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Terrarium basics for beginners with Sprout Home


Whether you’re a plant expert or a budding gardener, terrariums are a great place to start to incorporate more greenery into your home! We recently had an interview with Sprout Home on how plants can transform your apartment space, and we were inspired to dive deeper on a tangible way for a complete beginner to start their own mini green space at home. So, Stephen, the Creative Director at Sprout Home in Chicago, kindly agreed to give us more of his expert terrarium advice:

Hello again Stephen! First off, what exactly is a terrarium?

Terrariums are typically glass enclosures that you can plant within. They’re a landscape, however not an expansive landscape you have to stand on a hilltop to observe, rather a table-top option that you can grow into a jungle-like tangle, or keep neat and tidy. It’s completely up to personal preference!terrarium basics for beginners

Interesting! How can a complete beginner maintain a healthy terrarium?

With terrariums, what you invest, you will get in return. The main focus for a complete beginner should be to maintain a healthy environment set up with the proper moisture level and pruning regiment.

This maintenance is always different based on the plants involved and the shape of the terrarium. For instance, narrowly-open terrariums or fully-closed terrariums retain a lot of humidity, so they’re wonderful spaces for mosses, ferns and fern allies to thrive. Terrariums that have at least some opening can be planted on the drier side as well.

In terms of pruning, it’s important to establish a consistent routine based on your goals. For example, a fern in a terrarium can happily grow out of bounds, but can also routinely be cut back to offer a fresher, smaller growth habit. With Adiantum, or “Maidenhair ferns”, older growth can often look a bit tired, but you’ll quickly be rewarded with fresh curls of growth emerging if you shear them back into bounds. Young trees can also be clipped back to grow in a miniature form within a terrarium if that is the aesthetics you are working towards.

terrarium basics for beginners

Why is a drainage layer important for a thriving terrarium?

Terrariums do not have a means for water to escape like a traditional flower pot does. We always prioritize showing our customers how to build in a bit of a drainage layer at the base of each terrarium in scale to the size of each vessel. This part of the process can get rather decorative as well, and our terrariums in store (and in workshops) are often very colorful and fun because of this! Once you have a solid drainage base, you can plant as normal just like you would in a pot.

Do all plant species get along? Or are there rivalries to consider when creating the perfect terrarium environment?

Not quite. It’s important for all of the plants in the terrarium to work well together, so a little bit of horticultural know-how is essential here. It’s also vital to focus on combining plants complementary to one another in terms of the variability of the amount of natural light they need, their growth expectations, and how much water and nutrients they need to thrive. Since water cannot escape the terrarium easily, we want to be sure to determine an appropriate watering schedule and soil volume that will suit all the plant species within the terrarium collectively.


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Want to hear more about Sprout Home and all-things plants?

Stay updated through Instagram or head over to their website for all workshops, ordering information, and plant inspiration.

*Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sprout Home has closed for business at this time, but there are still gift cards available. In addition, they’re currently still offering outdoor garden design and installations, as contact with others is minimal to none. Customers who are interested in having a garden design or landscape work done can inquire on their website through this form. To help support the staff during this time, you can find their relief fund here

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