Homes - Gardens

How to: Create a whimsical terrarium

Select a gorgeous glass vessel, mini plants and decorative accessories to piece together a mini garden under glass.

People have been creating terrariums for years, typically in square glass containers the size of small aquariums. But all of a sudden, there seems to be a multitude of fantastic glass containers available, as well as endless Pinterest boards we love and a few how-to books on the subject. So, what’s the appeal? “Terrariums have always been in style, but with the playful nature of combining vintage items in a contemporary setting, their popularity seems higher than ever,” says Sara Jameson, owner of Sweetpea’s, a flower shop in Toronto. “They give us the opportunity to design a rainforest, desert or whatever our imaginations can come up with, all housed in a way that you can, quite literally, have the whole world in your hands.”

The right environment makes these little worlds low-maintenance, and they are perfect for those who don’t have much, if any, space to garden. “As you create one, it becomes an extension of your style and provides the opportunity to showcase your own signature style,” explains Sara.

Find the perfect containers for your whimsical world
The first thing you need to do is decide on a container. Traditional terrariums have a lid, so that you can trap the humidity needed for tropical plants to survive. But lately, terrariums are being designed with a bit of a twist. They have both large and small openings and are available in a variety of interesting, spherical shapes—some even come with built-in hooks so you can hang them. There are all sorts of options for this style of indoor gardening.

“In the shop, we use any container we can get our hands on,” says Sara. “They can be everything from large, vintage bell jars to Mason jars, or even discarded light fixtures. Given the right container, anything is possible.”

Gather the right growing medium
The plants you choose will determine what type of soil you need. For air plants (tillandsia) that don’t root or need constant watering (a weekly misting will do), you can use a fine-grain sand. However for more tropical plants, you want to create a layered effect, with pebbles or decorative rocks on the bottom, a layer of charcoal and then potting soil. The activated charcoal, which you can find at most aquarium stores, acts as a filter for closed terrariums and neutralizes the odours from decaying matter. “It is a good idea to do some research on the type of terrarium you want to create and how best to create the eco-system so that it comes self-sufficient,” recommends Sara.

Choose your blooms and accessories
Look for miniature houseplants at nurseries and flower shops, such as maidenhair and asparagus ferns, wild strawberries, sweet violets, English ivy and fittonia. A little layer of moss camouflages the potting soil. Mini carnivorous tropicals, like Venus flytraps and sundews, also work well in a moist environment. Succulents are another interesting, low-maintenance option.

Another thing that Sara emphasizes is the fact that sometimes you don’t need plants at all! “If plants are not your strong suit, think of how you can use inanimate objects to fill your container,” she says. “Birds' eggs, feathers, decorative pebbles, pieces of crushed terracotta pots, even pages from old books, or other found objects … you are only limited by your own imagination.”

We’ve gathered a bit of inspiration to help you start your terrarium shopping list.

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