How to make a terrarium and pot bare-root perennials
Garden writer Ciscoe Morris on making a terrarium and potting bare-root perennials.
Special to The Seattle Times
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In the Garden
If you’re looking for a fun and eye-catching project to get kids excited about plants and gardening, build a terrarium with them.
The first step is to choose a glass container. Any clear glass container that doesn’t leak will do: an old aquarium, fishbowl, cookie jar, or even an extra large wineglass. Then visit your favorite nursery or houseplant store where they carry a good selection of small plants in 2-inch pots. Pick ones that thrive in high humidity.
Carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps, sundews and pitcher plants work well, or you can do what I did and use tropical rain-forest plants.
It usually looks best to start with a slightly taller upright centerpiece and fill in around it with smaller plants with more spreading habits. Before adding soil in your container, fill the bottom with a ½-inch layer of horticultural charcoal. The charcoal will absorb excess water and impurities and will help prevent fungus diseases from getting a foothold.
Next add a ½-inch thick layer of gravel to form a base and prevent the plants from sitting in excess water. Now add quality potting soil about 2-inches thick and place the plants in pockets formed in the soil with your fingers.
A common problem in terrariums is that the plants grow too rapidly and overfill the container within a matter of months. An easy solution is to leave the plants in the pots they’re planted in. This method slows growth without harming the plants for at least a year, after which you’ll probably want to replace them anyway.
Once you’ve placed the plants, add soil as necessary to cover and hide the pots, and then add another ½ inch of pebbles just for looks.
The only task that remains is to water just enough to moisten the roots. If you put an airtight lid on top of the container, the plants will need very little if any additional watering. If you don’t add a lid, you’ll need to water occasionally when the leaves droop slightly or the soil looks dry.
Finally, don’t forget the most important step: Add a Jurassic touch by housing a plastic dinosaur in your terrarium.
Pot bare-root perennials
If you’re like me and bought a carload of rare and unusual bare-root perennials at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, pot them up right away. Left in their packing bags, they’ll soon shrivel up and die.
Don’t plant them directly into your garden. If we experience harsh conditions in spring, there’s a good chance you’ll never see them again. Instead, pot them up in quality potting soil in 6-inch nursery pots. Keep the soil evenly moist, and place the potted plants outside on mild days, but bring them back into the unheated garage during freezing weather.
Allow the plants to grow in the pots until they grow big enough to establish a healthy root system. When you plant, work organic flower food into the planting hole, and if we’re experiencing dry weather, keep the soil evenly moist for a couple of weeks to get your new plants off to a good start.
You’ll know it was worth the extra effort when you see your gardening buddies and the hummingbirds drooling over the showstopping, red and yellow blooms on your prize Spigelia marilandica.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.
About Ciscoe Morris
Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.