Make a small terrarium in a light bulb
Way back in 1884 a London doctor, Dr. Nathaniel Ward wrote an article in the Gardener’s Magazine of his successful attempts at growing rare and delicate plants, mostly ferns, in small glass cases, rather like miniature indoor greenhouses.
Known variously as the terrarium, planetarium, or plant case, it can vary from a modest jam jar housing a single plant, through converted fish tanks to an elaborate, purpose-built miniature greenhouse tacked on to the window of a house.
Terrariums are an ideal means of growing plants to keep them away from the hot, dry atmosphere of centrally heated homes, which is so harmful to many indoor plants. A humid micro climate is built up within the confines of the glass case which, combined with adequate heat, suits the more tender houseplants whose natural home is a steamy tropical bushland.
You’ll need a few tools to make a tiny terrarium but nothing complicated to get started.
The community within a terrarium is almost self-supporting, its physical ingredients being cycled and recycled by the plant life. Water in the potting mixture is given off as vapour from their leaves. This condenses as droplets on the glass walls and roof, to run back down into the soil; the atmosphere inside also remains in balance, the plants absorbing oxygen at night and giving off carbon dioxide, reversing the process in daylight.
Julie, the creator of this project leads us through some key dos of light bulb terrariums.
Do use sand or small pebbles; these are good because water drains through them easily
Do use Tillandsia, also known as air plants; these are a great choice for your tiny terrarium because they take all the nutrients they need from the air and a small amount of water. No roots means no wet soil which means no mold. You can buy tillandsia at garden stores or online.
Do choose preserved moss instead of live moss. Preserved moss isn’t living, but it will hold moisture; this moisture raises the humidity level in the terrarium, which makes the tillandsia happy. You can find sheet moss, reindeer moss, and other preserved mosses at garden and floral stores.
Do keep your terrarium in partial sunlight.
Do give your terrarium some water. The tillandsia is alive and will need a small amount of water to stay that way. Water it by either removing it and soaking it in water once a week or, using a spray bottle, give it a small spritz of water every week or two. Pour out any excess water.
Do feel free to use little rocks, pieces of glass, or any other bits of things to help give your terrarium character.
Do not place the terrarium in full sunlight as it will get too warm. A little experimentation with different locations might be needed before it becomes maintenance-free. You will then be able to enjoy your arrangement for many months to come.
Indoor gardening can be challenging, but is never boring. Adding a glass container, however small, suitably planted, will add a quirky feature to your collection.