Terrarium Care Guide

Closed Terrarium Care

Your terrarium is a closed self-sustaining environment which does not require too much maintenance once settled, but will require some basic care and attention especially in the first couple of months of building or purchasing one which we call the “settling-in period”.  We use plants that are happy in humid conditions but there are certain key things you need to be aware of to ensure your terrarium lives a long and healthy life.

  • Each home has different heating and light conditions.  We advise that terrariums in our own personal experience are best in good natural light rooms with average room temperature of around 19-21C.  
  • If your terrarium was recently made and looks too wet and foggy all day, you need to open the lid for a couple of hours until the fog clears.  
  • You Must monitor your terrarium daily for the first couple of months to watch for any signs of mould or mushy leaves occurring.
  • In winter if you open a door or window the room gets cold and your terrarium will steam up.  If your plants have been fine throughout the season then leave it alone and the fog will naturally clear up when the room temperature rises to equate the temperature of the trapped air inside the jar.  

The Goal

Your terrarium needs moisture on the glass and it will change throughout a 24 hour period.  Usually during the night the terrarium will produce oxygen and as humidity rises it will appear on the glass as small water droplets, this is normal.  You want to take the lid off only to allow some excess moisture to escape, just means there is a little too much in the bottom layers still.  Your goal is to see some moisture and also to be able to see your plants through the glass.  You need to be a little patient and observe the terrarium daily until it settles in to it;s new home.  Some terrariums may just settle perfectly from day one but we cannot of course guarantee perfect results when dealing with living plants. 

What to avoid

  • Direct Sunlight-  Instead place your terrarium in a naturally light room.
  • Over watering-  Your terrarium may need a little spray of distilled water only if it becomes dry, avoid pouring water into the vessel, use a turkey baster or fine spray mister.
  • Avoid spraying too much water on the leaves to reduce chances of natural bacteria causing mould on the leaves, instead spray closer to the base of the plants. 
  • Displaying it next to a radiator or a draughty window.
  • Leaving your lid off for longer than 4 days, the garden will likely dry out quickly.

Common problems 

Signs of mould or Fungus

  • If you find mould growth on your leaves, open your lid and remove the affected plant leaf immediately to avoid it spreading.   Leave your lid open for a couple of hours and close it again.  Mould occurs from small spores or over humidity and cannot always be avoided but we can reduce it through air, less watering and less hot room conditions above 21 C.
  • Fungus can grow anywhere inside a humid environment especially if it’s overcrowded, air the terrarium out but if fungus has infected the terrarium.  Some types of fungus such as mushrooms is not necessarily bad, let mushrooms grow they will die off eventually but in our experience mushrooms are a welcome fungus to our terrariums giving it a more natural eco-look and feel.
  • Small white egg type spores in my soil:  It’s a type of fungus which in our experience has not affected the plants, they multiply inside the soil.  They can sometimes be the start of mushrooms and they can get out of control by multiplying quickly if your terrarium is in a slightly warmer room than usual conditions.  Best thing to do is to reduce the spores growing is buy spooning them out, air your garden out for a few hours and add some fresh potting soil.  Keep taking them out often if they keep growing to control them.  In our experience these little white type eggs in the soil have not affected the plants but keeping it under control and reducing them is important to reduce them over taking the soil.   
  • Strong decaying smell:  It means your garden is too humid and leaves of plants are dying off and smelling.  First air your garden out and remove offending leaf matter, this should solve the problem.  Check you have not over-watered the terrarium and there is no water swelling in the substrate layers.
  • Pests:  Small flies such as Fungus Gnats can be annoying as they have a long life of just whizzing around a terrarium.  They can never be seen whilst planting a terrarium and usually reside in external soil from hence the plants came from.  The best way to reduce this is to remove as much soil from the plant roots as possible to reduce the miniature eggs before planting into the terrarium.  If however you still get flies they will not kill your plants, but are annoying to watch.  Open your lid, let the terrarium almost dry out completely and that should reduce them by far.  If they still return, repeat above step and you can remove plants and wash their roots and place them into a pot with fresh potting mix soil until you solved the terrarium fly issue.  Once flies gone, re-water your terrarium and re-plant up.  
  • Reducing pests and mould using other insects: Adding some “springtails” will keep your terrarium even more cleaner of mould issues as the small little white (flea-like) insects love humid conditions and eat mould, decaying leaf matter and any left over dead gnats.  Springtails can be purchased in the UK online. Please read up on them before using.  They are not essential but in our experience these tiny critters do wonders in an enclosed eco-system.  
  •  Plants growing too tall:  Not so much a problem, it means your terrarium is doing very well, so congratulations first of all.  Open the lid and prune the stems to a more manageable height for it’s glass vase size.  Or you can remove the larger plant into a bigger terrarium and replace with smaller terrarium plant instead. 
  • Terrarium plants bending and stretching out:  The terrarium needs more natural light.  Move it to a brighter spot but avoid direct Sunlight.  
  • Bonsai tree trunk has white spots:  This is just small specks of mould.  Open the lid for a few hours to air out and wipe off the offending mould from the trunk using a clean cloth.  Do not use a brush as you will likely spread the spores to other plants.  
  • Plants look weepy, dry and pale:  Terrarium will need a drink!  Test soil if it’s dry then water it with your sprayer or pipette.  

Annual Care

  • Clean out dead leaves and general tidy up.   Just like in a natural outdoor garden. 
  • Some plants or mosses may have died so you will need to replace them.
  • Clean any decorative stones.
  • If your glass has any green algae growing on it, use an old credit card to swipe it off.  

Peace of mind

Nature can sometimes be unpredictable but we offer advice based on our own research and experience.  We offer all our clients a 30 day guarantee, please get in touch for details.

Please see below some of the plants we use in our terrariums but this is not a full list.

Terrarium Plants

Fittonia

 

Colourful plants with nerve – like structures, also commonly known as “Nerve Plant”.  They are from South American jungles and are used to dappled shade and moist conditions, but not wet!

Helix Ivy

 

Ivy tends to grow fairly quickly, simply prune from time to time if required.  Leaves can go brown if too dry.  Avoid too much moisture.  Give them a light pruning from time to time if necessary.  If you have the variegated (several shades of green on the leaves) then it will need a little natural light to keep it’s colour.

Bun Moss

 

Hill shaped thick moss is perfect for green landscapes and add true nature to your terrarium garden.  They like to be kept moist.  Remember moisture from the moss equals moisture in your terrarium, so avoid watering plants too much.  If it goes brown, remove the brown bits.  It will grow upwards over time.

Chamaedorea (meaning “ground gift”) 

A native palm to subtropical and tropical regions (also known as Parlour Palm) they can be used in terrariums but will need a little pruning at times as they will grow tall over time.  They give a terrarium a very tropical look and feel.  They like high humidity but not soaking wet.

Ficus Ginseng trees

 

Native to Africa and Asia, these little trees love to be kept in humid conditions.  They will not require regular watering inside your terrarium unless the terrarium gets too dry.  Check soil from time to time, if it’s very dry water your terrarium. Pruning me if I get a little too bushy is easy, simply snip off the stems that have got a little bushy.  This tree is part of the rubber family, so when you do snip the stems a white milky latex will flow out.  It is sticky, so wash your hands, but it will seal itself up.

Polyscia Trees (meaning “many shade”)

 

A fantastic indoor tree that actually tolerates shade quite well.  I grow straight up by producing leaves from the bottom.  I am native to the South Pacific region.  It is also related to ginseng tree and Ivy.  They add a lovely green woodland feel to your terrarium.  Likes humid conditions and does not need a lot of watering in your terrarium.  It can grow to over 1m in an open pot, but to keep it from going too tall, just prune the stems back a little if it goes too big over time.

Pilea

Native to South America region, they are tropical humid loving plants, commonly known as Friendship Plants.  If they trail too long, simply prune them back, gives you a great excuse to do some micro garden maintenance.

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