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Building a Terrarium- Part 1

Terrariums are a fun way to make beautiful displays with plants. A terrarium really is any transparent container that is used for displaying plants and animals.

I like to use terrariums to mimic natural scenery, but some people like to make fairy gardens. It’s up to your imagination.

There’s also benefits to using a container for housing plants as well, because the space is more enclosed it can help retain a higher humidity which allows certain plants to thrive better than if they were grown in a regular pot.

Let’s go over some supplies you’ll need.

First is the terrarium itself. I’m using this small glass vase as the vessel. Preferable you’ll want something completely transparent and with an opening that you can access into.

Next is the layers. For long lasting and easier maintenance of terrariums I recommend using a false bottom or drainage layer. This can be rocks, gravel, sand, leca, or pumice. This is where excess water will sit, but kept away from the substrate to avoid developing an anaerobic environment which can cause root rot in plants and make bad smells. I generally go for at least 1cm of depth in small terrariums and 3cm in larger terrariums.

When making a larger terrarium you may want to have a screen to cover the false bottom. This helps keep dirt out of the bottom layer and keeps it cleaner overall. You can use window screen mesh. landscaping fabric, cheese cloth, or other layering materials. Just make sure they’re dye free or won’t rust.

The first thing I recommend people to start with designing a terrarium is the hardscaping. These are things like rock, driftwood, bark assortments, or other non-living materials. By deciding where these go in first you can have a better idea of how plants will fit around them for an easier set up.

It’s up to personal choice, but some people prefer not to have any hardscape elements as well and only feature plants.

That’s it for part 1, in part 2 I’ll discuss making custom substrates curated to plant selections and what plants to choose.

-Sean Bornkessel


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