A terrarium filled with tropical plants is the perfect jungle setting in which to keep a dinosaur or two. While you can’t time travel back to the age of the dinosaurs, you can bring a little bit of the Jurassic era to your desk or dining room table. Moisture-loving houseplants grow best in this fully enclosed terrarium.

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Choose ceramic or plastic accessories for humid enclosed terrariums.


Materials

Accessories

  • Preserved reindeer moss
  • Polished stones
  • Ceramic animal figurines
  • Handmade ceramic sculptures
  • Plastic or resin mushrooms
  • Plastic decorative swirl picks

A container that looks large when not filled with plants and soil suddenly has little room for accessories when planted. Look for accessories, including animal figurines that are less than 2 inches long for larger terrariums and 1 / 2 to 1 inch long for smaller terrariums.

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Container

This container is a clear candy jar from the craft store. It is 8 inches tall and 7 inches in diameter.

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Plants

Ideal terrarium plants like high humidity and low light. Table ferns, polka dot plants, Selaginella, Croton, Alternanthera, and Ficus plants all fare well in terrariums. Because terrariums are so small, look for plants in 1-inch pots or plants in larger pots that can be split into smaller pieces.

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Terrarium plants are usually stocked in the houseplant section of the garden center.

Potting Soil

Use a sterilized seedling mix or potting soil in a terrarium to prevent fungal problems. A small bag from the houseplant section of the garden center is enough for this project. It uses a few cups of soil, at most.

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Key ingredients for terrarium construction include sterilized potting soil, activated filter carbon (activated charcoal), and tumbled stones.


Where the Dinosaurs Roam Terrarium Step by Step

First step

Fill the bottom of the container with 1 /2 to 1 inch of rocks.

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Second step

Pour activated charcoal on top of the rocks until the rocks are barely covered by the charcoal.

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Third step

Add the potting mix on top of the charcoal. Start with 1 inch of potting mix. This doesn’t seem like much, but it is easier to start with a little, then place the plants and fill in around the plants, than it is to add more potting mix and dig holes.

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Fourth step

Place the plants. If you’re using accessories, such as the dinosaur, you can set them in among the plants to gauge the effect see if
you want to move the plants around prior to planting.

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Fifth step

Remove plants from pots and plant them. The bottom of the plant rootballs can be touching the rocks. Use a spoon to fill in with soil around the plants.

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Sixth step

Add decorative mulches such as preserved reindeer moss or tumbled stones.

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Seventh step

Position the accessories.

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Eightth step

Water the terrarium. This is the trickiest step. It’s easy to overwater and then difficult to get the terrarium to dry out. Start by watering so that the top inch of soil (which might, in this case, be all of the soil) is about as damp as a wrung-out sponge. You can always add water.

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Ninth step

Place the cover on the terrarium, set it in bright indirect light, and enjoy.

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View the Garden from All Sides

Even in such a small terrarium, you can make separate little scenes. Ideally, you’ll use accessories to make the terrarium interesting and inviting from all sides.

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A friend gave me these mushroom picks for my birthday the year I went through my terrarium-making frenzy. They are a nice
detail addition on the other side of the terrarium from the dinosaur.

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To the right of the dinosaur is a handmade ceramic sculpture (about 1 inch tall) from Etsy. It came in a set with a birdbath used in the Backyard Poolscape Garden. Just because accessories come in a set together doesn’t mean they have to be used together.


Care and Maintenance

Enclosed terrariums have to get some light so that the plants can photosynthesize, grow, and keep the water cycle going. Otherwise the plants will rot. You’ll know if the terrarium is getting enough light when you can see some water droplets (condensation) on the inside of the glass.
If the plants start to rot or become mushy, the terrarium is too wet. Open the cover and let it dry out for a week or so. It could take a while to find the right balance of water for the system to reach equilibrium. I have one terrarium that I haven’t watered for two years. It can be done.