The Q&A Archives: Terrariums

Question: How do I start a terrarium? What do I need? What kind of containers are good? How do I maintain it?

Answer: Terrariums are self sustaining ecosystems that should require minimal care if they're properly set up. You can use an old aquarium (first choice because it has a lid and a light), or almost any clear glass bottle, snifter or bowl for your container. Start by placing a shallow layer of gravel on the bottom of the container. Then you can place some growing medium into the bottom of the container (such as moistened potting soil that you've squeezed the excess moisture out of) and then planting very small, slow growing plants in the soil. Once everything is in place, mist the plants lightly and cover the top of the container with clear glass. The terrarium will provide a rainforest effect and the plants should thrive without further watering. When bright light is supplied, the plants will transpire, and droplets of liquid will coat the inside and top of the container. They will fall back down onto the plants and run back into the soil. The plant roots will take up the water, move it to the leaves, and it will be released into the atmosphere where it will collect on the sides and top of the container, only to drop back down again into the soil. Some plant to consider growing include ferns, ivy, acorus, peperomia, dracaena, fittonia and African violets. Keep your terrarium in bright light, but out of direct sunlight.

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