If you’re just hearing about terrariums for the first time, you’ve probably seen some YouTube videos of these beautiful miniature landscapes all bottle up nicely in a jar. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m a brown thumb. I’ll never be able to do that myself”.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Realistically, anyone can get started building terrariums. There’s actually very minimal skill required to get started and find at least a little bit of success with your first terrarium.
In this post, we’ll go over why terrariums are low maintenance and easy to care for.
1. Terrariums are self-nourishing
This is probably the top reason why terrariums are so easy to care for.
It practically takes care of itself!
A terrarium is pretty much a little self sustaining ecosystem in a bottle.
The basic components are:
- The container
- A false bottom (for drainage)
- Your plants
The plants and soil in a terrarium release water vapor which then condenses onto the walls of the container and flows back into the soil and drains into the false bottom. It’s basically a mini water cycle where water is constantly being recycled in the container.
That’s part of why they require much less maintenance than traditional gardens. You don’t have to actively go out and water your plants as much.
If you want to add to the complete ecosystem, you can also include some springtails. Springtails act like the cleanup crew by feeding on fungi and decaying plant matter.
However, just because it’s a little ecosystem, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can neglect your terrarium forever and let it fend for itself. At some point, you will have to water them, but the frequency is much less than a typical houseplant.
2. You only need a few supplies to build a Terrarium
Another reason why terrariums are so easy to care for is that there are few tools that you need to build one from scratch and maintain it.
To create a bare bones terrarium, all you’ll need is:
- A glass or plastic container
- Rocks or sand
- Some small plants
Those are all things you probably have already or can easily find in your backyard or your local park (hopefully not the plastic containers).
For the most part, you can handle your plants with your bare hands, but if you want a few tools to make your life easier, you might want to get:
- A spoon/fork
- Mister/spray bottle
- A brush
If you have a terrarium with a very small opening, you may need some tools just to reach into your container. But even then, all you would need are some tweezers or some toothpicks/chopsticks to handle your plants.
You could literally stop reading right now and create a terrarium from scratch in an hour or two without having to go buy anything or having any special tools.
3. Terrarium plants are tough
The type of plants that typically do well in a terrarium are the hardy, tough kind of plants. Some people might even consider them as weeds in their lawn or garden.
That’s not to say that you can just throw any plant in a jar and watch it thrive. But if you’re just grabbing small plants off the side of the road around your area, there’s a very high chance that you’re going to find success with genuine effort.
Most native plants should already be acclimated to your area. So introducing them to your terrarium shouldn’t be changing up their native environments by that much.
If you find any ferns or moss, those will do great in a terrarium. If you notice how they grow everywhere, even in harsh conditions, just think about how well they’ll do in a terrarium.
So there’s no need to worry about handling a fragile plant that needs constant care and attention. Terrarium plants are generally pretty tough and don’t need special pampering.
4. Terrariums can be grown anywhere
Since terrariums are pretty much a small self-sustaining ecosystem, you can grow terrariums in pretty much any environment.
For a lot of people, this means that you can grow them even in a tiny, cramped apartment in the city. You can choose to put them by the windowsill, on your desk, or on your bookshelf, no need for a huge backyard garden.
Combined with the fact that terrariums typically don’t require direct sunlight, you can place your terrariums pretty much anywhere you can think of in your living space.
Just don’t lock them in a closet (without an artificial light source) or put them right next to a radiator.
Another benefit of having your terrarium plants in a closed container is that unwanted guests are much less frequent.
You won’t have to deal with weeds growing in the soil or animals stepping on/eating your plants.
You might run into some unwanted insects when the plants are introduced. However once they are dealt with, you won’t have any more insects invading your terrarium.
If you’re worried about bugs, you can give your plants, soil, and drainage layer a thorough rinse/soak before putting them into your container. That should get rid of any hitchhikers that may have hitched a ride on your plants when you picked them out.
5. Terrariums have very few problems
When you compare growing a terrarium to nurturing a garden, terrariums have very few problems that you could potentially run into.
In other words, they are very low maintenance.
There’s only a few things you’ll have to check for:
- Proper water levels
- Dead or dying plant parts
- Plants that are growing too big
- Mold or fungus
- A cloudy/dirty container
That’s pretty much it. Even then, if you do run into problems, they are relatively easy to identify and troubleshoot.
Here’s a quick list on how to solve those problems:
- Give it a quick mist or let air out
- Remove the dying parts
- Give the plants a quick trim
- Let your terrarium air out
- Give the inside of the container a quick wipe
The most common “problem” you’ll have to deal with it’s getting the water levels right.
If there’s too little water, your plants may start turning yellow and flaky. Too much water and you might start getting a mold and rotted roots.
That’s the main reason why terrariums may need at least a little check up once every 1 to 2 weeks.
To check this, there are two things you could look at: the condensation levels throughout the day and the moisture level of the soil.
If you see condensation on the container all the time all day, there’s probably too much water. if you don’t see any condensation, there’s too little water.
Alternatively, you can feel the soil to check if it’s dry or soggy as a second signal.
If you just check for those two things every one or two weeks, you’ll probably get the water level fine.
Other than that, any other issues are few and far between.
If you think about it, there are very few requirements to grow a terrarium and find success. All you need is water, light, and a moderate temperature.
The structure of a terrarium is also pretty simple. There’s a drainage layer, soil, and your plants in a small container.
There really isn’t too much you can get wrong here. It’s a relatively simple system that pretty much anyone can figure out for themselves with a little experimentation.
Overall, there’s just much less headaches you’ll have to deal with compared to a traditional garden or houseplant.
With simple occasional maintenance, terrariums can last you for several years or longer. All you have to do is just get started.