Science Experiments

How do you make a terrarium?



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There are many different types of terrariums and making a simple terrarium is not difficult. There are just a few steps and a few things you have to watch out for. Here is a step by step overview of the process of making a small dish terrarium which is one of the easiest types to make.

1. Select a container - The container can be almost anything at all. You can choose something dish like to create an open air container or something bottle like to create a closed environment terrarium which is a bigger challenge to make and to maintain.

2. A Layer of course sand or pebbles is placed in the bottom of the container. This allows for good drainage of the water in the terrarium. There is no need for holes in the bottom of your container. This is so the water can be reused as it is needed. It will be pulled up from the pebble layer.

3. Activated Charcoal - If you are making a closed container terrarium you should next place a layer of activated charcoal over the pebbles/sand layer. In a closed environment this charcoal will filter the air and keep it fresh. This is the type of charcoal used in aquarium filters so you can purchase it at any pet shop with aquarium supplies. If you are making an open top terrarium there is no need for this charcoal.

4. Add a layer of Spaghnum Moss on top. This prevents the soil in your terrarium from settling down into the pebbles. It is kind of a like a filter that will allow the water to filter down but not the soil. If you don't have spaghnum moss a very fine screen will work well here but over time the screen will rust and need to be replaced.

5. Add Soil - Regular potting soil works fine. There is no need to try a fancy mix. But if you are creating a desert scene and using cactus you may want to get potting soil specifically designed for them.

6. Add the plants and or seeds. Care should be taken in this step. You want to arrange things in a way that is pleasing to the eye. You may want to make sketches before you plant. Or you may want to dig some small holes and move the plants around -trying different locations and arrangements.

7. Finishing touches - Add ornaments or other decorations. These add a nice touch to your terrarium.

What plants should you get for your terrarium?

I wouldn't worry too much about what exact plants to get for your terrarium. I recommend you get plants that you find pleasing and see what happens. Care for them as best you can and see how they do. You can always remove a plant and replace it with something else. Anyway here are some recommendations to specific plants.
  • Palm Neanthe Bella -Low light and grows slowly - hardy
  • Swedish Ivy - Very durable low care plant
  • Bird Nest Sansivieria Extremely hardy
  • Irish Moss - Makes nice groundcover
  • Croton - Come in many bright colors but need a lot of light
  • Pothos - Medium Light , nice shaped leaves
  • Button Fern -
  • Pitcher Plant - Carnivorous - nice exotic look
  • Butterwort - Carnivorous
  • Miniature African violets - Adds nice color
  • Cactus - High sunlight and sandy soil
  • Herbs - Don't hesitate to use herbs like parsley, mint, chives, oregano or others in your terrarium. They tend to be hardy, stay small and often add a little bit of a nice aroma.