Thinking of adding some zing to your living room?
You should consider getting a terrarium. It looks great and also has the added goodness of having indoor plants.
What is a Terrarium?
A terrarium is a glass container which is usually sealed which contains soil and plants. It can be opened for maintenance to access the plants inside.
Terrariums offer a miniature ecosystem, a window into the natural world. Man possesses a natural inborn love of nature called biophilia. This way he can experience the unique flora within the confines of his house.
Just like a painting or sofa is a focal point in the living room, terrariums are a living sculpture of nature. Plus they can take care of themselves.
In layman terms, a terrarium is a garden in a bottle or glass container.
Types of Terrariums
There are two types of terrariums.
Open system terrariums use a wide mouth container such as a glass bowl. It needs to be watered more often and has low humidity levels.
Closed system terrariums use a closed or nearly closed container. A lidded jar or a jar with a narrow mouth is usually chosen for this type of system. Closed terrariums sustain the ecosystem for nature and humidity loving plants.
Closed system terrariums are fairly easy to maintain once their ecosystem is well established. Hence we will be discussing closed system terrariums.
How does a Closed Terrarium Works?
The transparent walls of the container allow both heat and light to enter the terrarium.
Moisture from soil and plants evaporate (through plants also via through transpiration) in the elevated temperatures inside the terrarium. The water vapor then condenses on the walls of the terrarium. After which through precipitation it falls back on the plants and soil.
This way there is an ideal supply of water to the plants for their growth. In addition, the plants are able to produce their food through photosynthesis as light is able to pass through the container.
Tips on handling a closed terrarium
The first thing before creating or buying a closed terrarium is to select a place where one will be able to display it in the living room.
It should be able to blend with the interiors. Once it is put up in a place, it is not a good idea to disturb it as that can hamper their growth.
The reason being the change in light duration and intensity can be detrimental for plant health.
Also, the plants inside will burn and die if you place them next to a sunny window.
Choose a location that will give it bright indirect light.
When water droplets condense on the lid or walls of the terrarium, open the lid for an hour. This will ensure excess water gets evaporated from the terrarium.
Continue this process until you see very little if any condensation. At this point, the terrarium ecosystem has reached an equilibrium and can withstand long periods without the addition of water for weeks or months.
Our goal is that the growth of the plant remains slow in a terrarium. This will help in limiting the pruning one has to do to keep the size small.
For this reason, very little fertilizer should be added. Air, moisture, and light for photosynthesis are all that the plant will need to thrive.
It is unusual for a terrarium plant to have a display life of more than a year or two.
As the plant matures, it will outgrow the terrarium. It will become necessary to prune them or remove them completely and place new plants.
How to Create a Terrarium?
For creating a terrarium one needs a clear glass container (size as per preference). Do not purchase a translucent glass or colored glass as that will hamper the light passing through.
Aquariums, gallon size jars, spheres, decorative containers, pop bottles etc can be used. Wash it with warm water and soap.
Purchase a good potting medium from a local garden center. Garden soil is not recommended as it is too heavy and does not provide adequate aeration or capillary movement of water.
Apart from that, it contains weed seeds, insect eggs, and disease-causing organisms.
Commercial potting mixture is a typical mixture of peat moss with perlite, vermiculite and/or composted bark. This provides excellent aeration and good moisture retention.
Also, the commercial potting mix has been pasteurized, killing all insects, weeds and disease-causing organisms.
Commercial potting medium usually has a starter charge of fertilizer added to the potting mix. So additional fertilizer is not needed at the time of planting.
Other materials such as rock, sand, and charcoal are not recommended for drainage as once believed. It is now said that adding such layers actually hinders the water drainage from the roots.
The reason stated is that the potting medium is like a sponge with millions of air pockets. When wet, the water is held tightly until the potting medium becomes completely saturated.
Only then will the water move to the next layer. By then, there is too much water for even the drainage layer to hold. Hence there is no use. The plant’s roots suffocate in the oxygen-depleted potting medium, rot and eventually die.
Plants that can be used in a Terrarium
Although many varieties of plants can be grown in a terrarium, it is better to choose plants that are naturally dwarf, slow growing, tolerant of high humidity and tolerant of the level of light it’s going to receive wherever it’s placed in living room.
It is commonly called a moon valley plant or friendship plant.
According to Wikipedia, it is cultivated for high humidity areas like a terrarium.
Light: Indirect light. Tolerates low-level light conditions well.
Growth: fast grower. Can grow 12 inches wide. Pinch off stem tips to keep them compact.
Decor: Green and red on the underside, it has distinct leaves with moon like craters and valleys.
It is commonly known as East Indian Holly fern. It is an evergreen fern native to woodland streambanks, crevices in cliffs, wet rocks etc.
Light: It requires filtered light. Grows well in part shade to full shade areas
Growth: It grows up to 1-2 inches tall and 1-3 inch wide.
Decor: Glossy lime green fronds with deeply divided subdivisions. Soft yellow stripe down the midrib of each pinnule.
It is from the family of tropical plants. It is commonly called a starfish plant.
Light: It needs indirect light. Slightly shady spot works fine. Too much sunlight and heat cause the leaves to shrivel up and wither. Too much shade will diminish the color of the leaves.
Growth: It is a slow growing plant and therefore excellent for terrariums. It grows maximum to a height of 6 inches.
Decor: The leaves taper to a point, in the end, giving it a star-shaped appearance. The color of the leaves changes with the intensity of light. The burst of colors varies from red to green.
The common name for them is watermelon peperomia. In their natural habitat, they reside undercover within the forest with some sun and shade. It is so named as the shade resembles the skin of the watermelon.
Light: A shady area with some indirect light.
Growth: It is a slow grower and grows only up to 6 inches
Decor: The plant has oval shaped peltate leaves which display a mixture of green and silver stripes. These leaves are attached to thin non-woody red stems.
It is commonly called as nerve plants because of its bright leaf veins. It is found at the ground level in tropical rainforests.
Light: It prefers indirect diffused/ filtered light.
Growth: It grows quite low and bushy. They have a tendency to spread sideways instead of growing up. Pinch off the tips of new growth and horizontal pruning is recommended
Decor: The leaves have a distinct pattern of white, burgundy and green. It grows up to 6 inches tall in the wild. One can adjust the height as wanted in the terrarium.
It is commonly called as Aquamarine. It is a tropical ground cover plant with pretty leaves. It is also called grey baby tears or silver sparkle plant, grey artillery plant etc.
Light: It prefers bright indirect light. It can grow in low light conditions as well. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves of the plant.
Growth: It grows slowly and stays low up to 12 inches.
Decor: It has red stems with delicate rounded leaves which are silvery blue and are dotted with variegations.
Selaginella kraussiana aurea
It is commonly called as golden club moss. It is found as a ground cover, along with the waterside, woodland etc
Light: It needs indirect sunlight. It does well in low light as well.
Growth: It grows quite fast and needs to be pruned horizontally. Vertically it grows only up to 6 inches.
Decor: It has unusual branching light green and golden colored leaves. It works well to brighten darker colored plants. Its new leaves are tinted in a golden shade.
A terrarium is great as they add more colors and style to your living rooms (or any room where you keep these). You can also use plants that can also help purify the air.
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