Planting a Terrarium
There are many things to consider before you begin planting your terrarium. The first things that you need to keep in mind are the temperature and light conditions in the area where you plan to place your terrarium. You only want to use plants in your terrarium that suit that location and will thrive there.
The next thing to consider is the type of container that you are using for your terrarium. Terrariums must be made of clear glass or plastic. If the plastic or glass is cloudy, the amount of sunlight that will penetrate it will be reduced. This reduced sunlight will inhibit growth within the terrarium. Almost any type of container can be used as a terrarium as long as it is clear. Containers such as fish bowls, jars, jugs, bottles and old brandy snifters can be used as terrariums. There are also specailly designed terrariums that range in shape and size, from simple designs to elaborate creations. All closed terrariums must have a transparent lid.
The next thing to consider when preparing your terrarium is the type of soil you will be using. You can find satisfactory potting soils at your local home and gardening stores. These soils are sterilized and ready to use right out of the bag. Prepackaged peat-like mixtures are also excellent choices.
You can also mix your own soil if you wish. To do this, mix one part peat moss with one part rich garden soil. This mixture will work in your terrarium, however, it will need to be sterilized. To do this, Place the soil in a shallow baking pan, about two inches deep and place it in an oven at about 400 degrees until the soil is thoroughly heated for 30 minutes. The exact time that your soil needs to sterilize depends on the amount of soil. You can place a potato in the oven along with the soil. When the potato is thoroughly baked, the soil should be ready. Cover the soil with aluminum foil to prevent excess drying during heating. You can also place the soil in a roasting bag. This method will also seal in the unpleasant smell that results in sterilizing the soil. The soil temperature should be kept at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes. You can check this by using a meat thermometer. Spread the soil to cool on clean papers with clean tools. For planting, the soil should be moist enough to cling in a ball when it is squeezed tightly.
The next step in planting your terrarium is to prepare the container. Your container may look clean, but it needs to be sterilized if your terrarium is going to thrive. To sterilize your terrarium, wash it in hot and soapy water and make sure that you rinse it thoroughly. You also need to make sure that the terrarium is completely dry before planting. This is very important. You may use a commercial glass cleaner on your terrarium. However, especially if the cleaner contains ammonia, you need to let the terrarium air out for several days before planting.
Now that your terrarium has been sterilized, it is ready for planting. The first step in planting your terrarium is adding drainage materials. First, place a layer of small gravel in the bottom of your terrarium. The layer should be 1-1 1/2 inches thick. Next, place a 1/2 inch layer of charcoal on top of the gravel. The layer of charcoal will help reduce unpleasant odors in the soil. Placing a layer of sphagnum moss over the charcoal will prevent soil from sifting down into the drainage area.
Next, you can add the growing medium, or soil mixture to your terrarium. The growing medium needs to be moist. This is to prevent dust from being stirred up. The soil should not be so moist that it sticks to the sides of your terrarium. The amount of soil that is used depends directly on the size of your terrarium. However, for most containers, a layer with minimum thickness of 1-1 1/2 inches is necessary to provide sufficient volume.
At last, with the drainage material and growing medium in place, you are ready to add plants to your terrarium. Before placing plants in your terrarium, arrange them on a piece of paper or poster board that is comparable to the size of the terrarium. This will allow you to see how the plants are going to look when arranged inside of the terrarium. If the terrarium is going to be viewed from all sides, it is best to plant one large, dominating plant in the center of the terrarium and surround it with smaller plants.
To plant a plant in your terrarium, first poke a hole in the growing medium. Next, remove the potted plant from its pot. Remove the extra soil from the plant to expose its roots. It is necessary to trim off any leaves that have turned yellow or show any sign of damage or disease. Promptly place the plant in the hole in the growing medium. This has to be done promptly in order to avoid drying out the plant's roots. Use caution not to touch the plant to the sides of the terrarium. Also, use a small amount of water to rinse off any extra soil that may end up on the sides of ther terrarium. After the plant is placed in the hole in the growing medium, fill in the hole and stamp it firm. After the plants have been arranged to your liking, you can add gravel, driftwood, sand and a vast array of other accessories to give your terrarium a finished appearance.