This time of year I am always thinking of ways to incorporate plants into gift giving. I found some plastic ornaments that are about 3″ in diameter, clear, and have tops that come off easily just like any ball ornament you may put on a Christmas tree. This would be an excellent place to plant succulents and make a tiny terrarium. Instead of hanging on a tree it can be put into a window and there it would make a fun display for any time of the year.
Note: Be sure that no direct sun falls right on the ball or it will cook your plants!
Ball supported and ready to begin
I sometimes have pieces from succulents that have fallen when bumped while moving or watering and I have babies growing from succulents or cacti that are just ready to be divided. I just happened to have some pieces that had fallen and then I cut one baby plant that was big enough to be on its own. I gathered different medium components, a funnel, a stick (well, a paintbrush) and a vase to support my ornament while I planted and fussed. There will be a top on this terrarium and closed gardens ordinarily have high humidity. Succulents usually would not care for a high humidity environment. In this case the plants are so very small that I do not think the humidity will be too high for quite some time.
I decided to make some layers that I thought would add some fun through the clear plastic. I chose sand and sphagnum peat moss both for their properties and the contrast. The light colored sand will keep the medium light and airy, and the dark peat moss will help keep in moisture for the succulents I chose. Using the funnel I began with a layer of sand that could also act as a drainage layer because there are no holes in the container. Then added a layer of peat, then sand, then peat and finished with sand so the surface would look like the desert but the peat underneath will help hold the moisture in. Different media would be used for a different choice of plants.
Note: A layer of charcoal can be used and some say it will help freshen the environment.
Gently add plants
I then gently pushed the plants through the small opening, being careful not to break them. Using the paintbrush I arranged the cuttings and fallen leaves where I wanted them. I was able to plant them by carefully coaxing the proper end of leaves and stems into the sand and deep enough to be into the peat layer also. There are many slow growing plants that can be used. Just be sure they can remain untouched awhile and not grow too quickly and have to be taken out too soon.
Arrange and plant
Miniature ferns, mosses, baby’s tears, jade plants, sedum and aloe are some examples of other plants you can use.
You can add some miniature benches, snowmen, etc. As long as you can fit it through the opening the sky’s the limit – use your imagination. This can be just like the fairy gardens that are so popular these days. It is easiest to add ornamentation at the same time as the plants so they all drop in together. If added after planting it can be difficult not to disturb the arrangement.
Hang it up!
The last step is to give it some water. I have an eyedropper that I use for other very small dish gardens that is perfect for this also. As it hangs in your window you can often see moisture on the side walls. If you can no longer tell that it is moist inside, just pop off the top and use your dropper to give it a bit more. It should not need watering very often because the top will keep the environment pretty stable. The walls should not have condensation on them all the time. If the side walls are extremely wet and you think it is too much just take the top off for a few days, let it get some air and evaporate some of the moisture off.
If your plants are growing tall and weak or the leaves are pale, your terrarium may not have enough light. If the leaves are drooping or have brown spots, it may be too warm or may have been sunburned and have too much light. Wilted leaves may also may be an indication of too little moisture. If your mosses are browning this would also mean that it needs to be watered. If you have a small paintbrush you can use it to keep the side walls clean which will keep down disease, mildew and pests.
Too much moisture
I hung my new terrarium in the window to take pictures for this post and forgot to take it down. It never should have been in this south facing window but for the sake of a picture… you know…. You can see in this picture a few days later that there is too much moisture on the sides and you may be able to see that the leaves are looking transparent. These are definitely signs that the top should be taken off to dry out a bit and then put in a shady location with as much air movement as possible until it is under control. A good lesson learned. Never put a new terrarium in a sunny location but let it acclimate for a few days somewhere more neutral.
You can also see that I got out the sculpey and it is ready for the winter season. Enjoy this gift for teachers, friends and family or even yourself.