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Constructing a Terrarium

Date: April 1989 (Revised April 1995)

Source: NDSU Extension Service Horticulturists

Keep a bit of summer in your home all year long by making a terrarium. A terrarium is a small, indoor garden held in a glass container. You can purchase a terrarium already planted, or construct your own by buying the container, soil and plants from floral shops and other retail stores. Companies that make glass terrariums offer many sizes and shapes . Or, make your own from old aquariums, glass jars, etc.

To construct your garden, put about 1/2 inch of crushed charcoal and a shallow layer of soil over the bottom of the container. You may mix the charcoal with soil.

Soil should be loose, well drained and sterile. Do not use common garden soil because it will soon pack together. For tropical terrariums with foliage plants, use one part soil, one part peat moss, and one part perlite. Or, use a similar soil mix. If you want to create a cactus garden, use a coarse soil made of one part soil and one part sand. All ingredients are available at floral shops and garden centers.

Place plants in the terrarium, and cover roots with soil. Soil level should be no more than 1/5 of the terrarium height. Use rock, driftwood or other materials to add interest.

Arrange your plants outside the terrarium before you plant them. For terrariums viewed on all sides, put larger plants in the middle and smaller ones around the edge. For those you view from one side, slant the soil and plant tall plants in back, with shorter plants in front.

Select plants that prefer the growing conditions in your terrarium. Use tropical and woodland plants in a closed, or vented terrarium. Plant cacti and succulents only in open containers. Choose slow and low growing plants that will not quickly outgrow the terrarium. Use plants that offer a variety of color, form and texture.

Once you plant the terrarium, water lightly and cover the container. You will not need to water very often after this. Remove the cover if sides of container fog with moisture; recover in 24 hours. Occasionally sprinkle foliage lightly with water, but never soak the soil.

If you have further questions, please contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.


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