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All you need to know about terrariums part I

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Terrariums and indoor plants have gained a fair bit of popularity in recent years as people have been spending more time indoors, albeit often involuntarily. Terrarium mimics the real environment and often can help with stress relief. Especially for urban dwellers who spend a lot of time staring at screens and generally removed from nature, having a terrarium around may help you concentrate and focus better at work.

But why terrarium? Let’s start with finding out what a terrarium is and how it works.

wender plant, sydney terrarium, terrarium design, plant gifting

What is a terrarium?

A terrarium is a miniature garden. It is usually a collection of small plants, rocks, and soil confined in a glass vessel, growing in its self-sustaining ecosystem supported by the energy created from light, soil and air. The much-needed water is collected through transpiration and condensation.

wender plant, sydney terrarium, terrarium design, plant gifting

How does a terrarium work?

Just like all greenery, a terrarium needs water and light to survive. A good soil mix can provide needed nutrients for plant to thrive and keep its moisture level. What makes terrarium different from other indoor plants is self-nourishing.

Glass containers are usually used for terrariums, it allows both heat and light to enter the terrarium. The heat from the sun causes moisture to evaporate from the soil and the plants, the water vapour condenses on the cooler walls of the glass container and falls back to the soil to be used again. This mini ecosystem on water cycle makes terrariums easy to care and this is the major advantage of having terrarium over other plants. In the other way, they are earth friendly as they recycle water. They also recycle air by undergoing photosynthesis – sunlight, water and carbon dioxide in the container create oxygen and promote the growth of sugar during daytime. At night where there is no sunlight, oxygen is taken in by the plants and carbon dioxide is produced.

Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward - National Portrait Gallery UK

Who did invent the first terrarium?

Terrariums are mainly for decorative purposes nowadays. They can also be used for scientific observation, shield rare topical plants from cold and dry air and growing plants that are not suitable for your natural environment. Back in Victorian times, people are crazy about ferns and they used terrariums to transport and keep ferns alive.

Do you know the first terrarium was developed by an English botanist Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in1842? Dr. Ward had a great interest in observing insects’ behaviour and he made the discovery of the terrarium by accident when he was raising a moth cocoon in a sealed jar along with a fern spore and left it for three years. The fern spore in the jar thrived into a plant and resulting in the first terrarium. Dr. Ward built a glass box to help export native British plants, testing it on a journey between London and Sydney. The plants arrived well and thriving after months of travel. Wardian case is named after Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward who promoted the case after experiments. It gained popularity during the Victorian Era and was widely used for transporting live plants back then.

Wardian case

Wardian case

Wardian Case - online image

Why do terrariums gain popularity in today's urban life?

- Terrariums provide garden scenery in a confined space. Apartment dwellers are able to bring some of the wellness-boosting benefits of nature to indoor.

- Terrariums help grow plants which are not suitable for your native environment. For example, tropical plants need high humidity levels to thrive, and may not suit a standard indoor living environment, and the glazed case easily controls the environment which can shield them from dry air.

- Terrariums can be alive all year around. You can enjoy the mini corner of green peaceful nature at your desk no matter it is pouring, storming or freezing outside your house.

- Terrariums provide an environment to grow plants in low or no natural light environment. The design of terrariums allows the plant to accommodate a grow light to release light energy for growth.

- Terrariums can explore and boost your creativity. You can decorate your terrarium with rocks, wood, resin, crystals, pine cone, figurines, toys etc. It is probably the most fun part of having or building your own terrarium! Just be sure not to put anything uncleaned, may carry mould, decay or release unwanted substance which can destroy the plants.

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