We don’t know of one single person who’s had a look at a terrarium and thought, “This is boring.” Terrariums are gaining in popularity because they look like magical little forests that draw the eye in. And in essence, that’s what they are - a layered ecosystem that’s easy to set up and even easier to maintain.
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Can you grow a Pilea in a terrarium?
The short answer is yes, you can. As a tropical plant, Pilea Peperomioides loves humidity environments, and terrariums can create the perfect habitat. However, there are a few things you should learn before you embark on such a project.
The two types of terrarium
First, you should know that there are two types of terrariums: closed and open.
The closed terrarium is an ecosystem that contains everything the plant needs. All you need to do is set it up (we’ll explain how below), close the lid and let it do the rest. Because this type of terrarium is sealed, you won’t need to water it or bother with its maintenance.
The warm environment will cause the moisture from the plant and the soil to condense on the glass walls throughout the night when temperatures dip. The same water will trickle down into the growing medium during the day and it will be absorbed by the plant. As the plant transpires, the cycle continues.
In an open terrarium, there are a few other factors at play. Because the container isn’t sealed, when the water evaporates, the vapors escape outside of the terrarium. This leads to the need for outside intervention to replenish the water. This means that you’ll need to water your terrarium every few weeks to a month, or whenever you see it’s running out of moisture.
Will my Pilea prefer an open or closed terrarium?
We recommend that you start with an open terrarium for your Pilea.
This is because Pilea plants don’t like to stay too wet for too long. They’re also plants that need a lot of air circulation, which is something that a closed terrarium won’t allow for.
Another thing you should take into consideration is that Pileas are relatively fast-growing plants. They have a strong fibrous stem that pushes the plant’s sustained growth from the bottom, while also sprouting new leaves from the top.
This means you’ll have to start your terrarium with a baby Pilea (as small as possible, as long as it has its own roots) and you might need to replace the plant once it has outgrown its terrarium. Depending on the size of the glass container and the surrounding environment, this may happen in 6 to 8 months.
How do I build a terrarium for my Pilea?
Let’s look at the main elements of a terrarium first.
A clear glass container - this can be a jar, teapot, fishbowl, or an actual terrarium jar. You can buy special jars from any garden center, or you can order them online. And if you have a bit of patience, you might come across some interesting designs at second-hand stores. Just use your imagination.
A drainage layer: this is the first layer that you will add to your terrarium to prevent it from getting too wet. As the water drains down into the soil, it needs to collect in a medium that doesn’t become too water-logged. Your best choices here are pebbles, sand, or gravel. The thickness of this layer depends on the size of your container. The bigger the glass vessel, the more drainage medium it needs.
Activated charcoal: A thin layer of charcoal pellets (not powder) will help fight off bacterial growth and keep the water in your terrarium fresh. This element is 100 percent necessary in a closed terrarium, but if you’re building an open terrarium, it becomes optional.
Potting soil: Any type of potting soil will do, although we recommend potting soil that contains perlite and vermiculite. Make sure you add enough soil for your Pilea plant to have room to root in. If you’re not confident or you don’t know what to choose, you can opt for a pre-made mix. Most garden stores sell packaged soil that is specifically mixed for terrariums.
Moss: So many terrariums have a layer of moss covering up the surface of the soil, so you might think that moss is a crucial element in the ecosystem. In fact, moss is optional. The reason why many terrariums have it is because it looks really nice (bonus points!) and it retains and regulates moisture. It’s also indestructible, so you could reuse your moss from one project to another.
Ornamental pebbles - This element is also optional (unlike the first layer of pebbles or gravel that you’ve added at the bottom of the vessel). This layer will keep the humidity in and prevent fast evaporation. You can also use it to create designs and patterns on the surface of the soil.
This is beginning to sound like a lot of work, doesn’t it?
Our best tip is to buy all of these elements in small quantities. So you don’t have to buy a large bag of construction gravel or a sack of activated charcoal. Instead, look for growing media that is especially portioned for terrarium enthusiasts.
How to troubleshoot a Pilea terrarium
It will take a while to get the hang of a Pilea terrarium, so don’t worry if you experience some mishaps along the way. Here’s are the most common ones and a few easy solutions:
If you notice a brown leaf, open the jar and remove the sick leaf with clean scissors.
If the jar seems too dry, moisten it lightly with a plant mister.
If the open jar is too wet, don’t worry, the water will evaporate on its own. If you’re using a closed jar, leave the jar open for 24 hours or until the excess water evaporates.
If the soil looks saturated with water, try to absorb some using a paper towel.
If you notice mold, remove the moldy elements as soon as possible and try to reduce the moisture and increase the air circulation.
If the jar has been shaken and there is dirt or moss stuck to its inner walls, reach in and clean the inside of the jar with a paper towel. Add more soil if necessary.
If the plant has outgrown the jar, congratulations! You now have a mature Pilea. You can plant it in a well-drained pot and start your terrarium project all over again with a baby Pilea.
Terrariums add a sense of whimsy and calm to any environment, and they’re super fun to create and maintain. So take your next Pilea baby and transform it into the queen of this glass castle. We guarantee you’ll get hooked on this hobby!