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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Growing Up: Kid-Friendly Terrariums

Michael Nolan
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As many as twenty percent of the United States deals with the affliction known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

SAD is a form of depression that is brought on by the changing of the seasons, especially in winter. I have had it myself for as long as I can remember, but as someone with a decidedly outdoor inclination, it should come as no surprise that I don’t like anything that forces me to stay inside for days at a time.

When those “Winter Blues” set in, one way I bring a little extra sunshine indoors is to have plenty of easy-care houseplants. Not only do they remind me of spending time in my garden, they help to clean the air and convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.

SAD can affect kids just like it does adults, so I wanted to come up with a fun, simple indoor planting project that was as kid-friendly as it was beautiful. Then it hit me – make a terrarium!


A terrarium is a small container in which plants are grown. They usually have a lid to create a natural water cycle. Warm temperatures cause condensation which in turn waters the plants inside. There are also open terrariums that allow for more continuous airflow, but require more careful water monitoring.

To make your terrarium, start with a clear glass or heavy duty plastic container that has an opening large enough to get a small plant into. A vase, fish bowl, or even a jar will work. With your terrarium container chosen, you can select a plant or plants to go inside. For our open terrarium I chose succulents, but cacti are great options as well.

Start by adding a layer of sand, small pebbles or gravel. Since the terrarium doesn’t have drainage, this will ensure that your plant’s roots don’t stay saturated with water. For most terrariums, about 1 1/2″ of sand or gravel will suffice.

Next, add a layer of potting soil. Potting soil is important in this case because it remains light weight, allowing for proper water drainage and air flow.

Now is the time to add your plants. If the container has a tight opening, you could use kitchen tongs or even chopsticks to place your plants exactly where they need to be. Be sure to cover the roots completely with soil.

Finally, water your terrarium with a plant mister. I use this all-purpose spray bottle at home. For open terrariums, water when the soil is dry. Closed terrariums will need far less water because they recycle the moisture so effectively. When you notice that there is no condensation on the inside of your terrarium, check the soil and water as needed.

NOTE: If you over water, just leave the lid off of your container for a few days to allow the excess to evaporate.


Feel free to decorate your terrarium with whatever strikes your fancy, from polished glass to plastic figurines. In the closed terrarium above, I used small stones that were collected on important days in my life. One came from a long walk along the river in Austin, Texas the day I got engaged. Another was from an anniversary trip to the mountains. Pick something that evokes good memories and your terrarium will be as meaningful as it is beautiful.

The next time the weather has you feeling low you can look at your terrarium and take some time to reflect on everything you have to be thankful for.


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