If terrariums conjure flashbacks of bell-bottoms, tie dye and lava lamps, consider yourself in good company. Terrariums—miniature landscapes placed in glass bowls or aquariums—were all the rage throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s. And like many things of that era, they are cycling back into style. Today, we’re digging terrariums again.

“Sometimes the best ideas are not entirely new. They’re old ideas just done differently,” says interior designer Kristin Rocke, principal of K. Rocke Design in SLC. She used the ultra-hip terrarium above to accessorize a design project she recently completed in Florida. (It looks a bit different than the glass bowl hanging in you mother’s 70’s  macramé hanger, right?)  If you want the look without the work, Rocke suggests purchasing from Plant the Future. If you want to create one of you own, we offer the following tips:

Today’s terrariums are much sleeker, more refined versions of their hippie predecessors—sans the high-maintenance tenants including frogs, lizards, and turtles. When arranged in an apothecary jar, mini-conservatory or even a narrow, graceful vase, terrariums make a serene, almost sculptural statement in a home, and are particularly well suited to small spaces.


What it is: The enclosed or partially enclosed glass container referred to as a terrarium is nothing more than a miniature self-contained green house. Once established, terrarium plants transpire moisture through their leaves, which then condenses on the glass, and flows back to the soil. This ‘rainforest effect’ allows the terrarium to go for weeks without watering. Cactus and succulents are also well suited to terrariums; just be sure to install these plants in lidless containers allowing the drought-loving plants to stay dry.

How to maintain it: Keep the lid off a tropical terrariums for 24 hours after the initial planting to allow the soil to dry out a bit. Then once obvious moisture has dissipated, fix the lid on top of the terrarium making sure to monitor the soil occasionally. A bit of condensation on the walls and lid of the container is normal. Most tropical terrariums require a light watering about once a month. Place your terrarium where it will get lots of light but never direct sunlight. Replace any plants that look diseased or dead. And avoid fertilizing that can make the plants quickly outgrow their small confines.

Tips to grow by:

*Remove large chunks from potting soil before placing in your terrarium by sifting soil through a child’s sand sifter. A mixture of half potting soil half cactus soil will help minimize fungus and/or mold growth.

*Sterilize soil (which further discourages fungus growth) by placing potting soil on a baking sheet and ‘cooking’ in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

*Keep likes with likes. Plants in your terrarium will live and stay healthy longer if they are paired with plants with similar light and moisture needs.*Pet stores often carry small versions of both tropical and desert plants ideal for terrariums. Four-inch nursery plants can also be trimmed and divided to fit into your terrarium container.

* For close-to-home help in creating and planting a terrarium, talk with the pros at Cactus & Tropicals, SLC and Draper.

Text excerpts by writer Melissa Fields for Utah Style & Design Magazine.  Images courtesy of  Smith & Hawken (1 and 4), Plant the Future (3) and Kristin Rocke (2).

This article was originally posted on utahstyleanddesign.com.