Retro Fashion – Terrariums

Hart's Tongue Fern Terrarium

Hart's Tongue Fern Terrarium

Depending on your age you might just cringe at the thought of going down this gardening path but bear with me as I think it has merit. If you’re in the younger Gen Y category then you’ll probably be discovering terrariums for the first time.

Terrarium 1

I met a very talented glass blower, Sarah Mulligan,  in Victoria, Canada  and amongst her work was a terrarium.  It was very cute and got me thinking about reviving this look.  When I returned to Sydney I went hunting for some unusual glass containers.  This first one came from Kmart and cost me $15 I think.  The others pictured here came from a furniture store and a florists.  There are plenty of inexpensive objects out there.  Just be very careful if you find yourself gravitating to aquariums or large bottles.  The 70s were pretty scarey and you really don’t want to go there again!

Next you need to select your plants.  A terrarium has limited air movement and elevated humidity.  Ferns and many indoor plants will thrive in this situation.  You can usually get small specimens cheaply and create a beautiful planted terrarium instantly.  Keep in mind though that many of these plants will outgrow the limited space in your terrarium so you’ll need to trim them or change the plants over in the future.

As a terrarium has no drainage holes you need to be very careful you don’t overwater.  Old style terrariums (corked bottles and aquariums) were closed environments and rarely needed watering after the initial setup.  The terrariums pictured here are not sealed off so moisture is still lost through evaporation and transpiration.  Regular watering is required.  The frequency and quantity will vary with each setup so you’ll need to play around with it to get it right.  These terrariums get watered every 1-2 weeks in winter and 1-2 times a week in summer.

Baby's Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Baby's Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Baby's Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Baby's Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Traditionally people would place pebbles/gravel and charcoal at the bottom of a terrarium and then cover with soil.  The idea is that it will improve drainage and keep the soil from fouling if overwatered.   There is some merit in this but if you regularly overwater no amount of gravel and charcoal is going save your plants.  So watch your watering and all will be well.   Here I’ve used regular potting mix and couldn’t be bothered with the gravel and charcoal (I am lazy at heart!).
If you’re going to fertilise do so sparingly – especially if using chemical fertilisers.  The salts in the chemical fertilisers can’t drain away and will build up to toxic levels in the soil if you’re not careful.  I only use organic fertilisers (for all my gardening) and with terrariums I just stick to a bit of seaweed solution occasionally.  Its a ‘tonic’ rather than a full strength fertiliser but in this case I don’t see the point in encouraging too much growth.  You only have to prune it away when the terrarium turns into a jungle!
Overgrown baby's tears terrarium
Overgrown baby’s tears terrarium

My baby’s tears terrarium requires pruning every couple of months.  Pictured here is one time when I let it go too long!  Can you imagine how often it would need trimming if I was fertilising it all the time?  Enough said on the fertilising topic.

With a bit of thought you can easily create a terrarium which requires little care and looks great.  All you need is an interesting container and to start planting!

PS Don’t forget to check out The Plant Addict Shop while you’re here. 

You’ll find great gift ideas for garden lovers and fellow plant addicts!

Comments are closed.