Thursday, May 31, 2012

Webby's Terrarium!

Try to imagine growing a heat-loving cactus in the freezing cold of Vermont or a moisture-thirsty moss in the dry desert of California.  It would be extremely difficult!  But, lucky for us, we can grow many types of plants just about anywhere using a tool called a terrarium.

You can find this image and
other cool terrariums at!

A terrarium is a glass or clear container that can be filled with plants and even animals.  The container becomes its own self-contained environment, needing only a little bit of indirect sunlight to keep the plants alive. 

How does this work?  When gardeners place their plants in the container, they give the plants a little bit of water.  Daily sunlight causes the water in the container to evaporate, or rise up, to the roof of the container.  When the sun goes down, all that moisture sticking to the container falls back down to feed the plants.  If the container is completely sealed, the water can loop around the container and perfectly feed the plants for months – even years! 

Did you know you can make your very own terrarium out of a clear soda bottle?  Here’s what you’ll need:
(Directions adapted from the Secret Art of Terrarium Making by Will Kalif.)

  • One 2-liter Plastic Bottle (Make sure you have the cap!)
  • Rubber Band
  • Potting Soil
  • One Handful of Small Stones or Pebbles
  • One Marker
  • Scissors
  • Small Plants (More information about what plants to use in your terrarium can be found below.)
  • Seeds (Optional)
  • Activated Charcoal (This helps to keep the water clean from bacteria that can make your plants sick.  You can find charcoal from any pet store's aquarium section.)

Put the rubber band on the plastic bottle, about six inches from the bottom.  Use the marker to trace along the top of the rubber band.  After you've made your line, remove the rubber band.

Ask an adult to cut along the line of the soda bottle.  A small hole might need to be made before cutting with the scissors.  You should now have two soda bottle pieces.

Place a handful of stones in the bottom half of the soda bottle.

Pour about a half inch of the charcoal on top of the rocks.  Then pour one inch of potting soil on top of the layer of charcoal.

You’re now ready to plant!  You can plant so many different plants in your terrarium, and even a visit to your favorite garden or nursery can help you choose the ones that are right for you.  But, if you’re really adventurous, head out into your backyard or forest to find your plants.  I recommend any kind of moss -- the green flowerless plant that grows like a mat on moist grounds, tree trunks and rocks. Other plants, like ferns, grasses, and flowers work well too.  

Fit the top of the bottle over the bottom section.  If this becomes too difficult, you can make a half-inch up and down slit in the bottom half of the bottle.  Don’t forget to water your plants before you put the top on!

And, that’s all there is to making your very own terrarium!  In order to care for your terrarium you only need to remember these two important things:  1.) Make sure the plants get sunlight, but never leave the terrarium out in the full sun!  The sun can make the inside of the terrarium very hot and unbearable for the plants.  2.) Look carefully at the soil.  It should look moist – not like mud and not like sand.  You should also be able to see beads of water hanging up at the top and on the sides of the bottle.  If it does look too wet, simply take the top off for a day or two.

Show me your terrarium!  Email pictures to for a chance to share your terrarium creation on my blog.  And, don’t forget to check out my Dive In card about the terrarium housed at Shelburne Museum's Variety Unit!


1 comment:

  1. wow using a PET bottle is a simple but great idea.. a nice project for kids :)