Create a nice little garden in a bottle

Wednesday December 20 2017

The ideal plants to use in terrarium gardens are slow-growing miniature or dwarf plants, those that thrive in the shade, and that that can withstand high humidity and moisture.

The ideal plants to use in terrarium gardens are slow-growing miniature or dwarf plants, those that thrive in the shade, and that that can withstand high humidity and moisture. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BRIAN OKINDA
More by this Author

Do you enjoy gardening but have limited space? Then terrarium gardening is just for you.

A terrarium garden is a small, indoor garden in which you grow plants in a transparent container.

“This portable, easy-to-make mini-greenhouse requires little maintenance and is ideal for tabletops, office desks, windowsills and countertops; they can also be suspended from a structure such as a wall sconce,” says Mr Phillip Orieko, an interior designer.

“Very few people know of terrariums since they are overshadowed by aquariums. However, terrariums are a fairly creative yet inexpensive way of adorning interiors and freshening the air indoors,” he adds.

EASY TO MAINTAIN

There are two types of terrariums: closed, for “wet” plants that require moisture like mosses, ferns and aquatic plants and open for “dry” plants such as cacti, succulents, air plants and tropical plants.

With adequate light, moisture-loving plants can live on the air and water in closed terrariums for long periods, making them fairly easy to maintain. In contrast, open terrariums allow air to circulate, making them similar to potted plants.

The ideal plants to use in terrarium gardens are slow-growing miniature or dwarf plants, those that thrive in the shade, and that that can withstand high humidity and moisture.

“All terrarium plants can be broadly classified as orchids, succulents, ivies or creepers, but simpler lower level groupings emanate from these broad classifications,” says Mr Orieko. Below are some plants ideal for terrarium gardening:

Simple tropical plants

These cover a wide array of small, decorative plants such as variegated spider ferns, syngoniums, maidenhair ferns, and begonias, peperomias, joyweeds, creeping/climbing figs, dracaenas, and bromeliads.

“They can thrive in either a closed or open terrarium, depending on how much humidity they can tolerate. Most tropical plants tend to blossom in environments with bright light such as indoors near windows, the patio or in a balcony,” says Mr Orieko.

Maidenhair fern is probably the most common fern and easily acclimatises in the mini-garden. It however is idyllic in hanging terrariums.

Another popular tropical plant is the peperomia, which although are not as eye-catching as begonia or as resilient as dracaena, can thrive in a fairly wide range of conditions.

Insectivorous plants

These include the sundew, pitcher plant and venus flytrap. These insectivorous plants have additional benefits when used in a terrarium. Their sweet fragrance that attracts their prey also gives the room a pleasant scent, and their sticky parts make it hard for their prey to escape, thereby controlling insects in the house.

Air plants

Tillandsia is the most common air plant and is prized for its appearance and ability to change its colour throughout the year in response to biological stimuli.

It absorb nutrients and water from the atmosphere through its leaves, with the roots serving only to anchor it in place, enabling it to grow in different settings, including without soil.

Air plants should be positioned in bright areas that do not receive direct sunlight with good air flow to allow them to capture nutrients from the atmosphere.

Cacti and succulent plants

These include cactus, hawthornia, echevería, and crassulas. They thrive in the low humidity, warm settings and can adapt to lower light levels if there is sporadic sunlight. They are apt for open terrariums with fast-draining soils and placed in a bright, blustery position, such as a tabletop or counter in the patio or close to a window.

Aquatic plants

These cover a broad range of plants that flourish both in and above water. They can be planted in an extra-humid closed terrarium that ensures high humidity.

Mosses

They are among the best plants for small terrariums. They need moisture and can survive in varied lighting conditions. Typically, they do not have roots and do not need soil to grow hence can be found on rocks, walls, tree barks and even old roofing tiles, and hence are easy to grow in terrariums.