Create a Tropical Glasshouse Terrarium

Extracted from House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray.

To capture and preserve plants inside glass is curiously satisfying, a sort of visual story-telling and reminder of the innocent enchantment of childhood fairytales. Inspired by the variety of tropical plants we saw at the tropical glasshouses around England, we starting sourcing glass vessels at flea markets and antique fairs, quickly planting them up to fill the shady spaces around the house where other plants had struggled to survive.

The best plants to choose are those which thrive in indirect light with lots of humidity, such as Maidenhair fern Adiantum raddianum, Moon Valley Friendship Plant Pilea involucrate,
Strawberry Begonia Saxifraga stolonifera, Button Fern Pellaea rotundifolia, Aluminium Plant Pilea cadierei or Polka Dot Plant Hypoestes phyllostachya. We suggest planting in groups of three, using the tallest as your main focal point and balancing it with a couple of other species of varying heights. We do not recommend enclosing cacti or other succulents in glass, since the levels of moisture will eventually cause them to rot.

TOOL AND MATERIALS:

GLASS VESSEL

TERRARIUM PLANTS

HOUSE PLANT COMPOST

GRAVEL

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

WOODEN SPOON

DECORATION

GARDENING GLOVES

  • Put on gardening gloves, if you like. Begin with your base. Add around 2ócm/1in of gravel to the base of your vessel – this is for drainage and to encourage the circulation of moisture. Next, add a fine layer of activated charcoal, mixing it into the gravel. This will prevent stagnation and the growth of fungi.
  • Lay a bed of compost – the depth depends on the size of both your vessel and the plants. Generally speaking 5cm/2in is a good amount to start with if working with fairly small plants. Level the compost with your fingers and push it down gently to remove air pockets.
  • Using your fingers, make a hole in the terrarium compost at the point where you would like your first plant to sit. Taking the first plant out of its pot, gently loosen the compost around its roots and insert it into the hole. Holding it upright with one hand, press compost around it to hold it in place, making sure there are no air pockets around its roots.
How to make a mini glasshouse terrarium from House of Plants by Caro Langton and Rose Ray (4).jpg
  • At this stage you can use your wooden spoon to add more compost until the plant’s roots are covered – only the stem and leaves should be exposed. Do this gently so as not to damage the roots. Once it is secure, repeat step 03 until all of your plants are in the chosen positions.
  • Clean around the inside of the glass using a clean cloth and carefully wipe plant leaves with some tissue or a soft brush if necessary. Water very lightly around the base of each plant with a misting bottle or pipette.
  • Add any decorations to embellish the scene, such as dried lichen, crystals and rocks. You can use stones to stabilise more delicate plants and little pieces of mirrored glass can add another dimension to your miniature world.
TERRARIUMS NEED LESS WATERING THAN A POTTED HOUSEPLANT,
BUT WATER IF THE SURFACE OF THE COMPOST FEELS DRY, OR USE YOUR
FINGERTIP TO CHECK THE MOISTURE IN THE COMPOST. IF PLANTS BEGIN TO
LOOK ROTTEN OR UNWELL, YOU CAN GENTLY REMOVE THEM AND REPLACE
WITH HEALTHY ONES. PRUNE ANY BROWN LEAVES TO IMPROVE THE
APPEARANCE OF THE PLANTS AND TRIM BACK ANY OVERGROWING STEMS.

House of Plants by Caro Langton & Rose Ray, is published by Frances Lincoln (£20).

Photography by Erika Raxworthy,