How to make an orchid terrarium: experts reveal how to create one for your home
Follow our easy step-by-step guide on how to make an orchid terrarium and enjoy a stunning indoor display
Discover how to make an orchid terrarium and these beautiful, delicate plants will thank you for it. Orchids thrive in the small, enclosed environment of a terrarium, which works rather like a mini greenhouse. So if you've struggled with these hot house beauties in the past an orchid terrarium could be the answer.
I love terrariums but find that orchid terrariums really take things up a level. My track record with orchids is mixed so I find it much easier to grow them in the controlled environment of a terrarium, where it's easier to monitor temperature, light, humidity, and airflow so I don't lose my plants.
It's a win too as terrariums are pretty much self-nourishing, and need very little maintenance. I pretty much leave my orchid terrariums to get on with it. The water collects on the glass walls and trickles down to the plant, creating its own ecosystem. This means it doesn't matter if I forget to water it, making my orchid care tasks much easier.
How to make an orchid terrarium in 6 easy steps
When considering how to make a terrarium for your orchids, first make sure you're up to speed on looking after your plant so you have key things like humidity and watering needs covered to get the best out of your orchids.
Then take into account the growing environment as you're opting for a terrarium. 'A fan favorite for centuries, orchids range from classic flowering beauties to exotic tropical specimens,' says Dan Jones of Terrarium Tribe. 'Each has its unique charm, but they also come with their specific requirements. Whichever orchids you choose, you’ll need to tweak your terrarium environment accordingly.'
Follow these simple steps so you can ensure your orchid terrarium becomes a head-turning display in your indoor garden.
1. Choose your orchid plants carefully
There are many different types of orchids to take your pick from. Choose orchid varieties that like high humidity, intermediate temperature, and low-light conditions. You also need to decide which variety of orchid is best if you're going for a closed or open terrarium.
It's important to pick miniature orchids to make sure they won’t outgrow the space and crowd out other any of your other terrarium plants. When browsing in the garden center or online don't assume small orchids are necessarily mini varieties as they could simply be young plants that will eventually outgrow the space.
'Some of the best miniature orchids for terrariums include Masdevallia, Platystele, Tolumnia, Dracula, Aerangis, Phalaenopsis, Angraecum, and Lepanthes,' says Anna Weston, founder of Orchid Bliss. 'They will not grow more than the size of your palm, and they love high-humidity environments, making them excellent plant materials for closed terrariums.'
Whichever variety of orchids you end up choosing, Anna suggests you do your research and select plants that prefer similar climates, so your terrarium does not require different environments, which is more complicated with a higher chance of failure.
2. Decide whether you're including filler plants too
A single orchid or several smaller ones looks great in a terrarium planted up on their own. But you can also add small filler plants that like humidity to complement your orchid terrarium and create more of a mini-landscaped look. It also adds visual interest when your orchids aren't in bloom.
Opting for low maintenance indoor plants that will go well with your orchid is always a good option. Choose plants that grow slowly and won't crowd the space such as small ferns, peperomia and tillsandia.
3. Prepare your orchid terrarium container
Make sure your chosen terrarium is thoroughly clean, especially if you have used it previously for planting and had ailing specimens you needed to dump. This will avoid any possible problems later on as houseplant diseases can spread quickly in a humid enclosed environment such as a terrarium.
Use mild dish-washing soap and rinse several times to make sure your terrarium is spotlessly clean and dry before using it for planting orchids. Alternatively, to be absolutely sure, try using one tablespoon (15ml) of household bleach for 1 gallon (3.79 liters) of water to remove any residual traces of mold or fungus from any previous planting schemes. Rinse well and allow to dry thoroughly before planting.
4. Add a base layer
The next step for making an orchid terrarium is choosing what you're going to line the base with. This bottom layer is known as the substrate.
One popular option is to use a layer of small terrarium stones (available from Amazon) approximately 2in (about 5cm) in depth at the bottom of the terrarium. Wash the stones thoroughly before adding them to the terrarium. If you chose to use stones add an inch of water too. This will provide the appropriate humidity level for your terrarium.
Or try this easy hack an an alternative base. Use a section of egg-shell crate in the base of your terrarium to keep the plants above the water that can accumulate at the bottom. They also allow air to circulate. Egg-shell crates are easy to cut and shape to make a lining.
Finally, you can use soil but it's a messier option, and can introduce disease in to the terrarium. If you use either the egg-shell crate or soil option be sure to mist the terrarium thoroughly on a regular basis to add humidity.
5. Arrange your orchid and filler plants
First add your orchid, which should always be the focal point. Experts recommend keeping your orchids in their original pots.
'You might feel you should plant the orchids directly in the terrarium rather than keeping them planted in pots,' says Anna Weston, 'but you run the risk of them dying. Orchids need their roots exposed to air, and growing them like this will not let them receive adequate airflow. Initially, the placements may look a bit awkward, but as the plants start to grow it should all come together in a couple of months.'
Use moss to cover the orchid pots and give the terrarium a more natural finish. You can also use props such as small pieces of bark or driftwood to cover up the pots.
If you have chosen to use soil as your substrate bury the orchid in its original pot and plant the companion plants directly in the soil, placing any larger plants behind the orchid and mini ones towards the front of your terrarium to create the most balanced effect for your new indoor plant idea.
6. Put your orchid terrarium in the right position
A key part of your terrarium care is making sure it's in the perfect location. It shouldn't be in direct sunlight because the glass will warm up, and the terrarium could become too hot and even cause the leaves to burn. Remember also that you may need to move your orchid terrarium around depending on the season.
If you plan to keep the terrarium near a window, leave a decent space between the window and the terrarium, so it isn't affected by any changes in outdoor temperatures which could damage your orchids. The correct temperature is essential for your orchid to bloom. If the window where the terrarium is located is chilly, the glass can easily become too cold.
'If you do not get a fluctuation of temperature at night, then your orchid will most likely not bloom,' says Anna Weston. 'Orchids require at least a 10 to 15˚F drop from their initial temperature at night to remove heat from their leaves. If your orchid grows in the same environment throughout the entire year without any changes it will start to display signs of heat stress.'
What kind of container is best for orchid terrariums?
'As a gardening expert, I highly recommend using a closed container such as a terrarium to grow orchids,' says Lindsey Hyland, founder of UrbanOrganic Yield. 'This type of container helps to keep the humidity levels higher, which is important for most orchid species.'
The ideal size and shape of the terrarium should be large enough to accommodate your orchid's root system and to allow for adequate air flow, as well as being spacious enough so plants aren't crowded.
'Use a clear glass or plastic material that will provide plenty of light for your orchid while also keeping out pests and disease,' says Lindsey. There are many designs to choose from like this tall plant terrarium or this glass flower dome, both available from Amazon, that will make a stylish addition to your home.
Terrariums provide a controlled environment that mimics the conditions your orchid would find in its natural habitat, which is important for the health of your plant. 'In order for an orchid to thrive, it must be able to receive adequate humidity and light without being exposed to too much moisture or heat that can damage its delicate leaves,' says Stacie Krljanovic, head groundkeeper at Patio Productions. 'By keeping these two factors in mind when creating your terrarium's ecosystem, you will be able to give your orchid the best chance of survival.'
Can you grow Phalaenopsis orchids in a terrarium?
Yes, it is possible to grow Phalaenopsis orchids in a terrarium. The closed environment can help to maintain the humidity and temperature necessary for these hothouse plants.
Phalaenopsis, also known as moth orchids, are one of the best indoor plants and have long-lasting flowers. They are easy to look after too, even in centrally heated rooms, which makes them the perfect choice if you're looking for ideas on how to make an orchid terrarium.
'The ideal temperature for Phalaenopsis growth is between 65-85˚F during the day, with nighttime temperatures 5-10˚F cooler, so if you are able to provide this environment you will be able to successfully grow Phalaenopsis in your terrarium,' explains Lindsey Hyland.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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