An ode to the ‘70s: the terrarium is back to brighten up your home this winter

If you feel like you’ve stepped through a time machine every time you scroll through social media lately, you’re not alone. Everything from fashion and accessories to home décor and gardening is taking a nostalgic turn at the moment. Rattan furniture, bold colour choices and the retro-greenery of houseplants are returning to our lives. One way to inject this groovy trend into your home is by setting up a green terrarium in your living space. We’re going to take you through your terrarium need-to-knows to set up your perfect piece of indoor greenery.

lush mini succulent plants are a perfect choice for indoors

Terrarium time — an era of the mini indoor garden

The Wardian case, the terrarium predecessor, gained popularity during the Victorian Era and eventually evolved into a terrarium – derived from the words ‘land’ (terra) and ‘aquarium’ (arium). This became quite popular in the 1970s. Today, the terrarium is making a comeback. It’s the perfect modernised and subdued way of bringing back grooviness. It’s also a great project for you to keep boredom at bay during the colder months of the year.

The best thing about these bottled terrariums is that they’re low maintenance — perfect for people who forget to water their pot plants. Turn old glass containers and jars into the miniature landscape of your dreams. Let’s get started:

What you need

  • A clear glass jar or bottle. For a statement centrepiece, add a glass cloche 
  • Small indoor plants
  • Potting soil or succulent mix
  • Sedum sarmentosum (graveyard moss)
  • Small pebbles for drainage
  • Activated charcoal (you can buy it from a pet store) or horticultural charcoal
  • Tools (an old tablespoon and fork work best)
  • Optional: decorations of your choice — think small animal toys, fairy trinkets, etc.
great examples of terrarium you could make yourself

Map out your terrarium theme 

Theming your project can be helpful when picking out plants for your terrarium. It also adds an element of creativity and lets you showcase your style. Here are some ideas to help you choose a theme for your mini garden:

Tickle me tropical 

The houseplant section is a great source to search for your tropical terrarium. Add frothy ferns for a lush, layered look. Place these tropical plants in partial shade and avoid sunny windows. 

Woodland wonder and delight

Ferns and leafy begonias could make for a lovely forest collection. Woodland plants also prefer partial shade, so again, stay away from the sunny windows in your home. 

The everyday desert vista 

Succulents, like the variegated Jade plant — a ‘Safrikun’ favourite — and aloe vera make for an exotic terrarium look. These plants require little water and full sun. We recommend an open terrarium container for succulent plants as these already arid plants may be prone to root rot if condensation is the primary form of water from a closed housing. 

Top terrarium tip 

Select plants with the same requirements in terms of light, water and temperature. Look for plants that are slow-growing to keep your small garden from becoming overgrown. For beginner growers, ferns and small grasses are ideal to start off the terrarium of your dreams. If you’re looking for more of an uncommon and challenging approach to this mini garden, then succulents are the way to go.

Get creating: how to make a terrarium

Boredom can strike easily during winter, but here is where things get fun and interesting. The planning stages may take some time and can be exciting ideating different looks and discovering beautiful plants. The physical and hands-on creation is where the real fun begins. Find interesting ways to place your plants together, add decorations and trinkets to bring in quirky elements, and even create tiny worlds within the glass perimeters. 

  1. Start with a base layer of small pebbles or stones to create a good drainage level.
  2. Add about 3cm of activated charcoal to keep the closed environment clean. 
  3. Use the sedum sarmentosum moss to cover the charcoal. Layering the moss blanket about 3cm above the previous layer will separate your soil from water accumulating in the pebbles. This is also great to prevent root rot and keep the soil healthy. 
  4. Fill the bottom third of your terrarium with potting soil, or a more coarse succulent soil which will drain faster (for a succulent terrarium).
  5. Make a hole in the soil deep enough to keep the plant from toppling over. Pop your plant in the hole and use a spoon to gently push the soil around it. Tap it down firmly. 
  6. Add some more moss to round off the look. Bear in mind that more moss makes for a more tropical and forest atmosphere, whereas less moss can help you achieve a semi-arid desert look. Adding fine gravel enhances the overall appearance of a succulent terrarium.
  7. Water your magnificent creation. 
how to build a terrarium with helpful tips

Take the “um” out of the terrarium

Caring for your new mini green garden

Keep an eye on the moisture levels within your terrarium. There should be a layer of condensation inside if your terrarium is enclosed, which will slowly rain down on the plants. If the moisture levels are right, there will be no need to water your plants more than once a month. Watering can also be dependent on how many plants are in your container and how much water the individual plants need. Closed terrariums are, by design, humid environments. If it is too wet inside, leave it open for a day or so. You have created a closed ecosystem, which can be water- and light-sensitive. Too much sunlight could bake your plants quite literally by becoming a hothouse. 

Slow growth from your plants is what we want in a terrarium. Adding any kind of fertiliser could cause your plants to grow and leaves to pop out, filling up the space. 

pyramid terrarium with different coloured sand accents.

Don’t tear your hair out from boredom — get started on your terrarium

For more ideas to keep yourself entertained during winter, read here. Contact us for any more information.

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