It's a flashback to my 70s childhood. Terrariums are back!

A terrarium, simply put, is a garden in a glass container. Easy and affordable to make, a terrarium can add interest to an end table, a desk, or used in a grouping for a centerpiece.

Back in the 70s, terrariums were typically housed in an aquarium. Today's terrariums are taking on a more decorative flair. Vases, fish bowls, a brandy snifter, mason jars... just about anything can be a terrarium. It may be lidded or open air. The only thing you must keep in mind while choosing your container is finding something that is large enough to fit your hand through for assembly.

Here is a step-by-step lesson in building a terrarium. It’s like icing a cake:

1. Start with a 1-2 inch layer of small gravel

2. Add a layer of charcoal. This helps keep excess water from becoming stagnant

3. Add a layer of spaghnum moss, which prevents the soil from mixing with the charcoal

4. Top your layers with a good potting soil. Make it deep enough to cover the roots, but watch out that you don't pile it on too thick and run out of room for the plants

5. Add your plants. There are many colors and textures to choose from. Tiny little plants that make you want to say "Awww"! Cover with more soil to make sure they are planted in there securely.

You can find all of these supplies at your local garden center. If you're a purist and want to enjoy the simplicity of the plants, you are done. You also have the option to personalize your terrarium. Create texture with rocks, bark, or more moss. Add a theme with mini accessories. I added a retro white metal chair and little dog to the terrarium I made. The splash of colors contrasts nicely with the pink and green foliage. Not to mention the touch of whimsy is an added surprise to those who see the terrarium on my desk.

After you are done assembling your terrarium, give it a drink of water: not too much, just enough to add moisture to the soil. Place it in bright indirect sunlight. Windows are optional. Terrariums can also thrive with the right amount of artificial lighting. Upkeep beyond that is minimal. If you have a lidded terrarium you may be able to go weeks without watering. You will see condensation. Think of it as a little contained ecosystem. If you have a container without a lid just keep an eye on the soil. It may need a drink once a week. Remove any damaged leaves and mold that may grow to keep your plants healthy.

Lastly, be sure to rotate the terrarium occasionally so that all sides are exposed to the light source. In addition to the no fuss upkeep of a terrarium that would even allow my mom to maintain one (the green thumb gene skipped a generation. I got it from my grandma), a terrarium can be as affordable or as extravagant as you want. Use a repurposed container or invest in a gorgeous store bought vessel. The little plants only cost a few dollars. Garden centers have a wide variety of accessories to decorate with, but you can also find little treasures at flea markets and yard sales for pennies on the dollar. As we settle in for the winter exercise your green thumb and create a terrarium or two!

Posted on 2014-01-01 by Michelle Rauch