Setting Up A Terrarium

When I got the Nautilocalyx pemphidius last weekend, the parent plants were being shown in a huge terrarium. It was just a glass bowl with something like a glass plate kind of taped over the opening. I want so hard to take good care of little N. pemphidius, so I knew I needed a terrarium, too. The humidity in my apartment used to be nice when I overwatered more frequently and kept the windows closed, but winter is coming, and so will dry apartment air. This plant is too nice to kill it from lack of humidity.

But I have seen the prices on terrariums in catalogs and at stores. I don't want to pay that much...



So, luckily, I ended up at a CVS that night, and it had all its holiday stuff on display. (Yeah, that's right: Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations; Thanksgiving/fall decor; and Christmas ornaments and candles and such all on display for sale at the same time. I hate/love this part of the year.) I found a glass pumpkin candy/cookie storage unit for $6! It's perfect as a small terrarium!


The terrarium that I saw with the N. pemphidius had sand on the bottom, gravel, then sphagnum moss and soil on the top layer. That seems a good recipe, as the Internet confirmed later via a Google search, but on the day I had the opportunity to buy the media, I couldn't find any sand. So I made a larger-than-intended layer of perlite followed by an equally larger-than-intended layer of pre-wetted sphagnum, topped with a bit of pre-wetted African violet potting soil.

I think these plants don't need such high humidity that the entire terrarium should be completely enclosed, but the lid actually fits on pretty well that it doesn't allow a lot of moisture out. It doesn't create a seal or anything, but I have had to remove the top for a few hours and let some moisture escape so that the sides and lid aren't completely covered in water droplets. There's a fine sheen on it now; I think that's acceptable. I just didn't want anything to rot! "High humidity" does not necessarily mean "soaked."


On top is the N. pemphidius; to its right is a Fittonia I acquired from a fellow Master Gardener trainee, and I have not yet managed to kill it, although I have come close several times; and the big clump in the middle is some trimmed Pellionia pulchra from Mr. Subjunctive. In a plant trade a while ago, he sent me this and many other plants. I took some cuttings to see whether they'll root outside of the terrarium--prior to putting the main plant in, it kept dropping leaves left and right, so because I had a few plants with more dire high-humidity needs, I could totally justify the terrarium purchase. I might actually want to get another one or two! I'm almost certain I have other plants with equally dire high-humidity needs that I'm unaware of, have forgotten, or am just ignoring.


The curve of the pumpkin-shaped glass makes it interesting to look at the plants within. Photographing them is even more interesting!


Not so awesome to look at when a flash is used, but it provide a different type of effect. Almost horror-movie-style, because the curvature of the pumpkin-shaped terrarium diverts the light away from the plants and the camera, kind of like what the atmosphere does with the light of the sun, making it look as if you are catching a glimpse of the serial killer who's stalking you in the shadows. Except it's not a serial killer. It's a plant. Which is even creepier.

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2 Responses to Setting Up A Terrarium

  1. Looks good. If you find you need to upgrade at some point you should keep your eyes open for a second hand aquarium. You can usually get them for about $1/gal - a 10/15 gallon is a pretty good size. I've used cling wrap as a cover which lets you control how much air you're letting in.

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  2. you can get 2 gallon apothecary jars for $9.97 at walmart. i just bought one to put my fittonia in. target also has them for just a little more. consignment store cookie jars or glass flour/sugar canisters could work for cheap, too. enjoyed hearing how you set your terrarium up.

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