Terrarium Garden Fail: Miniature Landscape Terrarium Gone Wrong

By Nikki Tilley | August 19, 2020
Image by merc67
by Nikki Tilley
August 19, 2020

I love to garden and will try just about anything, including growing plants in everything imaginable. Normally, I surprise myself and have good results, but what many people don’t realize is that I have a number of epic fails too. One of the most memorable, and mind you I have many, was my big terrarium blunder.

Terrarium Plant Problems

I once decided to try my hand at planting in an unused aquarium. At one time this tank was home not to fish, but a pet guinea pig. As the little critter grew, it was soon relocated into a larger tank with more room to move around. I hadn’t ever grown plants in a fish tank before but had seen pictures of nifty-looking terrariums and it looked easy enough. WRONG! They may be easy to create but are not as easy to care for as I had thought.

I followed instructions for planting a terrarium and the whole process was actually fun. I had even created little hills and valleys in my miniature landscape terrarium. I chose what I thought to be adequate plants in a fish tank setting – mini trees and houseplants. But what I didn’t do was provide enough light for this environment. This was my major downfall and, as with many of my previous indoor specimens, light in a somewhat dark home is difficult to come by. I tried adding indoor lighting, but even that didn’t help.

Watering was another factor. I don’t know why it is that I can grow just about anything outside and in unusual spaces, like pocketbooks and toolboxes, but when it comes to houseplants, I struggle horribly. Most of the time I kill my plants with kindness, providing more water than is necessary. This, however, wasn’t the case for my terrarium. With the plants I’d chosen and in this particular setup, they needed moisture, and lots of it! This included constant misting. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to mist every day or check the moisture level. My plants died, just withered away into oblivion, leaving only dried remnants behind. So much for my cute hills and valleys. I should’ve gone with succulents.

I guess I could’ve tried again, but I was too embarrassed and heartbroken. I’m a gardener after all. Shouldn’t I be able to grow a simple terrarium garden? Being rattled over this loss I dumped the medium, cleaned the tank and put it away, whereupon it eventually came out again finding a new home in my son’s room housing a little anole lizard and small frog. And, yes, plants were added for visual appeal and as a place for them to hide. Apparently, I had better luck with the addition of these critters, most likely because their survival was dependent on my daily care – food, water, misting, lighting, and temperature all required monitoring (how this differs from plant care is beyond me). I also stuck with one easy-peasy pothos plant rather than adding different types.

Lesson learned. One day, though, I will be brave enough to try again – without the critters.

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