Terrarium (terrarium) is a combination of the Latin words terra (earth) and arium (place or device associated with a particular object or function). Like an aquarium, an artificial living environment created for aquatic creatures by fulfilling the necessary conditions for their survival, a terrarium is a unique living environment created for plants.
What are Terrariums?
Terrariums are glass or transparent plastic containers containing soil and plants. Thanks to its transparent walls, the terrarium allow heat and light to enter, creating a unique environment for terrarium plants to grow. The heat entering the terrarium and the humidity inside provides the creation of a small-scale water cycle. At high temperatures, the soil’s moisture and the plant in the terrarium evaporate; 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 terrarium’s transparent walls is also necessary for the plants inside to perform photosynthesis.
Different ways of creating Terrariums
You can make a terrarium DIY in two ways, open and closed for plants with different moisture needs. Indoor terrariums are used for tropical plants that constantly need high humidity. In contrast, 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, direct sunlight will cause the plants to die in closed terrariums. 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 with 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 researching 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 indoor environment’s moisture evaporated during the day and condensed in the evening, 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 within London, which was very polluted in 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, 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 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 plants’ variety, and their growth potential. This can be an ordinary jar or special lanterns produced for a 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 the roots’ rotting 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 peat types, we must choose the appropriate peat type for the type of plant we plan to grow in a terrarium kit. 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 use plants with similar needs, suitable for the balance inside each terrarium. Plants should be selected and placed for an aesthetic appearance considering their growth rate, development potential, and color-tone balances. Also, we can create a fantasy world by placing miniature objects, human and animal figures. You can also create a small lake using nylon or a container that we hide well.
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, a 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 excessive growth.
In closed terrariums, they may not need irrigation, but in open terrariums, they should be irrigated as needed, as there will be a loss of water. We can understand our terrarium’s water requirement 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 for both carbon dioxide balance and soil nourishment. But if a large amount of rot and fungus occurs due to an imbalance, you must clean the rotting plants. 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), David Latimer, who lives in England, planted in a large bowl in 1960, have been living in his 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 terrarium plants, which have not received any air and water, have grown and covered the whole bottle and continue to live healthily in the balanced environment created.
The Last Words
Terrariums are the trending home décor elements that have created a rage since the time of their advent. These DIY plant kits are easy to create and super easy to maintain. You can incorporate them in your house as a part of the décor and bring in some freshness to set the tone of health and happiness with a tinge of beauty around you.