Nurture Nature Center, located in Easton, Pennsylvania, created an
Urban Garden in a small parking area using recycled and found materials
to demonstrate low-cost growing techniques for small urban areas. This
fact sheet is part of a series that demonstrates ways in which urban
gardens can bring nature into their worlds.
What is a terrarium? A terrarium is a vessel, sealed or unsealed, which
contains a living habitat, or ecosytem. This habitat might include plants,
fungi, lichens, isopods (such as pill bugs), beetles, spiders, earthworms,
amphibians (such as salamanders), reptiles (such as turtles), crickets, and
Before you start: Having a terrarium is a responsibility. Before you introduce plants or animals to
your terrarium, understand their needs. Pill bugs need moisture, shade, and decomposing organic
matter; earthworms need soil and organic matter; plants need sunlight and water; salamanders are
carnivores, and feed on small insects, worms, and eggs.
Types of Terrariums
A Garden Under Glass
The simplest type of terrarium to maintain is one with plants and soil. Moisture-loving plants, such as
mosses, ferns, and tropicals, will perform well in a closed terrarium. If you use succulents or desert
plants, your terrarium should be open to the air.
• Drainage: A 2- to 3-inch base layer of pebbles will keep your terrarium from becoming
• Other additions: A ½-inch layer of charcoal under the soil helps to prevent algae from
developing. You can also add a layer of sphagnum moss, moistened and then squeezed dry,
under the soil. This will soak up excess moisture.
• Soil: For a plants-only closed terrarium, you can use a container mix consisting of peat or coir,
and perlite and/or vermiculite. A succulent terrarium should contain a soil/sand mix.
• Plants: Use purchased plants, and your chances of introducing fungi, bacteria, and insects will
• Light: Plants need light, but direct sunlight may cause a deadly heat buildup. Artificial or
indirect sunlight may be fine. You can move your terrarium to a sunnier spot in winter, when
sunlight is limited.
Nurture Nature Center
518 Northampton Street, Easton, PA 18042