Gardens Under Glass

Plant one of these eye-catching containers for an easy indoor treat.

There's a magical, slightly mysterious air about a miniature garden enveloped in glass. Our updated approach promises beautiful results, and the simple, fun-to-do method ensures success.

Good Start
A true terrarium has a top, which can cause growing difficulties. But if you lose the lid, the dynamics change, and plants flourish. Choose a clear glass container with a wide opening for best results, and let the garden's location determine its size and style. The miniature indoor landscape may hold one plant or many in a simple jar or something more elaborate. While the options are numerous, the technique and care remain constant.

A room's light is the key when picking the best location; direct sun can scald foliage and shorten bloom time, especially in a small container. Most terrarium plants prefer diffused sun, and some even thrive in low light.

Fill the container bottom with about an inch of gravel; then sprinkle a thin layer of crushed aquarium charcoal on top. Pet stores offer great selections of these supplies. Next, add moist potting soil to a depth compatible with the sizes of your plants' pots.

Remove plants from their containers, and loosen the roots with your fingers. Arrange them in the jar, centering the tallest one and working others toward the sides. Position plants snugly, so there is only a bit of growing room within the container. Cover exposed soil with green sheet moss or additional gravel, and wipe debris from the glass, inside and out.

Care and Feeding
In this type of container, there is no escape route for water, so you must add moisture carefully. A kitchen baster is handy for applying water gradually and in measured amounts. When the soil begins to dry, drizzle water slowly over the surface until it appears in the bottom gravel layer; then stop. Too little moisture is better than too much. Tap water that has a high mineral or chlorine content causes leaf tips to brown, so consider using distilled or filtered water.

As plants grow, keep them within bounds with occasional pruning. Small scissors fit in most containers, and the fine tips make it easy to clip petite stems. Always cut directly above a leaf to encourage new growth.

Terrariums are a fun way to garden indoors, and the possibilities are endless. Tired plants are easily replaced, offering an opportunity to refresh the garden and try something new.

Pick Your Plants
Choose foliage and flowers based on the size of your container. The smallest bowls require plants in 1 1/2-inch pots, while large jars can easily accommodate 3- and 4-inch pots.  

Terrariums invite a host of plants into a small area, so compatibility is vital. Purchase ones with similar light and water needs, as well as complementary textures and colors.