How do I care for my terrarium? Part One – Open terrariums

 In Gardening Tips

So you’ve purchased a terrarium, been gifted a terrarium, or maybe you’ve had a crack at making one yourself. Well congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming a nature nerd. And now comes the fun part, where you commit to the upkeep and care of your very own terrarium world.
The majority of the terrariums we make here at Fleurieu Gifts are open terrariums. Our giant imaginarium terrarium is an example of a typical, traditionally planted, open terrarium. It usually features a bonsai tree and various other small terrarium plants such as miniature violets, fittonia, syngonium, selaginella and many others, depending on the style of terrarium. These plants are planted and arranged to create a living, breathing, little world in glass. If this sounds similar to your terrarium, read on.

Giant terrarium 15_web

A Fleurieu Gifts Giant Imaginarium Terrarium in a woodland style.

There are two really important things to master when it comes to looking after your open terrarium; these are light /position and watering.

Terrarium Position and Watering

As a general rule, open terrariums need to be in a bright spot where they get filtered or indirect light. Glass magnifies the sun, so make sure you keep yours away from any hot windows in summer. It’s a good idea to keep them a couple of meters from any air conditioning vents or heaters, too.
Watering is a little more tricky. Here in South Australia where we have stinking hot summers with regular heat waves of 38°c and over, you may need to be watering every day. My general rule of thumb is to water around every two days in summer and every 4-5 days in winter. Remember, this is an open terrarium and will dry out if left for too long without water. A spray mister is a great way of watering a terrarium, but keep a cloth handy and wipe down the glass after watering to reduce any water marks (that’s the mum in me). Your terrarium should be kept moist, but not wet. Never let your terrarium’s potting medium completely dry out. The best way of checking if your terrarium is dry or moist? Stick your finger in there as deep as you can and feel it!


As for pruning, most terrarium plants can be pinch-pruned at the base of the plant as needed. If it’s a clumper that’s got out of hand, like a violet or a syngonium, you can gently remove the plant, separate it into smaller plants and put one back in and plant the others up in a little pot. Ferns can usually be given a ‘haircut’ at their base and will reshoot (maidenhair comes up a treat). Bonsais such as the Buddha Belly Fig can be tip-pruned as necessary.

woodland terrarium foxes 1_DTLL

This Woodland Terrarium with foxes features a Buddha Belly Fig Bonsai.


Top Tips for Terrarium Care:

• Keep your open terrarium in a bright spot with filtered / indirect light
• As a general rule of thumb, water every 2 days in summer and every 5 days in winter
• Never let your terrarium totally dry out
• Wipe as you spray – it saves on cleaning. But if you do get water marks, try a tiny bit of vinegar on a clean cloth
• Find the balance in keeping your terrarium moist but not wet
• Keep a spray bottle within reach of the terrarium so watering is easy
• Don’t fertilise. Fertilisers make plants grow – you want yours to stay little!

Finally, all the tips above are general and will be affected by your home’s temperatures and light levels. Your terrarium is your own special little garden in glass. A terrarium is most fun when you interact with it. Give it a little prune, remove those dead leaves. Spend time getting to know your terrarium. Observe how quickly it dries out and how it responds to water. Get down and dirty with it. Get your hands in there if you’re not sure if it’s moist enough and feel it!
If you have any questions or there’s something I haven’t covered, please send me an email at [email protected] or post a question below.
Charlene x

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