A terrarium is a collection of live plants, usually in a glass or plastic container, with a balance of light and air that allows them to grow without needing the usual care house plants need. Small shade and water-loving plants are the best kind for terrariums; check with a garden shop or an online gardening site if you need help finding some. Some specific plants that grow well in this environment are Venus fly traps, ferns, moss, ivy, chamomile, begonias, Cyclamen, African violets, and orchids.

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What You Need:

To make your own terrarium, you will need a large glass or plastic jar or a small aquarium or other clear container that has a lid. The lid keeps water vapor from escaping so that the terrarium stays moist. You’ll need a vent, though, (poke small holes, if your lid does not have one) to allow some air into the terrarium.  The only other thing required to make a terrarium is a small selection of plants.

What You Do:

  1. Cover the bottom of the jar with 2-3 inches of dirt. You might also want to add some pebbles to the bottom for better soil drainage.
  2. When you put the plants in the soil, be sure not to crowd your terrarium with too many plants—if you want more than a few varieties, use multiple containers. You can use a spoon and fork to dig holes and set the plants in place if the mouth of the jar is too small for your hand to fit through easily.
  3. Keep your terrarium where it will receive partial sunlight rather than hot, direct light. After the first time, you will only need to water your plants very occasionally if at all. (Over-watering will cause rot!) The water vapor from the plants will stay in the terrarium and be continually ‘recycled,’ so there should be condensed water vapor clouding the sides of the container.

The terrarium has a moist, rainforest-like environment. You might want to talk with your children about other common climates (such as desert, tropical, polar, and temperate) and the kinds of plant life found in each.