A Guide to Keeping Glass Terrariums

12th Apr 2021

Do you consider yourself a person who enjoys the relaxation and reward of growing your own plants in pots, planters, or in the garden during the summer months? Are you one of those who are not blessed with a long growing season and has to relegate your hobby - your passion - to the confines of the summer?

If you are, you might be wishing there were a way to indulge your interests and nourish your creativity in the cooler months of the year. Unfortunately, there are not all too many opportunities for gardeners and horticulturists in the winter months.

There is a unique solution that you can tinker with and enjoy year-round, and it comes in the form of a glass terrarium. While a terrarium is often seen more as a work of decorative nuance and gardening is seen as more of a hobby, the attributes and care of a terrarium make it possible for you to nurture and produce greenery throughout the year, regardless of if the weather participates or not!

Why A Glass Terrarium?

While most gardeners and flower-lovers probably never even thought about a terrarium, they’re really great fixtures that you can utilize to create living arrangements all year round. It’s true that if you love the art of growing and have an eternally green thumb, a terrarium will give you respite from the colder months between seasons.

Terrariums recycle their own water and (more or less) manage themselves; you can create entirely different arrangements within them as a complement, not a replacement, to your outdoor gardening.

Since terrariums are intended to be placed indoors, the plants you will grow in them will not be subjected to the harsh outdoor climate, meaning that you can grow plants inside that wouldn’t survive outdoors. Also, since they recycle their own water and largely provide their own nutrients, with minimal resources you can enjoy greenery throughout the year.

Something else that’s wonderful about a terrarium is that it can be used as a decorative fixture and not merely for the enjoyment of growing. Much like flowers can be used to accent the facade of your home or frame your garden, a terrarium, both in the form of the plants it contains and in its own commendable design, can lend an air of beauty and sophistication to your home.

What Can You Grow in Them?

●Ferns: Many species of ferns are not only tolerant of low light conditions and hot, humid environments. Some of them actually thrive in them. Ferns typically grow in light conditions on forest floors, creating relatively thick ground cover. Some small varieties are ideal for growing in terrariums and will not only survive but thrive.

●Succulents: There are many different types of succulents out there, and a lot of them are popular as houseplants because they rarely need to be watered and thrive in nutrient-poor conditions. Also, many succulents are tolerant of low light conditions or partial shade, so they do well indoors. Some of the more iconic varieties of succulents include Zebra Cacti with its stark white-and-green contrast, along with Echeveria, Chocolate Soldier, Burro’s Tail, and Jade Plant.

●Cacti: While cacti are not as tolerant of high-humidity environments as some of the other plants we’ve featured here, if you allow the terrarium to air out they should do just fine. They’re also surprisingly tolerant of low light and (unsurprisingly) tolerant of nutrient-poor soils. It’s like they’re made for terrarium culture.

●Mosses: Mosses, which probably need no introduction, are non-vascular, primitive plants that usually thrive in terrariums and need very little basic care if any at all. They do surprisingly well in low light and thrive in high-humidity environments, even in close proximity to other plants. If you need some hands-off greenery, it hardly gets better than moss!

●Pothos: If you aren’t really big into houseplants, then you’d probably recognize Pothos by sight before you recognize it by name. One of the more common species of houseplants, Pothos plants have vibrant green tendrils and even brighter, showier foliage. Their leaves are teardrop-shaped, even nearly heart-shaped, and create a pleasant setting. They’re also remarkably easy to take care of.

●Nerve plant: Nerve plants create dense blankets along the ground on which they are grown, their brightly contrasted dark green and sharp white leaves are impossible to miss. Just like the other plants on this list, they are surprisingly easy to take care of and can tolerate poor soil, low light, and high humidity. Also, though small, they’re one of the showiest plants featured here.

●Butterwort: Butterworts are small, easy to miss plants; with that said, they have pretty green leaves that look almost like a succulent. These are different though; they’re actually carnivorous plants that can supplement what nutrition they can’t get from the soil by capturing small insects and other prey. This means that they’re incredibly tolerant of low-light, low-nutrient conditions, which makes them perfect for a terrarium, and very easy to care for.

●Violets: violets are unique on this list because they are not only vascular plants but also provide beautiful little blooms that are available in a variety of colors from pink to purple, even nearly black and blue. Violets require a little more care and attention than the other plants on this list but if you are sure not to overexpose them to light and keep the temperature and humidity where they like it, your violets may not only survive in a terrarium but also blossom. They like cool to warm temperatures, between 65 to 75 degrees, partial shade, and high humidity.

Setting Up Your Glass Terrarium

If you’re still thinking about picking and choosing from our list of suggested plants that will thrive in a terrarium when afforded the proper care, then you need to start thinking about how you’re going to set up a terrarium.

First, you need the actual terrarium itself. We offer many wonderful, high-quality, unique, and entirely original designs in glass terrariums here at H Potter. Everything we sell is handcrafted by skilled craftsmen and intended to last for many years. With so much variety in design, it shouldn’t take more than a few moments for you to make a selection for your home that you really love!

Once you’ve chosen a terrarium that you believe will fit well with your design, you can begin setting it up. For that, you’ll need a layer of gravel, charcoal, and for the uppermost stratum, potting soil.

First, start with a thin layer of pea gravel along the bottom of the tray that comes with the terrarium. Including this is vital because the gravel provides extra capillarity for the storage of water that filters through the upper layer of soil. Without the gravel, regulating soil moisture would be very difficult. Providing the gravel to assist with drainage will help prevent root rot, which can be a menace for even the most moisture and humidity-tolerant plants.

After you add the gravel, you can mix in some activated charcoal. The charcoal, which will also help with moisture regulation, will also help to prevent root rot. It will also help to keep decay and mold growth at bay, preventing blooms in bacteria and fungi that can harm the health of your plants.

Once you have placed down your gravel and charcoal, place a layer of potting soil up to just below the bottom of the tray. Make sure you work the soil with your hands so that it is loose and friable. You don’t want it to be densely packed. You can add in some coconut fiber to the mix if you like; this will assist with moisture retention but it will also help aerate the soil as well.

When this is done, you can create small depressions in the soil where you’re going to place your plants. Gently open up the root balls of your plants, freeing the roots so they are encouraged to spread out evenly through the soil. Place them in the depressions, cover the roots with soil and tap down lightly.

Once you’ve finished setting up your plants, water the soil lightly but don’t overdo it. The terrarium will recycle its own water and you don’t want waterlogged soil as this will kill most plants. Finally, place your terrarium in a location of honor where it will receive an adequate amount of sunlight for the plants you’ve chosen. Take a moment to step back and enjoy your handiwork; now you can enjoy greenery throughout the year!

Glass Terrarium Maintenance

Once your terrarium is set up, you can enjoy the aesthetics and you won’t need to pay as much attention to the plants contained within it as you’d probably need to provide to your outdoor plants in the summer.

However, there are a few points you’ll want to observe to ensure the health and well-being of your plants so that they flourish and continue to provide you with many seasons of enjoyment.

●Rotate the terrarium occasionally: Since the plants in your terrarium can’t move to get closer to the light, every so often you may want to rotate the terrarium itself so the shaded side gets more light. If you don’t the plants within it might start to grow a little lopsided. Then again, if it doesn’t need it, you can probably leave it be.

●Air the terrarium out every few weeks or months: one of the greatest things about terrariums is that they don’t need to be watered often because they recycle their own water. Plants absorb water through the soil and then exhale it through their leaves. It then collects as condensation on the glass case, trickles down back into the soil and the cycle starts again.

This is convenient because it keeps the plants hydrated, but it also means they never get a break from the moisture. Open up your terrarium every few weeks to let the soil air out.

●Trim plants as needed: Whenever you see plants with dead or dying blossoms or leaves, trim them off to give the plant a better chance to renew growth. Also, if you see plants pressing up against the glass or competing with each other for space, trim them back to keep them all healthy.

●Investigate the terrarium for mold: From time to time, stop by the terrarium and take a close look at the top level of the soil. If you see moil, which usually looks like a cloudy, wispy translucent layer of “white” spreading across the soil, remove it. If left unchecked, it can kill your plants.

●Don’t fertilize!: You might be tempted to fertilize your terrarium, but there’s really no need. Most of the plants that do well in terrariums do well in low-nutrient conditions and if you fertilize them they might overgrow and compete with each other for space.

A Wardian Case Offers Elegant Style and Commanding Presence

If you love the idea of a terrarium but you’re looking for something with a more powerful and commanding presence, try a Wardian Case. The original Wardian Cases were predecessors to modern closed terrariums and today they are often large, freestanding models. Bigger and more impressive than smaller glass terrariums, Wardian Cases are more like a piece of furniture than a decorative fixture; they serve the ends of both!

Call Us for More Information!

Looking for more information or inspiration? Want to learn more about what you can grow in your terrarium and how you should take care of it so it creates the ideal environment for your plants?

Whether you just want to get a recommendation for a specific terrarium or you have more targeted questions, we’re here to help! Give us a call today at 208-640-4206 and we’ll do our best to assist. Meanwhile, check out our pages on Terrarium FAQs, Terrarium Maintenance, Terrarium Design, and Terrarium Planting to learn more!