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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

5 Tips from a Terrarium Pro

Jennifer Schultz Nelson is a horticulture education in University of Illinois Extension and apparently a savvy terrarium keeper who has shared a detailed, two-part article at herald-review.com on making top-shape terrariums.  I'll recap the five best tips but read both articles if you want a great overview of making and maintaining terrariums.
  1. Plan on using 25% of a terrarium vessel for drainage material and soil mix.  Read more about the supplies you'll need to build the soil layers in a terrarium.      
  2. Don't overwater your terrarium.  "If the walls are completely fogged up with condensation, open the terrarium and allow some of the water to evaporate for a day."
  3. "A closed terrarium will likely not need watering more than once or twice per year."  That one is news to me!  I've never had a completely sealed up terrarium so I cannot attest to that fact based on my personal experience. 
  4. Like many plants, you will need to occasionally prune or remove dead leaves.  "Prune plants by pinching out growing tips or using a small blade attached to a stick inserted through the container opening."  I've had minimal luck with the small-blade idea and prefer using very, very long scissors (specially purchased online).  This probably depends on the sturdiness of the plant in question.
  5. And I've saved the best for last, as it an unfortunate truth of the terrarium hobby that I've mentioned before.
"Occasionally, plants may overtake a terrarium or die, making replacement necessary. It may be necessary to start over if plants are extremely overgrown and cannot be removed without disrupting the entire terrarium."
Whether a terrarium is overgrown, or fails - just like any other gardening experience - sometimes plants don't work out.  Read my five tips for starting a terrarium over again (the right way).


  1. If you're looking for special purpose tools for terrarium maintenance try searching for "aquarium scissors" on ebay. Aquatic gardening and terrarium gardening (two of my hobbies) overlap quite nicely.

    Or, if you want to go really high-end, try Aqua Design Amano (ADA), the Ferrari of planted aquarium equipment:

    1. Oh those Adana things are awesome - thank you for sharing, I'll definitely post about that resource. One of my favorite tools is this thing called "the grabber" - it is a plumber's tool that my sister found and thought might help with terrariums. It is a bendy tube apparatus that has a claw at the end that you can open and close. I'll share some photos of it soon!


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