According to the World Book Dictionary, a terrarium is a glass, plastic bowl or container in which small plants are grown in a soil mixture. The name terrarium comes from the Latin word terra, meaning “earth.”
Did you know that terrariums were originally invented as a way of transporting living plants from the far regions of the world, in the days of the explorers? (Voyages typically took months or even years to do and complete.)
Terrariums were quite popular in the 1970s, as part of the ecology (or the “Mother Earth”) movement, but fell out of favor for a while.
But recently, there’s been a resurgence of interest in these miniature gardens (and the current ones are better-looking!-The newer models consist of different plants, use better quality containers and other nature items; they‘re becoming very fashionable household décor statements-and accents), with sales steadily increasing yearly at several floral and garden companies.
The latest “green” movement has also been a huge factor in the renewed interest. And terrariums are low-maintenance (plus small); they’re great for super-busy people who don’t have a lot of time for intensive growing, but want still want to go green.
Tovah Martin, author of “The New Terrarium” (Clarkson Potter, $25) has noticed the new resurgence, with magazines and department stores featuring the enclosed mini gardens in ads and photo shoots. According to Martin, terrariums are not only super-easy to care for, they’re the simplest: “When gardens are encased in glass, condensation forms and water droplets dribble back down to the soil, reducing the need for supplemental water. Growing goes on autopilot.”
Here’s a few tips and ideas from Martin on planting one:
“All you need is a clear container, soil and a plant.
To provide drainage, put an inch of 3/8-inch pebbles in the bottom of the container. Mix in a handful of horticultural charcoal to keep the moist soil smelling sweet.
Now, pour in the potting soil. Add 2-3 inches that contains lots of peat. Tamp it down to remove air pockets.
Dig a little hole with your finger. Set the plant in and firm up the soil around it. Make sure no roots are exposed.
Water lightly; just dampen the soil until the water drips into the stones. Don’t use misters!
To keep a terrarium growing, water an open one when the soil appears dry (every 7-10 days or so). A closed terrarium can go for two weeks or more between waterings. Remove any droopy flowers and leaves as soon as they appear. Wipe the glass, inside and out, occasionally with a clean cloth.”
Terrariums also need indirect light (DON’T put in direct sunlight; it’ll cook the plants).
A window that faces north, northeast or northwest is best for a terrarium.
You can also put one under a fluorescent light.
For more info, check out www.terrariums.com.
Sources:”Growing in popularity“-Star Tribune, May 16, 2010 and “Small Worlds” by Jane Austin McKeon–Better Homes and Gardens, January 2012