Make your own miniature green world

Amrita Prasad
Saturday, 17 June 2017

Add a little green to your indoor space with these cute terrariums! Not only are they easy to make and maintenance-free, but they also bring in fresh air to your home and get you closer to nature

Monsoon is an ideal time to plant a variety of herbs and shrubs in your garden, homes, terraces, balconies and kitchens. While the city life and smaller apartments mean space constraints, do not let that deter you from getting some green friends home. 

Making your own terrarium or fairy garden is quite interesting. Misbah Mansuri Abdulaziz, owner of Handmade Gardens, which specialises in customised terrariums and fairy gardens, says, “A terrarium garden is a miniature ecosystem of plants housed in a transparent container, which could be anything from a simple round globe to a simple glass box or even an old light bulb and an old jar. The plants are arranged to create the look and feel of a miniature garden, with any combination of sand, soil, moss, gravel and decorative beads used as a base.” 

Terrariums are easy-to-make and require less water and no direct sunlight, hence they are low-maintenance gardens. When asked about the kind of plants that can be used in terrariums,  Abdulaziz stresses that succulents plants, which are similar to cactus are ideal for terrariums and fairy gardens. “Given the type of weather and climatic conditions India has, only five to six types of indoor/succulent plants that release oxygen can be chosen. Air purifying miniature plants like spider plant, snake plant, aloe also work best indoors. If at all, you want to place it outdoors, you can choose outdoor miniature plants. Bonsai plants don’t survive in this type of arrangement as they need more space and maintenance.”

“Succulents need direct sunlight every day. Lightly water the base every two weeks in other seasons and weekly in summers,” says city-based landscape designer Zainab Patanwala, who owns Zainab Landscape and specialises in planning and designing open spaces, theme-based miniature gardens, indoor plant décor and terrariums. 

Guiding us on how to water the terrariums, Abdulaziz says, “Watering depends on where you place them. If there’s good amount of sunlight, watering them more often will be helpful. To check if the amount of water is right in the terrarium, just put a finger in the soil. If the finger comes out clean, it means it’s the right time to water the garden. If the soil sticks to your finger, it means the soil is still wet and doesn’t need watering.” 

She further says that you need to water these plants once in five days in summers and once in 10-12 days in monsoon and winters.

Terrariums can be anything made from glass to terracotta, wood and so on but you should ensure they have an open lid because that’s what suits the Indian weather. Says Abdulaziz, “Many people make the mistake of planting two different types of plants — one which requires more water and one which doesn’t require much moisture — together. Do not do it. Always use succulent soil. Regular soil doesn’t retain moisture and doesn’t suit succulent plants. Adding activated charcoal to the soil helps to retain the freshness of the soil. If you maintain it well and change the soil every year, these can survive for up to five to six years.”

Says Patanwala, “All the supplies are available at your local garden store and it only takes 30 minutes to create one. If you have free time and do not know how to spend it, get creative and make some a small and beautifully designed garden for indoor or outdoor decoration.” 

Patanwala tells us how to make a simple terrarium at home:
A clear glass vessel
Small pebbles
Succulents and cactus in various shapes and sizes
Potting soil

- Start with a medium-sized, clear glass open-top container. You can use anything that catches your fancy — a vase, a cleaned-out pasta jar, a fish bowl, or a special terrarium bowl.
- Fill the bottom of the vessel with a 1 and 1/2-inch layer of small pebbles which will collect the water drainage.
- Add a layer of potting soil especially made for succulents and cacti. It should be deep enough for the plants to root to, about 2 and 1/2 inches.
- Remove the largest plant from its container and dust excess soil off the roots. Using the end of a spoon, make a hole in the soil big enough for the roots and nestle the plant inside, tamping the soil down firmly to hold it in place. Plan for approximately one plant per inch of container diameter. (Use a paper towel to transplant prickly cacti to avoid getting your fingers hurt).
- Continue planting the rest of the succulents, working from largest to smallest. It’s easiest to start at the back of the container and work your way forward. (Play around the arrangement — mixing up the types of plants, colours, and sizes to make it more visually pleasing)
- Once the plants are arranged, add about a 1/4 inch of coloured pebbles or sand. Finish with some landscaping. Place a few additional accessories like miniature mushrooms, toy animals etc.

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