What is a terrarium and how do you use it for indoor plants?

What is a terrarium and how do you use it for indoor plants?

If you are reading a piece about terrariums, the chances are that you already have a house plant or two. Maybe you already have dozens of planty companions at home. But have you taken that experimental step and tried planting into a terrarium? They used to be called bottle gardens before we used posh words for the same sort of thing. Here's why terrariums are on trend and how to use them:

Trendy stuff

Y‍es, it's all about trends. Designer pooches, cool clothes, fashion accessories and home decor are all subjects to trends. These are part of our modern world thanks to social media, tv, video, digital sharing and magazines. In fact, there are very few 'new' things that haven't been around before. 

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Take terrariums, for example. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

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If you want to be in with the 'in crowd', jump onto a trend!

F‍or example, the 'retro' style is now highly desirable. Most of these fasionable items have been around before. Largely thanks to multiple TV programmes about renovation, people now love items and ideas that have been re-purposed. 

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What's more, 'things' are by no means de-valued when they come back into fashion.  In fact they can be even more desirable the second time around.  It's because ideas tend to evolve and therefore trends are rarely identical to their predecessors. You only need look at sales of ‘retro’ items to appreciate that many old styles have proved their worth.  These tried and tested items have earned a place in contemporary settings where they have been re-invented to fit in with new decor.

The styles and ideas have already been tried and successfully tested, i.e. they are not just a whim.

Fashion is reinvented continuously. And so it is with indoor gardening. Old favourites, including the ubiquitous cheese plant,  and many others, have been resurrected. They form part of something known as the ‘jungle theme’ and other trends include container gardening too.

Monstera deliciosa, the cheese plant

Terrariums are great to look at!

Y‍ou could view terrariums as complete little worlds in their own micro-climate.

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Terrariums are ultra-stylish.

Cool kids are now dipping into terrariums and who can blame them? A few decades ago these types of enclosed containers were generally  bottle gardens. The idea of gardening inside glass capsules is therefore not new.  The term terrarium actually means ‘enclosed earth’ in Latin and these mini-gardens have been around for hundreds of years. Modern materials and ever-increasing imagination has led the way to highly desirable feature terrariums. They not only adorn the interior of homes but actively dictate the space around them too. So you can treat modern terrariums as pieces of decorative furniture now that they come in all shapes and sizes.

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They are so easy to manage

Planting a terrarium is far easier than dealing with a bottle garden. It is no longer necessary to insert growing medium, drainage material and plants through a tiny neck opening.  The tiresome task of cleaning up the inside of the enclosed glass has also been banished to distant memory. Modern terrariums often have opening sides or panels.

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Plants suitable for this environment are amazing!

As with many twists within the fashion world, new styles often come with their own set of challenges. Modern terrariums tend to have open sections which distort the concept of the original sealed bottle garden.  You might need to re-think the choice of plants because the environment is more open. Some people who first created their exotic bottle gardens almost 60 years ago have revealed that the same plants are still thriving within! The containers have remained unopened for literally decades. Their owners have enjoyed their plants without needing to water them or even provide extra air! How amazing that some plants can be completely self-sustaining without any input whatsoever

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 You do need to understand which sort of plants are likely to thrive within such an environment. Take care over your plant selection and remember to consider the needs of the species rather than choosing by appearance alone.

Wise up and research your plants

The terrarium environment represents a mini-greenhouse and this micro-climate creates a protective setting. The resulting humid capsule suits woodlanders; jungle floor-dwellers; ferns and mosses. It definitely doesn’t suit desert-lovers. These plants include cacti and succulents which need bright light, dry air and free-draining compost.

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Terrific for a terrarium

Choose plants that like a humid atmosphere and a damp soil. These are the jungle-lovers that will be happy in a steamy container in medium or even low light levels. Select your plants with care and always remember the mantra: 'right plant, right place'.   Here’s a few suggestions of house plants that might love a terrarium home. They include Fittonia, pictured below:

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Small leafed Tradescantia house plants

Scindapsus such as ‘Golden Pothos’ and 'Njoy'

Pilea, with its rounded foliage

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Fittonia: perfectly suited to low light and high humidity and they have amazing foliage too!

Begonia rex with its beautifully coloured leaves

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Various ferns including Asplenium, which is also known as the bird’s nest fern

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Adiantum, the maidenhair fern. These include Athyrium and Nephrolepis ferns.

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Creeping moss is another great plant for a terrarium. 

Then there's Ivy, which can normally cope with a wide range of conditions and you can easily cut it back to fit the space

Various little orchids of the Aerangis family

The spider plant: Chlorophytum comosum

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Many of these available from www.perfectplants.co.uk