Starting a Terrarium - from Blue Bells and Cockle ShellsBeing mid-winter, we’ve not been getting outside as much as we’re used to and we have yet to start this year’s gardening projects, so we’ve been doing a bit of gardening and nature study indoors. We set up a new terrarium. For this of you, who have been following this blog and my blog before this one, the terrarium container might look a lot like last year’s terrarium. You’d be correct, as the container is the same container that I have planted a terrarium in for three years now. I have a horrible tendency to forget about our terrariums as soon as spring comes around. While being low-maintenance, terrariums are not no-maintence, so usually about August, I notice mold growing or that the plants have all dried out. Hopefully, this year, I won’t forget these poor plants.
Anyway, I thought I’d include directions to starting a terrarium, for those of you, who have never started one. To create a terrarium, you will need:

  • A container
  • Small rocks
  • Activated charcoal
  • Potting soil or compost
  • Small plants
  • Decorations, if desired

Starting a Terrarium - from Blue Bells and Cockle ShellsThe first step is to put a layer of rocks on the bottom of the container that you are using. Usually, this layer is made up of gravel-sized rocks, aquarium gravel being quite popular. This year, I put a layer of river rocks on the very bottom, followed by a layer of pebbles, because I am experimenting with drainage, but this is not how things are done typically. Starting a Terrarium - from Blue Bells and Cockle Shells
Next you need to add a layer or activated charcoal. Our nursery sells it, but you can also find it at some stores that sell aquarium supplies.Starting a Terrarium - from Blue Bells and Cockle Shells
Now, you can add your soil. Then add your plants. Finally, add any pretty stones or other decorations that you’d like. Unfortunately, mine were all confiscated by a certain five-year old, who suddenly realized that a fairy garden was not going to fit in our terrarium and thereby insisted on going out in the rain to set up her fairy garden (we had put all the fairy garden pieces into storage for the winter, for fear that they would blow away during a wind storm).Starting a Terrarium - from Blue Bells and Cockle Shells
Now, you need to water your terrarium. I have a tendency to overwater my terrariums, so I find it best to use a mister bottle to help me avoid doing that. You want the soil to be moist, but not soaked, as there is no where for the water to drain to. If your terrarium has a lid, you should watch it for a few days to see if condensation is building up. If you are getting a lot of condensation, then take the lid off your terrarium for a few days to allow some of the moisture to evaporate. Otherwise, the terrarium will pretty much water itself, with the water rising to the lid and then dropping to water the plants. Eventually, enough moisture will escape through the cracks of your container, that you will need to add some more moisture, but that may take several months, depending on your container.Starting a Terrarium - from Blue Bells and Cockle Shells
If your terrarium does not have a lid, you will need to check the soil a couple of times a week and water whenever the soil gets dry.  Keep your terrarium in a well-lit area with indirect light and trim the plants if they grow too tall.