Tropical Gardening: Try terrariums for a stay-at-home nature project

  • Photo courtesy Voltaire Moise Large glass vases and aquariums make ideal terrariums. You can use your imagination to create unique gifts for the upcoming holidays.

With concerns over the COVID-19 impact, many folks are spending more time at home. Instead of going to the office, people are working at home. Some parents are home schooling in an attempt to keep their young children from exposure. Travel and the upcoming holidays may be limited. Some senior citizens are tending to avoid unnecessary travel as well. Here is a thought on creative home projects that may ultimately be considered for holiday gifts as the season draws near.

Plants are a natural for gifts, and terrariums are an attractive way to give them for any occasion. A terrarium is a miniature garden enclosed in glass. It can be a round glass globe, aquarium, large-mouth bottle, large stemmed glass or any other type of clear glass container. Terrariums are ideal for growing plants under adverse conditions. They artificially produce a more ideal atmosphere for growing numerous plants than the average home. In addition, the luster and reflection of the glass add interest not found in open arrangements. The glass enclosure also protects delicate foliage, brittle stems and leaves that would be difficult to maintain in the open.


Terrariums are simple to make and once established, are easy to maintain.

The type of container you select for the terrarium is important. Choose one suitable to the room where it will be used. Also, select your container for ease of planting. Remember, the smaller the opening in the container the more difficult to plant.

Next, follow these few steps:

First, place at least 1 inch of pea-size gravel in the bottom of the container. Terrariums are easy to overwater and some provision must be made to take care of the excess water. Excess water filters down into the gravel and remains there to serve as a reservoir, gradually returning to the soil by capillary movement as the soil on top dries out.

Then cover the gravel with 3-4 inches of a good organic soil mixture. A mixture of one part by volume of peat to one part sandy soil is ideal. To this mix, add 1/2 teaspoon of a complete slow release fertilizer for every two quarts of soil. When you place the soil mixture in the container, you can level it if it is to be seen from all sides or form it into slopes, and depressions. Many people prefer the latter, as they say it looks more natural.

Try some of the plants available at local nurseries and garden shops. These include African violets, Aglaonema, Calathea, ferns, Fittonia, Maranta, Peperomia, Pilea, miniature palms, and Selaginella, just to mention a few. Also, in the forest, you can find interesting ferns, mosses and native peperomia to use.

Set the plants at the same depth they were growing previously. If you use narrow mouth containers, you will have to use a long pair of tweezers or chopsticks in planting.

A glass cover is a must for most terrariums where air conditioning is used. It helps to keep the humidity up and prevents the terrarium from drying out too rapidly. It should not be fastened too securely, since it must be removed sometimes for a few hours to ventilate the terrarium when the sides have an abundance of moisture collected on them.

Water is not a problem since plants in a terrarium require only a small amount of moisture. Water only when the surface of the soil becomes dry and then add enough water to moisten the soil again. The plants will survive for long periods without fertilizer. The objective should be to keep the plants healthy but growing slowly, just short of a starvation diet. If a terrarium is fertilized frequently the plants will soon outgrow it.


The terrarium should be kept away from direct sunlight since the plants grown in a terrarium are those naturally adapted to growing in dark, damp areas in the woods.

Try to give living gifts this year like terrariums. They can give pleasure and interest for a long time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email