Houseplants are still having their moment, but people without green thumbs are still wanting to get in on the action. And seasoned plant collectors often want creative new ways to display their green babies. A great option is a terrarium. They’re low maintenance, easy to care for, fun to make, and can be an awesome statement piece in a room. At first glance, they can look a bit intense (there are some seriously cool terrariums out there), but they don’t have to be fancy to be beautiful.
We spoke with terrarium expert Emma Sibley, owner of London Terrariums, about the three main reasons terrariums are a good option for plant lovers and beginners.
1. The Glass Acts as a Protective Barrier
Even in your home there can be a lot of stuff floating around in the air, such as dust and the elements coming from outside when you open windows and doors. Putting plants inside of a jar can actually help protect them from these elements.
“The glass protects the plants from any outside elements such as dust or pollution, whilst still allowing the plants to photosynthesise as usual," Sibley said. "The heat and oxygen produced by the plants is what causes the condensation on the inside of the glass.”
2. It Creates Lots of Humidity
The terrarium is the perfect vessel for any humidity-loving plants. Because it’s closed, it allows plants that would thrive in the jungle to really flourish.
“Our closed terrariums require plants that thrive in a damp, humid environment and like bright but not direct sun. Your ideal closed terrarium plants are Fittonia, Rock ferns, Birds Nest Ferns, Ficus Ginseng and lots of mosses.
"Fittonia are your go-to terrarium plants, they are native to the Peruvian jungle and they are used to creeping under the canopy of other larger plants so enjoy the shade and a high humidity,” said Emma.
3. They’re Self-Sustaining
I made my own terrarium a few years ago using an old Ikea Kilner jar. It took about 15 minutes to make, and the plants in there are still thriving. I only opened it up once to add a few more fittonia and to give it a little mist.
What I love about my terrarium is that I don’t really need to do anything with it. Because it’s closed and produces oxygen, the condensation basically keeps the soil moist, so there is no need to actually water it. Emma said that the best thing to do if your terrarium is looking a bit dry is to open it up and give it a mist every few months. That’s all it will need to thrive.
What You Need to Create a Terrarium
Why not try creating a terrarium yourself? All you need are some supplies, plants, and a couple hours.
“Firstly you need the vessel. We suggest having clear glass, not tinted, and if you have a cork stopper that would be amazing. For first-time terrarium makers, clip-top Kilner Jars are perfect," Emma said. Other materials Emma suggest are:
Stones / gravel - "This is mainly for your drainage layer, place a few inches of stones at the bottom of the glass."
Activated charcoal - "On top of the stones you need a layer of activated charcoal. This is a very finely ground charcoal powder that absorbs all the toxins in the water as it passes through, stopping any build up of mould in your terrarium."
Peat-free, draining potting compost - "Always go peat free. It's better for the environment and better for you terrariums."
Plants - A selection of closed-terrarium-loving plants
Moss - "You can use a selection of carpet moss and cushion (bun) moss or any moss you find out and about."
Larger decorative stones - "Adding stones on top can really add a finishing touch to your terrarium."
- Cork Patter
- Sponge Brush
- Radiator Brush
- Long Tweezers
- Long Scissors
- Spray mister
How Emma Sibley Started Making Terrariums
She started making terrariums as a hobby on the weekends and after work in her London flat. “I had always been fascinated with miniature gardening," she said. "As a child I would spend summers at my grandparents' house making gardens out of seed trays. As a student I was always swapping houseplants with my friends, and then as a graduate working in e-commerce I guess I was using terrariums as a way to reconnect with nature and heal my mind after sitting at a computer screen all day.
"To start with I was just experimenting, popping plants in jars, seeing what would work and what wouldn’t.” Now, London Terrariums holds workshops (on Zoom right now, but in person again, once it’s possible) and sells ready-made terrariums, and they are beautiful.