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Plant Care Guide

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Caring for Your Terrarium Plants

Caring for your terrarium plants can be fun and exciting, but maintaining your little ecosystem can sometimes seem a little intimidating without a helping hand.

By following the steps suggested within our Plant Care Guide, you should be able to easily avoid the most common pitfalls and challenges that can face terrarium gardeners.

Plants can only speak to us through their "leaf language", so you'll want to pay careful attention to the physical changes of your plant family to determine what they may need.

Leaves react to their conditions by changing color. Here's how to understand what your plants are trying to tell you:

Yellow Leaves

Your soil may be dry. Unfortunately, once a leaf turns yellow, it won't change back to green, so it should be removed. Most yellow or brown leaves can be tugged or twisted off gently, but sometimes you may need to clip them off. Pruning snips are terrific for pruning back leaves without damaging your plants. While you've got your hands in your terrarium, feel your soil. If it's dry, water your terrarium.

Drooping or Dried out Fern Fronds

Your soil may be drying out too quickly, or your vessel may be located in a relatively dry environment. Ferns require high humidity and should never be paired with succulents. If your vessel can be closed, water your soil and close the terrarium until you see a tiny bit of condensation on the glass. Alternate opening and closing the terrarium to keep the humidity levels optimal within your vessel. If your vessel is open, you may simply need to water more often.

Black, Squishy Succulent Leaves

Your succulent may be getting too much water and not enough light. Remove black or rotted leaves immediately, and rake your soil with a fork to aerate it. Try moving your terrarium to a brighter location. Stop watering until the soil below the surface is dry.

It's wise to check newly planted succulents every day until you are sure that they are not sitting in overly moist soil. Check the base of the leaves and see if anything is starting to look mushy or dark. If you think the plant may be feeling "soggy," remove it immediately, and allow the roots to get some air. Let your soil to dry out, and consider adding some amendments to aerate the soil and make it drain faster.

For small terrariums and tight spaces, we recommend using our Terrarium Tweezers to remove dead leaves without the fear of knocking over your plants and embellishments.

Plants are Tipping or Stretching Upward

Etiolation is a fancy scientific word for stretching.

Is your plant leaning to the side? Plants use the sun to make their food, and they will always seek out light in the form of true sunlight or a bright artificial light bulb. If your plant is receiving light from only one direction, it'll start to lean in that direction. To encourage your plant to grow more evenly, turn your terrarium every so often. This will keep it growing straight.

Are your stems thin and reaching upward? Your plant may be telling you that its source of light is too far away. Your plants may grow thin, leggy, and crooked. Your terrarium will do best in a place where the sun makes the room bright during the day. Look for a stable, bright surface out of direct sunlight. If your terrarium has been in low light conditions for too long and your succulent has etiolated significantly, consider replacing the plant and using the etiolated plant to harvest leaves for propagation.

Bug and Pest Infestations

Sometimes, despite your vigilant care, you will get annoying pests.

Mealy Bugs

Check out our article on mealybugs to learn how to get your plant back to good health.

Tiny Black Flying Bugs

Fungas gnats are tiny black flying bugs that can become a huge annoyance. Fungus gnats love moisture and rotting plant material. Keep your terrarium free of dead leaves, rotting stems and anything else that falls off of your plants. If your terrarium garden encounters fungus gnats, try drying things out by opening your lid and cutting back on watering. You can always add water later. You can also check with a local garden center for a trap to add to your terrarium to capture the gnats. If you feel like you've lost the battle, take apart your terrarium, clean it well and rebuild using new soil and new plants.

Now that you know how to care your terrarium, and how to quickly spot problems, you'll need only to take a quick glance to realize that it's doing just fine without you.


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