What is a Terrarium? How is a Terrarium Made, How is it Maintained?

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Terrarium (terrarium) is a combination of the Latin words terra (earth) and arium (place or device associated with a particular object or function). Just like the aquarium, which is an artificial living environment created for aquatic creatures by fulfilling the necessary conditions for their survival, a terrarium is a special living environment created for plants.

Terrariums are glass or plastic transparent containers containing soil and plants. Thanks to its transparent walls, the terrarium allows heat and light to enter, creating a unique environment for plants to grow. The heat entering the terrarium and the humidity inside provide the creation of a small-scale water cycle. At high temperatures, the moisture of the soil and the plant in the terrarium evaporates, this water vapor condenses on the walls and eventually falls on the plant and soil below. This balance prevents plants from rotting due to excess water and from drying out due to thirst. The light that passes through the transparent walls of the terrarium is also necessary for the plants inside to perform photosynthesis.

Terrariums can be made in two ways, open and closed for plants with different moisture needs. Indoor terrariums are used for tropical plants that need a constant high humidity, while open terrariums are preferred for plants that need a dry and warm environment, such as cactus and succulent. While open terrariums can be used easily with plants that need direct sunlight for a long time, in closed terrariums direct sunlight will cause the plants to die as it will increase the temperature inside due to the lack of air change and high humidity.

In parallel with its popularity, the term terrarium, which has been emptied, is unfortunately currently used for all pot applications that have cactus or succulent species planted in it and have a different design. Whether planted on a seashell or hollowed-out tree stump, ten different species together, an application that is completely open to external influences cannot be called a terrarium at all.

The History Of The Terrarium

Creating a miniature ecosystem, the terrarium was discovered in the 1830s by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward (1791 – 1868). Ward, a doctor keen on botany and conducting research on insect behavior, began research on this subject in 1830 when he saw a plant growing from a seed in the soil in a forgotten jar with little soil in it. In his experiments, he observed that the moisture in the indoor environment evaporated during the day and condensed in the evening and returned to the soil and created a stable balance.

Ward, who could not find the opportunity to grow many different plant species, which he experimented with in London, which was very polluted in both climatic conditions and the air at that time, discovered that this method, regardless of external influences, could keep especially tropical plant species alive.

Terrariums, which were called Wardian Cases at that time, were manufactured in large sizes as of 1833 and used to exchange different plant species with overseas countries. Thanks to the terrarium, it was possible to bring local plant species to England and then to survive, especially with months-long journeys from Australia.

How Is A Terrarium Made?

First of all, it is necessary to find a transparent container suitable for your indoor or outdoor terrarium decision, the variety of the plants and their growth potential. This can be an ordinary jar or special lanterns produced for terrarium.

We place pebbles that will serve as drainage in the lowest layer of your terrarium container. This layer will allow excess water to leak from the soil, preventing rotting of the roots and facilitating evaporation.

We put sphagnum or natural fiber that is easier to find on the stones. This layer not only acts as a filter, but also keeps the terrarium moisture balance by holding water. Sphagnum (peat moss) is a type of seaweed that can hold water up to 20 times its weight.

Finally, we add the peat (soil) layer where we will plant the plants. Since there are different types of peat, we must choose the appropriate peat type for the type of plant we plan to grow in terrarium. A small amount of pumice stone can also be added to the peat, thus creating air spaces in the soil that the roots can benefit from.We put activated carbon (coal) on the sphagnum as the last layer before the soil. Activated carbon cleans the terrarium air and prevents the growth of bacteria and mold. In this way, the plants in the terrarium maintain a healthy life for many years.

The terrarium is now ready for planting. It is enough to plant the plants and give life water, preferably with a spray. Giving water with a whisper ensures equal irrigation of all parts of the soil and prevents deformities.

When choosing your plants, we should take care to use plants with similar needs, suitable for the balance that will occur inside for each terrarium. For an aesthetic appearance, plants should be selected and placed considering their growth rate, development potential and color-tone balances. In addition, we can create a fantasy world by placing miniature objects, human and animal figures. A small lake can also be created by means of a nylon or a container that we hide well.

Terrarium Care

Terrariums should be kept in a place with plenty of light, but not direct sunlight, if cactus species are not used. Whether open or closed, terrarium is in essence an independent ecosystem and is not very suitable for cacti and succulents. These species are the ones that grow easily and healthily in pots. It is necessary to water the terrariums according to the need, taking into account the moisture balance. The soil should be neither dry nor wet. We should not use fertilizers to prevent unnecessary growth.

In closed terrariums, irrigation may not be needed, but in open terrariums they should be irrigated as needed, as there will definitely be a loss of water. We can understand the water requirement of our terrarium by observing the amount of moisture formed in the pebbles and terrarium walls at the lowest layer. In open terrariums, you can control humidity by touching the soil.

The decay of fallen leaves and dead roots is an important and natural process in terms of both carbon dioxide balance and soil nourishment. But if a large amount of rot and fungus occurs as a result of an imbalance, the rotting plants must be cleaned. This is usually an indication that the terrarium is watered more than the plants in it need.

60 Years Old Terrarium

The plants of the genus Tradeskansiya (Tradescantia), which David Latimer, who lives in England, planted in a large bowl in 1960, have been living in his own ecosystem for almost 60 years without any intervention. Latimer opened the cap of the bottle just once, 12 years after planting, in 1972 and added half a liter of water to the system. Since then, the plants in the terrarium, which have not received any air and water, have grown and covered the whole bottle and continue to live in a healthy way in the balanced environment that has been created.

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