Tree Trimming with Terrariums

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In my previous life, as a volunteer at the U.S. Botanic Garden, I lived for helping out during the holidays. It was my favorite way to get into the Christmas spirit. One of the decorations we prominently featured at the Visitor's Desk was a display of clear ornaments turned into festive terrariums. People loved them. They oohed and awed over these little globes and invariably asked if we sold them (which we didn't); ever since then I've wanted to create something similar as a fun craft project. And what better time than holiday gift-giving? 

Since my department was assigned responsibility for the staff holiday party this year I decided terrarium ornaments would be the perfect gift something everyone could take home with them and enjoy for longer than a day. Here's how I made them. 

Materials Needed: plastic or glass globes, potting soil, plants (I used nerve plant/fittonia), funnel, scissors, ribbon, tweezers, baby aspirator, and a ramekin. 
Step 1: Remove the ornament top and set the globe in a ramekin dish.  
Step 2: Set the funnel inside the top of the ornament and pour soil into the funnel.
(I ended up scooping soil into my hands since it didn't pour as nicely as I had hoped.) 
Step 3: Fill the ornament just under half full. Repeat for each ornament until they are all prepared. Once they have soil inside they should sit upright without additional assistance.
Step 4: Remove the plant(s) from its container, then separate all the little plants within. I purchased a total of six 2-inch plants at $3.99 a piece and each container had six plants in it. Remove excess soil so that you have just a green plant with exposed roots. 
Step 5: Gently grab the plant with the tweezers and place it into the ornament. This can take a little finagling but it doesn't have to be exactly centered. Remember that you can shift the soil around inside the globe. 
Step 6: Cover ALL THE ROOTS with soil. This is extremely important, otherwise your plant won't grow.
Step 7: Once all the ornaments are planted use the baby aspirator to squeeze water into each globe and replace the caps or leave them off until you plan to give them away.
Step 8: Finish them with a bit of ribbon for hanging. 
Step 9: Set in a warm place for at least 10 days before gifting them
A few other tips. First, make certain the plants have been watered the day before you plan to transplant them. Second, DO NOT overwater them. Closed terrariums should only need water every three to five months. Of course you'll need to watch them to ensure that plants start rooting properly, but resist the urge to water. Third, a little soil goes a long way. I bought an eight quart bag of potting soil for $6.49 and filled 35 ornaments with it, and I still had half a bag leftover. Finally, ornament terrariums will need to be replanted once the plant outgrows its space. 

For additional reading on favorable terrarium conditions and plant recommendations check out the University of Missouri's informative website. 


  1. These are so awesome. If I had time, I'd totally do it. Where did you get your globes?

    1. I bought the plastic ornaments at Michaels for $1 a piece. I'm hoping to do them again some year in glass.


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