Terrariums, those verdant self-sustaining mini-gardens under glass, are back from the '70s. Here's how to create one at home.
Even the world of gardening isn’t immune to retro trends. Terrariums are back—and they’re a boon to design geeks, nostalgia hounds and your garden-variety lazy plant lover (they don’t require much care). Sprout Home (745 N Damen Ave, 312-226-5950) is leading the revival with a full stock of terrarium materials and free classes (the next one takes place August 18 at 6pm). We joined Sprout’s Erin Lebens as she led the shop’s inaugural how-to session last month. Here’s what we learned, in ten easy steps:
1 Pick out a glass container. Sprout has about a dozen beautiful options ($65–$240). Budget gardeners, use a drum-style fish bowl—the more narrow the opening, the more humidity you’ll trap, but make sure your hand fits through it.
2 Pour about one inch of river gravel or other small rocks into your container.
3 Add a half-inch layer of charcoal to act as a filter.
4 Add about a four-inch layer of potting soil.
5 Choose your plants: Maiden-hair fern, pilea, pathos, bromeliads and moss work best for enclosed tropical environments.
6 Decide on your composition: To draw the eye around the terrarium, install a tall plant that almost reaches the top of the container, and then build around it.
7 For texture and even more variation in terrain, create “hills” with chunks of moss.
8 Mix in the remaining plants, taking care to first massage their roots to break them up so they take to the soil better.
9 Now the fun part: Include more texture with wood chips, dried plants, or stones; add color with a red air plant; or a hint of whimsy via a lost-in-the-jungle vignette by adding a mailman, pilot, backpacker or animal figurine (You’ll find these little guys at Sprout, too, or any toy store).
10 Satisfied with the look of your terrarium? Use a spray bottle to mist it until water seeps into the soil. Continue to mist every few days for the first two weeks. Thanks to the water-absorbing moss, the terrarium should be nearly self-sustaining after that, meaning you should only have to mist it every few weeks. Finally, enjoy your groovy ’70s, oxygen-generating conversation piece.