How to keep your terrarium alive

How to keep your terrarium alive

Here's everything you need to know as a beginner to keep your terrarium alive and thriving.

I've spent the last year turning my terrarium hobby into a successful small business and teaching people how to build terrariums that stay alive. In this full care guide, I share my best care tips, including where to put your terrarium and when to water it.

*Please note that these tips apply only to closed terrariums with lids. Open terrariums, such as succulent or cacti arrangements, require different care.

Terrarium care guide- light

1) Put it in low to medium indirect light. Most plants that grow well in terrariums are often found on the forest floor in nature, which receives only dappled lighting. Low to medium light for your terrariums often looks like a North-facing window or a coffee table inside a bright room. For small terrariums, even LED light can be suitable.

Terrarium care guide- light

2) Avoid direct sunlight.  Although you may be tempted to put your terrarium on your windowsill, direct sun can heat up the jar and boil the plants inside. To avoid this unpleasant surprise, keep your terrarium at least 1 metre back from the window.

Terrarium care guide- humidity

3) Keep an eye on humidity.  There should always be some condensation on the inside of the glass jar. If you notice there is none for a few days in a row and the soil is looking dry or light in color, it's time to water! Avoid letting your terrarium completely dry out.

Terrarium care guide- watering

4) Mist with distilled water as needed. I find it easiest to water my terrariums with a spray bottle. If you don't have one, you can pour the water slowly over the terrarium with a watering can or spoon. I recommend using distilled water for the best results. Some plants are sensitive to the chemicals that can be found in tap water. These chemicals can also build up inside the jar over time, leaving streaks on the glass.

Remember that whatever you put into your closed terrarium basically stays inside forever! That's why small steps like using with distilled water and building layers in your terrarium can drastically improve your terrarium's health and lifespan.

Terrarium care guide- mold

6) Remove mold. One of the first problems that can arise in your terrarium is mold. Most often, mold occurs when you have overwatered your terrarium. It can also grow on plants or materials you've collected from outside or decorations that aren't waterproof. Mold spores are basically everywhere, so mold can occasionally grow even in an otherwise healthy terrarium. To treat mold in your terrarium, follow my tutorial on How to Get Rid of Mold in Your Terrarium.

Terrarium care guide- maintenance

7) Trim foliage as desired. I like to choose slow-growing plants and use a slow-release compost in my terrariums to keep the plants nice and compact. The advantage of trimming is that it keeps your design nice and crisp. If you notice your plants touching the top of the terrarium or getting unruly, trim them with a pair of clean scissors. Aquarium or reptile stores sell special scissors that are long and thin to help reach the tricky parts. 

Those are my top tips to keep your terrarium alive and healthy. You can download or print my terrarium care sheet to keep a summary of these tips on hand.

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