ter·rar·i·um [tuh-rair-ee-uhm] noun:
a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants.
Terrariums have in the last few years become one of the most popular gift choices. The miniature worlds contained inside the glass vessels provide a unique growing environment and specific climate that allows plants to flourish. Besides just being aesthetically appealing, they can also be created to provide the ideal habitat for some animals should you be interested in introducing reptile pets (among other things) into your life.
Many websites will instruct those keen to D.I.Y on the dos and don’ts and provide basic instruction in construction, we aren’t going to do that here, and the truth is, to do it properly, you require specific ingredients and a level of care and expertise that many of us just do not possess. Add to that the fact that terrariums require a special soil mix (usually a combination of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite) as well as charcoal to ensure both good growing conditions and to reduce the risks of microbial damage. Plus the soil mix MUST be sterile, to avoid introducing harmful microbes, so sometimes the quickest, easiest and most cost effective way to get your hands on one of these little wonders, is to trust the professionals.
Terrariums are generally made in sealable glass container that can be opened for general maintenance and to access the inside when required. A sealed container creates a unique environment for the plant, with the transparent walls allowing heat and light inside, and in turn creating a small scale water cycle. This is due to the moisture from the soil evaporating in the elevated temperatures within the terrarium. This water vapour then collects on the walls of the container, where it then slides down back onto the plants and soil below. Beside allowing light and heat into the terrarium, the transparent walls are equally important for the process of photosynthesis, which is integral to plant growth.
Ideal plants for a closed terrarium include orchids, mosses, ferns and air plants, because they will flourish in the humidity and sheltered atmosphere which is created within the vessel, that is similar to their natural tropical environment.
Closed terrariums should be opened once a week to remove excessive moisture and in turn reduce the risk of mould growth which would result in damaged plants, or a discoloured container.
Whilst keeping the vessel closed encourages the water cycle, at times, the terrarium may also require additional water- if you notice the absence of condensation on the walls of the vessel or any of your plants wilting, this is a sign you may need to water your terrarium.
Terrariums can indeed be made in containers that are open and have access to the outside atmosphere. Open terrariums are more suited to plants that have adapted to dry climates such as succulents, which will not flourish in the inherently moist environment of the closed terrariums. Open terrariums also work well for plants that require more direct sunlight, as closed terrariums can trap too much heat potentially killing any plants inside.
The quirkiness of your terrarium is limited only by the creativity of your supplier and your expectations. Ornaments, special features and colour can change the overall appearance, and take a fairly conservative piece into the realm of kitsch. Animals from your African safari, smurfs and shells are common additions, as are fairies and mushrooms. Tell your supplier what elements you would or would not like to see in your bespoke piece.
Have you got a terrarium at your place, or have you given one as a gift? What a wonderful choice for a house warming or a long lasting gift after the birth of a child. Terrariums are a great gift that will give many months (or more) of pleasure to the recipient. If you think they may be a little beyond your plant caring expertise for the moment, check out our plant range here– we have a range of easy to care for planted succulents, orchids and other house plants to get your skills up!