Animals, Charlotte O, Container Gardening, Gardening, How To, Planters, Plants

If you don’t have your own small animal audience, store-bought is fine.

Exciting news folks! Primrose has recently got in a whole new selection of terrarium making tools, the first on the site made specifically for closed-system terrariums! Well since they’re so new, and terrariums are finally making the come back they deserve, I went and wrote up the journey through creating my own closed-system terrarium.

You will need

All of this and a good dash of patience.

The sets we have online also include a very handy shovel and rake set that extends to reach the bottom of your jar, these are indispensable if you have a very deep terrarium! (Although you could always wrap some wire around a fork and a spoon, no judgement here.)

If possible, it’s recommended to find a piece of plastic mesh to help keep the stone and soil layer separate, but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any, I didn’t use it in my terrarium.

Also handy:

  • A lot of newspaper to work on (it gets messy!)
  • A funnel (I made one out of a cereal packet)
  • Scissors (for pruning if needed)
  • Small hand trowel (for removing soil from roots)

And last but not least, the plants and accessories you want in the terrarium.

These are the two species I used, Tradescantia Purple Passion at the front and a Chlorophytum Comosum behind.

The process

The idea of a closed terrarium is to create an ecosystem that will sustain itself. Both the plants and soil release moisture that becomes water vapour, and condenses against the walls of the terrarium during the warm daylight, falling back to the soil in the cooler evenings. This creation of an enclosed watering system is what will keep your terrarium growing, but just throwing dirt and plants at it isn’t going to work, an irrigation system is needed to stop the soil from rotting under too much water.

At this point you’ll want to grab the funnel, or if you’re on a budget, make one out of cardboard or paper to make for easier application of the materials.

First pour in a layer of small stones, pebbles, or gravel. There’s no hard and fast measurement as it depends on what size receptacle you’re using, a good rule to stick to is one-quarter stones to three-quarters soil. Remember this layer has to be deep enough to stop any pooling water from sitting in the soil.

I’d highly recommend checking out this video on youtube for a visual representation:

Check your terrarium from all angles, sometimes it’s hard to judge the level of coverage with curved glass.

Next is activated charcoal. This is an integral ingredient in the tasty soup that is your closed terrarium. It absorbs chemicals in the soil, water, and air that could otherwise build up over time and damage the plants. Charcoal also cleans up unpleasant odours that are released from the decomposing soil and helps stop mildew forming.

You don’t need a whole layer of the stuff, but make sure there’s a good handful being placed in, it’s going to do a lot of work after all!

If you’ve been able to source some plastic mesh, now is the time to cut it to shape, fold it up and pop it in. You’ll need some long tools to push and pull it into place, and then you can add the substrate. (Note that the charcoal seems fine both above and below the mesh layer.) Again, if you don’t have a mesh layer don’t worry! You can still power on!

Okay, let’s layer up some soil! You’ll need a decent amount, remember we’re working to approx one-quarter stones to three-quarters substrate. Don’t worry if your measurements aren’t perfect, it’s all a learning process!

Make some small divots for the plants to sit in, and let’s move on to prepping some plants!

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Plant choices

A closed terrarium is a specific type of environment. There’s a lot of damp warmth in there, and if left in direct sunlight, the refraction of the glass will cook everything inside. So we need moisture-loving, low light-thriving, quite small plants. Which admittedly cuts down our options somewhat, but here are some plants that I’ve discovered-

Small ferns will help fill out any space, and they’re relatively easy to come by. Try and find a miniature variety if you can, as some ferns can grow pretty big.

Some that come recommended:

Peperomia, Maidenhair fern, Pteris, and Adiantum. I chose a variegated fern to place in mine, the pot I purchased had three separate plants in it so I picked out the smallest to place in my also quite small terrarium.

Soleirolia variants are perfect as well, and have a variety of amusing names such as, mind-your-own-business, baby’s tears, angel’s tears, friendship plant and Irish moss. (It is in fact, not a moss, but a plant from the nettle family.)

Tradescantia- also known as Spiderwort, is another plant that does well in humid climates. There are a lot of variants though, and I’d recommend staying away from any that are flowering as they will wilt and die quickly in the terrarium. I chose a Tradescantia Purple Passion to place in mine.

Other tropical foliage such as Dizygotheca and Neoregelia ‘fireball’ enjoy a humid environment, making them other possibilities for your display.

To finish it off I would recommend some moss. I took a trowel and dug some out of my garden. Moss is a great way to fill out your terrarium, it helps to cover bare soil and brings more diversity into the jar.

Trixie spent the whole time trying to eat my plants and the moss. Thanks Trix.

Preparing plants

This section entirely depends on what container you’re using for your terrarium, but for brevity’s sake I’m going to assume you’re using the same line of terrariums that I am, and in that case you’ve got some trimming to do. The opening of the bottle is a lot smaller than you first think, so you’ll need to carefully extract the plants from their pots, and gently scrape or shake off most of the soil around the roots so you can fit it through the top. This is where having another container or a lot of newspaper down comes in handy to catch all the soil!

Move the plant around after it’s fallen inside, and make sure you push soil back around the roots when you’ve confirmed the placement.

Now is a good time to consider the layout of your terrarium. Instagram and Pinterest are great sources of inspiration, just make sure whatever you use is small enough to fit!

In my terrarium I used some old chunky sticks to create a divide in the middle, putting the fern one side and the tradescantia on the other, with moss liberally applied all around. To finish it off, I added some more height with a mossy stick reaching up through the bottle, remember to consider your layers to make for a more visually interesting display!

Here’s my finished terrarium! I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and it didn’t take more than about half an hour to put together!

Finishing off

Before adding the cork, make sure you give your terrarium a good spritz with a spray bottle, or pour a little water down the side. You don’t need to add the cork straight away – allow the bottle to stand for a day to let the plants settle, and for the first week or so, take the cork off for a few hours every day. This allows you to adjust the water, and allows the plants to breathe and accumulate to their new closed-system environment a little easier.

Keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight, and rotate it every day or so to allow all sides to soak up some heat.

And here’s my beauty after 2 weeks! The tiny wild clover in the moss are loving it!

Troubleshooting and the future

There’s always the fear that your terrarium won’t last the weekend. Fear not! If you’ve used the right plants and followed the guide you should be safe. One thing to bear in mind is the water cycle, moisture should build up over the day, then drip back down to the soil overnight. If there is too much condensation then plants might start to rot, so remove the cork and allow it to dry out a little. If there’s no moisture on the sides by late afternoon, it may need a spritz of water to keep the cycle going.

If it does unfortunately go wrong, there’s no shame in calling it a day, dumping it all out and starting again. We all have to start somewhere, and I’m sure your next terrarium will look amazing!

If you do make up one of our terrariums, be sure to snap a photo and send it in!

Bonus points for getting your pets involved!


Charlotte at PrimroseCharlotte is a Copy Writer at Primrose, writing product descriptions and about anything else that comes her way. She owns 2 rabbits and 5 chickens that she loves very much. (Her garden is most certainly not tidy).

When not at her desk you can find her attempting to find her way back to Japan again, or drawing.

See all of Charlotte’s posts.

Container Gardening, Garden Design, Gardening, Guest Posts, How To, Indoor, Planters

While you may have had a good-sized home with great landscaping both indoors and out, now you have downsized and moved to a much smaller apartment. Outdoor landscaping is not your domain anymore, and you have to now deal with a small indoor space. You do want it to look larger, you don’t want to infringe upon your living areas, but you really want lots of plants. What’s the answer to this dilemma? An indoor vertical garden!

What’s a Vertical Garden?

A vertical garden is a garden that grows upward (vertically) using a trellis or other support system, rather than on the ground (horizontally).

There are many ways to install a vertical garden in your small apartments and following are some of our favorites. Whether you live in a small Auburn, Alabama apartment or a huge city like London, you can still find ways to make it work!


While Mississippi John Hurt wrote a famous song called “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor,” we want you to use a recycled pallet and install in on a wall. Then, cut our small areas and insert plants. This won’t take up much space but will add a nice splash of green to the wall it’s installed upon.

Leather or Wood Garden

You construct this by using a piece of plywood and either leaving it natural or covering it with leather—or plastic if you choose—and installing it floor to ceiling. Then, add a triangular expanding trellis and place small potted plants at nice intervals. This really adds outdoor charm indoors.

Wall Frame Garden

An old square wooden frame can be fixed to a wall and succulents that don’t use much water can be planted in it. You may need some netting or a screen behind the frame, but a lot of multicolored succulents can help hold in the soil and add cheeriness to the room.


Steel mesh that you buy at a big-box home improvement center is another great option. Just run this from floor to ceiling also, get some hooks, and hang pre-potted greenery wherever it looks appropriate. Even sparsely covered mesh adds green to your room.

Vertical Air Plant Garden

To make one of these, place a three-quarter inch piece of plywood on a wall. Then hammer in nails in a triangular or square pattern and connect them with string. Next, buy a plant like tillandsia that can get most of its nutrients from the air without being planted in soil. With this scheme, you’ll have living plants that need little care, hardly any water and little further maintenance, but they will make your wall come alive with beautiful green hues.


Wooden shelves that look like outdoor planter boxes are a favorite of ours. If you have a little more space, you can extend these out a few inches. If not, they can be installed close to the wall with enough room for a couple inches of soil. Philodendrons will look very since in this setup.

Shoe-hanger Garden

OK, so you aren’t good at building things, you don’t do well with hammers, and you have no idea how to pound in patterned nails and attach string. Don’t worry, though, because something called a shoe-hanger that you can buy at a charity shop will come to your rescue. Instead of hanging shoes on it, however, fill the pouches with soil and plant appropriate indoor plants. You can get this job done in minutes and you’ll have a wonderful indoor garden.

Are You Crafty?

If you are, check out this idea. Buy some two-liter soft drink bottles, and after you emptied them, cut them off about four inches from the top. Place the cut-off bottles neck-down on a wood rectangle and fasten them with a modified twisty-tie to the wood. Make sure you leave some room between them. Next, place soil into the bottles—they should look sort of like a funnel—and plant herbs like cilantro and parsley in them.  Now, mount the wood on a wall and water very carefully so that you don’t get your floors wet. You’ve got an inexpensive and nice-looking vertical garden that will make you smile.

Vertical gardening is an excellent way to save space in your small apartment. Primrose can help you choose the right plants as you explain exactly what you are doing, and you’ll see that for a very small investment you can bring outdoor beauty indoors.

Love these ideas, but not the hassle of making them? Primrose has an excellent range of quirky indoor planters, in all the trendy colours from copper to matt white.

Jorge, Planters

2019 promises to be a huge year for planters with many new trends emerging including a return to studio pottery designs and even more pots for your house plants. Learn to make the most of your garden/interiors with our planter ideas from using bamboo as screening to improving indoor lighting with copper.


Troughs remain ever popular, perfect for annuals or restricting the growth of bamboo. Try growing climbing plants or even a trained tree up a south facing wall to add colour to your patio. Planting bamboo is ideal as it can be used to provide privacy at awkward heights, either to delineate your garden or block prying eyes.

rectangular planters


If you want to show off your centrepiece, cubes are the perfect shape as they won’t blow over in the wind. Cubes are primarily bought in pairs and used to line doorways. Olive trees and topiary swirls and obelisks all look great.


Tall planters add elegance and verticality to your garden/conservatory. They are either paired with trailing vines, box topiary or conifers to add even more height.


The market for ceramic has blown up in recent years and new studio pottery designs are making a comeback.



First labelled a trend back in 2017, copper remains popular and is perfect for adding light to your garden and interiors.


Corten allow you to bring industrial chic into the garden and is perfect for areas of the garden where you you want nature to take over.

with Solar Lights

Primrose is proud to present solar lighting planter stakes. These can be used to light up your centrepiece or troughs around the edge of your garden.

with Stands

Perfect for your favourite succulent or vine, planters with stands look great in conservatories with wooden flooring.


Great on side tables, these fantastic faceted shapes were huge in 2018, coinciding with a rise in demand for houseplants.


Novelty planters allow you to impress your friends with your imaginative planting. Want to give the easter island head a new hairstyle? Your choices are limitless.

Big, Bigger, Biggest

Our customers ask for bigger and bigger planters every year and we have recently launched our titanic range of 100cm2 cubes. As planters control the size of your tree and stop roots damaging patios/foundations, they are perfect if you want a large tree near your house.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Jorge, Planters

The care you provide your planter depends on the material with zinc, wood and terracotta having special requirements. Composite modern material with fibre in their names require no special treatment, but be sure to be careful transporting them.


Zinc planters are produced in a two stage process involving hot dip galvanisation and the application of a coat. Hot dip galvanisation coats steel in a layer of zinc, which acts as a sacrificial layer, absorbing corrosive materials before they can reach the underlying metal. The planter is then coated, providing a finish.

While zinc provides unmatched corrosive resistance, it is still vulnerable to mechanical damage and impurities (trace elements) in the soil. The former exposes the underlying steel to the elements, causing a reaction to take place that produces ferrous hydroxide (rust). The latter can causes the zinc to react, stripping the steel of its sacrificial protection.

To maximise the life of your planter, we recommend you be careful when moving your planter. If you have trouble lifting, we have developed a pot mover for this purpose. To prevent zinc coming into contact with trace elements, it is important to use a liner, providing a barrier between the soil and the metal. Most of our planters come with liners, but you can always use non-biodegradable plastic.

Corten Steel

Cor-ten steel was specially developed for its corrosion resistance and tensile strength. Corten works differently than zinc in that it is not coated in a protective layer. Instead the steel has a special alloy added to it, which causes the surface to regenerate continuously when exposed to the weather. Therefore mechanical damage is not a problem.

Corten is not immune to corrosion. Pooling water will accelerate the corrosion process, so using a liner is recommended.


Wood can be divided into softwood and hardwood variants. Softwoods originate from gymnosperm trees and hardwoods from angiosperm trees. Angiosperm and gymnosperm plants are a major division in the plant kingdom, which produce woods with different cellulars structures. Angiosperms contain all flowering plants, indeed most species we recognise, while gymnosperms contain conifers.

As a rule of thumb, hardwoods are denser and more resistant to fire, but not all hardwoods are hard and softwoods soft. But these are not the properties we are interested in. As hardwoods and softwoods have different cellular structures they have different appearances, with hardwoods possessing prominent grains and softwood light grains.

Hardwood (left) with its distinctive grains.

The cellular structure affects resistance to decay and hardwoods can last up to 40 years untreated, softwoods significantly less. To combat this softwoods are treated with tanalith, producing a lifespan of around 20 years. This does not mean you can’t extend it further with varnish and using a liner to prevent contact with damp/organisms.


While terracotta is vulnerable to chipping and fracturing when dropped, its greatest drawback is its vulnerability to frost damage. As terracotta is a porous material, water can enter the material. Once water freezes it expands causing cracks in much the same way as potholes are formed on the road. You can combat frost damage by moving pots into an unheated greenhouse/garage come winter. Your plant will be fine, providing it is deciduous and has entered dormancy. Excessive warmth will cause your plant to come out of dormancy and must be avoided.

Composite Materials

Fibreglass, fibrecotta and fiberstone are composed of fibres combined with traditional materials such as clay and stone. They are superior to standard materials in every respect, being frost-hardy, non-reactive, durable, lightweight and cost effective.

Fibreglass planters can be maintained by wax polish, applied every 3 months, as can the other materials, depending if you wish to keep your planter in top nick, or allow weathering for a more natural look.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.