Take your green thumb in­doors and cre­ate the per­fect ter­rar­ium

Glass ves­sels with plants help bring life to any room


As tem­per­a­tures dip and our fall gar­dens start to grace­fully ex­pire for the sea­son, we’re drawn in­doors to co­coon for the win­ter. How­ever, that doesn’t mean that our green thumbs have to hi­ber­nate, too. Ter­rar­i­ums are a great way to in­tro­duce some plant life and de­sign flair to a room.

Ter­rar­i­ums are mini gar­dens grown in glass ves­sels. Some­times they’re com­pletely closed in, with mini trop­i­cal plants flour­ish­ing in the hu­mid­ity, but they can also have an open­ing, which can ex­pand the se­lec­tion of plants you can choose from.

It’s pretty easy to cre­ate a ter­rar­ium on a week­end af­ter­noon when you’re cooped up in­doors. Maria Col­letti first started plant­ing in glass con­tain­ers about six or seven years ago for the New York Botan­i­cal Gar­den’s (NYBG) store where she works.

“We had so many in­ter­est­ing glass vases and con­tain­ers for home decor that it oc­curred to me they might look more spec­tac­u­lar if they were planted with trop­i­cal fo­liage plants,” she says.

Col­letti was ahead of a trend that has ex­ploded in re­cent years with re­tail­ers of­fer­ing ter­rar­ium prod­ucts, plants, ideas and even classes. Col­letti pro­vides some in­spi­ra­tion of her own in her new book called Ter­rar­i­ums: Gar­dens Un­der Glass.

The most pop­u­lar de­sign at the NYBG Shop is a ter­rar­ium with a lid.

“This re­flects a true ter­rar­ium: A closed ecosys­tem that feeds, wa­ters and cares for it­self,” Col­letti ex­plains. The store car­ries a wide va­ri­ety of con­tain­ers to choose from, in­clud­ing oc­tag­o­nal or clas­sic fish bowls, and apothe­cary jars.

When buy­ing the soil, look for your stan­dard house­plant pot­ting mix.

Col­letti’s best piece of ad­vice is to use a bar­rier be­tween hard in­gre­di­ents of gravel, stones or bark, and soil or sand. This could be a layer of biodegrad­able pa­per or land­scape fab­ric. “The pur­pose is to keep each layer you add, one on top of the other, from sift­ing be­low into the one be- fore it,” she says.

Once you’ve added these ma­te­ri­als to your con­tainer, fig­ure out how you will ar­range the plants be­fore you start to gen­tly add them in.

Sea­sonal el­e­ments, such as faux birds’ nests, fig­ure into Col­letti’s de­signs, but she says her favourite chal- lenge is in­cor­po­rat­ing ac­tual gar­den de­sign and land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture el­e­ments in minia­ture that copy the real thing.

Be sure to keep an eye on your fin­ished ter­rar­ium and its mois­ture lev­els to avoid mould or fun­gus from grow­ing.


New York Botan­i­cal Gar­den’s Maria Col­letti ad­vises us­ing a bar­rier be­tween hard ma­te­ri­als such as gravel and soil.

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