Terrarium rehab

Terrariums are (still) cool.  Last year I wrote a post (Terrariums are cool (again)) on how I make – and became addicted to – terrariums.  And if you were inspired then to make one (or ten), they might be in need of a little rehabilitation by now.  One of the coolest things about terrariums is that you can ignore them once the initial fascination wears off.  And that’s kind of the whole point:  Terrariums should be able to take care of themselves for a while.  But then there does come a point when we need to pay them some attention again.

In order to be truly neglect-able terrariums need to have the right balance of light, air and plant material (among other things like soil and drainage).  These terrariums (above) dried out completely.  According to their owners, the tops were never opened so they really “shouldn’t have dried out – it’s not our fault!”.  Look familiar?  I suspect that they were not given enough light.  The light requirement is a delicate issue — too much sun and the terrarium cooks like a little oven.  With no sun at all, the plants transpire too slowly to produce the condensation that waters the soil – and without a vigilant gardener adding water and changing its location, everything crispifies.  There was no resuscitating these terrariums.  I started over from scratch and I’ll give them back to their owners for another go at neglect in a sunnier spot.  Winter sun is generally weak enough for placement near a west or south window if not right in it.  And I keep some of my mason jar terrariums on an east facing windowsill all year round.  A sunbeam at some point in the day is important for creating foggy condensation.

This terrarium thrived in a college dorm room window that got late afternoon sun.  According to Gail’s son, it was a curiosity and conversation piece – everyone thought there was something … else … living in it.  But as you can see the plants had gone beyond friendly competition and were strangling each other.  Look familiar?  Gail removed the overtaking Selaginella fern which had started out as a tiny cutting; the 10 strawberry begonias (Saxifraga stolonifera) which started with one; she divided the creeping fig (Ficus pumila) and the button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia) and ended up creating a whole new terrarium from pieces of the old.  If you check on it, a little trim of overgrowth now and then would save you having to start over.  But I really think half the fun of having terrariums is making them – I just adore the look of a freshly planted jar.  (And that’s when my craving kicks in all over again and have to make or redo at least 4 more.)

Do you have any terrariums?  Are they thriving or suffering?  Are you as addicted to them as we are?

Stay tuned for more posts about houseplants.  – Anyone care to join me on the topic?  Create a link and leave comments, if you do!