by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Nothing uplifts the human spirit like nature. If you are an admirer of greenery, but do not have garden space around your house, why not create a mini-garden inside your house? It will be great to look at, and is a sure way to improve indoor air quality. Besides, a terrarium improves the ambience of a house immensely. Building a terrarium is also one of the ways to engage kids during lockdown time. Read on to see how you can make a DIY terrarium at home.
Items you will need
- An old aquarium that you no longer use, glass jar or bowl.
- Pebbles (This will give a false drainage layer)
- Activated charcoal (This will keep the terrarium healthy)
- Appropriate potting soil (Cactus soil for succulents and cacti, and regular potting soil for other plants)
- Various small plants (Look for small plants that will not grow too tall. You should select either succulents and cacti or fern and tropical plants because these two sets require different types of soil and amounts of water)
- Moss (for decoration, and to retain water)
- Decorative items such as figurines, shiny stones or glass beads (optional)
STEP 1: Get the container ready
Clean your vessel thoroughly to clear away any unwanted material stuck to it. If you are using a disinfectant, please make sure that it is organic. At this point, you can plan how you will arrange the plants inside.
STEP 2: Add the drainage layer
Once the container is clean and ready, line the bottom with pebbles. This will create a false drainage layer that will let water settle, instead of flooding the plants.
STEP 3: Add the Activated Charcoal
The charcoal should now be added on top of the pebbles, just enough to cover them. It will improve the air quality of the terrarium, reducing fungi, bacteria and odors. It comes either as small granules or shards; both are fine for our purposes.
STEP 4: Add Soil
It is important to get the right kind of soil for the plants you have selected. Add enough soil at a good depth for the plants to grow roots and flourish.
STEP 5: Plant
Now it is time to plant. For each plant you have selected, if the roots are especially long, they need to be trimmed. Plant each one without touching the sides of the vessel as much as possible.
STEP 6: Add Accessories
After the plants are in, you can add moss, shiny stones, glass beads or figurines, depending on the look that you want the terrarium to have. If you are using a big aquarium for the terrarium, you could even add a waterfall and a small pond inside.
STEP 7: Clean and Water
Clean the sides of the terrarium by wiping it down. Water the plants inside, taking care not to give too much water. Some terrariums are closed, and others are open. You can choose either. Cacti and succulents prefer open terrariums whereas moss and ferns can thrive in the more humid environment of a closed terrarium.
- If leaves wilt or die, remove them immediately from the terrarium.
- Do not water the terrarium too often. You should be able to judge if it needs water by looking at the soil. If it looks parched, give some water. If your terrarium has a lid, and if you see water dripping from the top, you have to open the lid to let some evaporate.
- Indirect sunlight works best for your terrarium. So do not place it in direct sunlight. The glass will trap heat and the plants will get scorched.
- You can create a nice, authentic-looking background for your terrarium by sticking a forest scene or just dark green paper at the back of the terrarium.
- When you select plants, look for plants of different colors and sizes.
- A very good choice of plants for terrarium is herbs like mint and thyme. Other than looking good in your terrarium, they are useful in cooking. They are usually hardy, grow small and often add a good aroma to the house.
- Popular plants for terrariums and their characteristics are given below.
- Swedish Ivy – A very durable plant that can survive with low care
- Scottish Moss – Very hardy and good looking
- Miniature African violets – This plant will add nice color to your terrarium
- Pothos – This plant needs medium light and has nice shaped leaves.
- Irish Moss – This plant gives nice ground-cover
- Spiderwort – This is very durable and needs little care
- Cactus – This plant needs high sunlight and sandy soil
- Bird Nest Sansivieria – An extremely hardy plant