Part 1: Introduction

I’ve sat down a few times over the past week thinking “what should I blog about today...” and ended up doing nothing. It probably doesn’t help that I have no readers at the moment. In order to combat this I have decided to start a series titled ‘What makes a great terrarium?’

The aim is to break down each aspect of the terrarium and learn a bit more about it myself, hopefully providing someone with insight along the way and making Geodesium’s terrarium kits ever better.

To start with, let’s define the word terrarium. A quick google search yields the definition:

“A vivarium for smaller land animals, especially reptiles, amphibians, or terrestrial invertebrates, typically in the form of a glass-fronted case.”

“A sealed transparent globe or similar container in which plants are grown”

With the etymology combining the Latin word terra, meaning earth, with the English word aquarium.

The Wikipedia article tells us the terrarium was invented by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in 1842. A botanist who observed insect behaviour and left a jar unattended, he observed a fern growing inside and watched it grow for 4 years, adding no water.

The conclusion we can gather is that a terrarium is about capturing parts of the Earth into a glass vessel for observation. I think terrariums serve 2 main purposes:

  • The modern fascination with terrariums clearly derives from people thinking they look cool. They can fit in to both rustic and modern décor styles and provide a clean, cool way to bring a plant inside.
  • Most people have plants in their homes, a terrarium reduces the mess associated with this, as well as reducing frequency of watering due to the humidity. This humidity is also useful, it allows the creation of a microclimate, providing an opportunity to grow plants in a country or area they do not belong.

So a ‘great terrarium’ has to fulfill these criteria. Each aspect has to look good, but also provide a practical use. There is no point in creating a beautiful terrarium for it to die a week later. There is also no point in splashing out on a fancy shape but having the inside look terrible.


So what are the main parts of a terrarium? (these will most likely form the headings for the rest of this series).

  • The container: The container provides the basis for the rest of the terrarium aspects. For a terrarium to look great the style, shape and colour of the container must be in harmony with the colours and shape of the plants, gravel and decorations. For the plants to survive, the container must provide the right levels of ventilation, drainage and humidity.
  • Plants: The choice of plants are ultimately up to the user and in the cases or orchids or bonsai trees may dictate the container shape. With the most common plants being cacti, succulents and airplants there is an incredible range of choice.
  • Soil: Dictated by the plant – it is essential to have a group of plants with similar watering, feeding and soil requirements for the longevity of the terrarium. This is probably a factor with limited visual considerations.
  • Stones: These provide colour and can control the feel of the terrarium. You may want to try and match these to the décor of the area in which the terrarium will be placed. Stones also provide drainage for the base of the terrarium, to prevent flooding of the plants.
  • Activated Charcoal and other soil add-ins: Activated Charcoal is a terrarium staple, with a variety of claims being made about its ability to reduce odour and fungus, as well as increase plant growth.
  • Decorations: Decorations are very subjective. These could be used to create a themed terrarium, or just randomly to provide another dimension.
  • Mosses: Mosses can be both practical and visual. There are a variety of easily available mosses, as well as some more difficult to find varieties.

So this concludes the introduction. I hope you managed to get through it! I’ll start the next blog post with a write up about containers.

As always, you can look at Geodesium’s range on the website;