls.

Theme: The best terrariums are the ones that go a little bit further than just a group of plants. Consider making your terrarium with a theme and then you can add little extras that add excitement to it. Some good theme ideas include a desert theme, a rainforest theme, or a magical theme that might include small statues or figurines.

Plant Selection: Most types of houseplants are suitable for a terrarium. But you should consider a couple of things. Make sure you use plants that will not grow too large. These plants will overshadow other plants. And use a variety of colors, heights, and leaf shapes in your terrarium. This will make it more pleasing to the eye. Finally, you may want to follow the odd number rule and place 3, 5, or 7 plants in the terrarium. Odd numbers of plants tend to make more pleasing arrangements. It looks more natural.

Buying Plants: When buying your plants you should try to buy plants with similar sunlight and watering needs. Read the labels or tags on the plants. A good selection of plants would be ones that all have the recommendation of moderate sunlight and watering. Being all in the same environment it would be difficult to give the different plants varying amounts of sunlight and water.

Arranging the Plants: Before you plant the plants into your terrarium you should decide how they would be arranged. Place the plants in their pots side by side and move them around to look for interesting arrangements. Think of what a florist does when he makes a floral arrangement. If the pots themselves don't allow you to get the plants into a good arrangement you can take the plants right out of their pots with their root systems still in the soil and try arranging them on a large dish. Once you have found an arrangement that looks good you can then transfer the plants right into the terrarium.

How to build the terrarium:

1. Clean the terrarium container with a mild soapy water and rinse it thoroughly to remove any soap residue

2. Place a thin layer of pebbles or small stones in the bottom of the terrarium (this helps with drainage and water management)

3. Place a thin layer of activated charcoal over the pebbles - If you are making a closed environment terrarium you should do this step. The charcoal will keep the water clean. If you are making an open terrarium you can skip this step.

4. Place a thin layer of spaghnum or Spanish moss on top of charcoal or pebbles. This will act as a bedding material that will keep separation between the soil and the pebbles. Without this moss the soil will settle down into the pebbles and get muddy.

5. Place a thick layer of your potting soil on top.

6. Plant your plants into the soil.

7. Place all your extra materials and create your theme - this can make your terrarium much more attractive. Use things like small trinkets, statues, or colorful rocks. A unicorn, dragon or fairy would make a perfect addition to a terrarium.

Care of your terrarium

A terrarium can be very hardy and you should follow the general rules of indoor plants by giving it moderate amounts of water and sunlight. If you have made a closed environment terrarium it is possible to go weeks without ever having to water it. The water will pull up from the rocks and form a mist on the top of the terrarium then drip back down and water the plants. This closed loop system is very similar to what happens in the real world.

A terrarium is a beautiful composition of plants and flowers that require only minimum care. If you follow some of the basic rules of terrarium making and you add some creative touches you will have something that you can show off to your friends and that you can enjoy for years to come.

If you would like to learn more about making terrariums including how to make the ultimate terrarium complete with a waterfall and underground cavern for your pet, visit the authors terrarium website


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