How to Plant a Terrarium with Summer Rayne, Homestead Brooklyn

Terrariums are beautiful, fun to make and easy to care for. Our favorite Brooklyn plant expert, Summer Rayne Oakes, guides us through the process step-by-step in this episode of Plant One on Me.

Summer covers which plants, tools, containers and soil mix you’ll need. Plus, how to water, the number one reason people kill plants.

If this terrarium seems too large to start with, go with a smaller version.

You don’t need a green thumb for this DIY project, promise.

Getting Started

First of all, choose a glass container. It’s easiest if the container is big enough to fit your hand inside. Next, choose plants that have the same kinds of light and water requirements. Check the plant tags to make sure they’ll be compatible. Generally speaking, terrariums are best in bright, indirect light. Full sun can be magnified by the glass and burn foliage. Base the container size on the number of plants you’d like to include.

Tools

Summer uses a set of aquarium tools for her terrariums. It’s a clever idea because they are extra-long. Having said that, it isn’t really necessary to buy this type of set when starting out. A long pair of chopsticks does a great job. She also uses a spoon and a narrow garden trowel. A watering can with a thin spout is handy to direct the water.

Soil Mix

The soil for terrariums needs to be a light, free draining mixture. Espoma’s organic Cactus Mix combined with perlite makes the perfect blend. If plants are small you can start with a drainage layer of an inch or so consisting of small rock and or charcoal. In this case, she didn’t use a drainage layer because the plants were relatively large and would have rooted into the drainage layer too quickly.

Planting

Add an inch or two of the soil mixture to your glass container. Play around with the plants until you have an idea of how you’d like them to look. Every plant won’t be blooming all of the time so choose ones with different textures and foliage to create the terrariums subtle beauty. Plant around the edge first, adding soil around the plants as you go. Plant the centerpiece last.

Watering

Terrariums create their own humidity which means they’ll need to be watered less frequently than houseplants in pots. Water sparingly and keep an eye on them. If plants seem to be wilting, water them. As time goes by, you’ll find the right watering schedule for your terrarium. Once every two weeks is about average.

Plant List

Here is a list of the plants Summer used in this video:

  • Monstera siltepcana – light and dark varieties
  • Peperomia trinervula
  • Hemigraphis/Strobilanthes alternate
  • Pilea asp.
  • Begonia conchifolia
  • Peperomia caperata

More Information

Here are links to other videos and blog posts we think you may find interesting:

How to Make an Easy Terrarium

DIY Terrarium Ideas

Everything Old Can be New Again with Terrariums

Get Plants off to a Good Start with Bio-tone Starter Plus

Why does Laura from Garden Answer use Bio-tone Starter Plus? Because it’s the ultimate starter fertilizer. Bio-tone Starter Plus is super charged with microbes and mycorrhizae to help new plants establish quickly, grow more robust root systems and experience less transplant shock.  Let’s break it down.

Mycorrhizae

Unlike maintenance fertilizers that are generally spread on the surface of the ground and lightly worked into the soil, Bio-tone Starter Plus is added to the planting hole, where it is in direct contact with the roots. Fun fact: Mycorrhizae literally means “fungus roots.” These specialized fungi act like extensions of the roots themselves, creating hundreds or thousands more entry points for the roots to take up water and nutrients.

Microbes

Microbes are bacteria that breakdown nutrients to make them available for plants to take up. Bio-tone contains 50 percent more microbes than maintenance fertilizers like Holly-tone, for example. These microbes and mycorrhizae help restore balance to your soil and are a cornerstone of the “Regenerative Gardening” trend.

No Sludges or Fillers

At Espoma, we’re proud to offer products that are organic and do not contain any sludges or fillers. Sand and lime are often used as filler ingredients that don’t add any nutrient for plants. Sludge, or Bio-solids comes from waste treatment plants — it’s never allowed in organic gardening. All ingredient in Bio-tone Starter Plus and all Espoma Organic ‘Tone’ plant foods are helping to feed the plant.

Espoma Products

Here are some blog posts we hope you’ll find interesting.

Fall is for Planting: Trees

Fall is for Planting: Cool-Season Veggies

Garden Answer’s Design Tips for a Romantic Cottage Garden

English cottage gardens date back centuries. They were used to grow vegetables, herbs for healing, fruit trees, perhaps a beehive, and common flowers. The informal style went through a renaissance in the late 1800’s when they became somewhat more nostalgic than practical. 

The informal aesthetic of dense planting and natural materials is still en vogue today. In this video, Laura outlines 10 design principles to help you design a cottage garden. Before you start, make sure you have plenty of Espoma’s organic Bio-tone Starter Plus plant food to make sure your plants get the best possible start.

No Straight Lines

Cottage gardens are always informal and a touch whimsical. Avoid straight lines. Gently curving edging looks more natural and playful. If your site restricts you to a straight edge, let the plants spill over it to create an unrestrained look.

Large Groups of the Same Plant

White cottage gardens are more relaxed in their design, it is still best to use large sweeps of the same plant. Think of planting in groups of three, five or seven. That is far more restful to the eye than a jumble of onsies and twosies. 

Spacing Doesn’t Matter

This is one time you do not have to follow the advice on the plant tag. Cottage gardens are always densely planted and generally grow more densely packed with time. Annuals and biennials are often used in cottage gardens and will self-sow in the border. Biennials are plants that take two years to grow and flower from seed like the foxgloves shown. Another advantage to planting things close together is that there is less room for weeds to grow.

Color Harmony

It’s very important to pick a collection of plants that have harmonious colors. Without that the border would look chaotic. Garden Answer uses a collection of soft pinks and peaches with touches of blue and lavender. It needn’t always be soft colors, but they do need to be unified in some way.

Use Varied Heights and Textures

In any planting, it’s a good idea to think about texture, height and foliage color as major design elements. Nothing blooms all the time. Varied foliage forms and colors will create interest even when the flowers aren’t in bloom. Laura uses Heuchera specifically for the silvery foliage color.

Anchor Plants/Structural Elements

This is sometimes referred to as the “bones” of a garden. It’s a structural element that all of the other plants get woven around. In this case, it’s a beautiful shrub rose named Rose ‘The Lady Gardener’, a fragrant beauty with full, apricot blossoms. The rose is repeated three times. Repetition is soothing to the eye.  It’s possible to use evergreens for a slightly more formal feel, or whatever peaks your interest.

Fragrance

The first thing everyone does when they pick a flower is to hold it up to their nose. Cottage gardens are known for their fragrance. Try to select varieties that smell good at the garden center. Roses, lavender, sweet peas, and sweet alyssum are all good choices.

Not Perfectly Maintained

Along with relaxed design principles, comes relaxed maintenance. Planting tightly will discourage weeds. Annuals like poppies will self-seed and move around the border, just like the biennial foxgloves. Weeding everything that comes up might mean that you weed out these plants and inhibit their spontaneous movements.

The Look Will Change Over Time

This style of gardening is the exact opposite of a formal border filled with geometric shaped boxwood. By its very nature this is meant to be more random. People often sow cosmos, violas and other plants that have a tendency to move around. Let them surprise you. If you really don’t like where one popped up, it’s easy enough to remove.

Be Patient

Being patient is really what gardening is all about. A garden is never really finished. Enjoy the journey!

Garden Answers Plant List

Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ – catmint

Achillea – pink yarrow

Allium ‘Serendipity’ – ornamental onion

Rose ‘The Lady Gardener’

Heuchera Dolce ‘Spearmint’ – Coral Bells

Clematis ‘Brother Stephan’

Digitalis Foxy Hybrids –  foxglove

Lobularia ‘Blushing Princess’ – sweet alyssum

Here are more videos from Garden Answer we hope you will enjoy.

Plant Your Window Boxes Like Garden Answer

Succulent Pot in a Pot – Quick Version

How to Re-pot Houseplants – Quick Cut

Garden Answer’s Mother’s Day Container

Mom is the best! For years, she’s showered you with love in so many ways, big and small.

Now, it’s your turn to remind her how much you truly appreciate her. Creating a beautiful container is something she’ll enjoy for months or even years to come. Watch as Laura from Garden Answer visits her family’s garden center to pick out a selection of plants, potting soil and fertilizer to make the cutest planter for her own mom.

Tips for Making a Flowery Container for Mom

First, start by selecting a container that’s her style. You’ll find lots of fun, colorful and patterned containers at your local garden center. Check to make sure your container has drainage holes in the bottom and will fit the plants you select at their mature size.

Next, choose plants that spill, thrill and fill! You want one plant that cascades, one that mounds and one that stands taller than the rest. Look for 3-5 varieties of flowering plants, grasses or greenery. Does Mom have a favorite flower or color? Try your best to incorporate those features into your creative design.

The options are endless. Have fun as you mix colors and textures for a winning combination. Check plant tags to make sure your plants like the same growing conditions, sun exposure and amount of water before checking out.

While you’re still shopping, grab a bag of the best organic potting soil mix and Espoma’s liquid Bloom! fertilizer. These Espoma products will help the plants adjust to their new home and grow healthy roots for bigger plants.

Now plant!

Fill the container 3/4 full with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix.

Remove plants from their original containers and arrange them in the new planter. Play around a bit and move the plants around to see where each plant looks best. Remember to consider their mature size and give them ample room.

Once the plants look perfect to you, fill in any gaps in the container with more organic potting soil.

Water well.

Wait till you see you mom’s face when you arrive on Mother’s Day with a beautiful, homemade container garden!

Espoma Products for Flowery Containers

Bloom! Plant Food

Spring Fertilizing Tips

Laura walks us through fertilizing trees, shrubs, perennials in early spring. Wait until you see some growth on your plant to fertilize.

1. Gardening always starts with the soil. Organic fertilizer “feeds the soil that feeds the plants”. The process by which organic fertilizers deliver their nutrients enhances the fertility and structure of the soil.

Organics are digested by soil microorganisms, which then release the nutrients in a form available to plants. This process produces humus, a spongy material that improves soil structure. When you improve soil structure, the soil is better able to hold the proper balance of water, air and nutrients until they are required by plants.

Plants respond by developing larger root systems. Larger roots support more vigorous top growth and make plants less susceptible to drought. And by stimulating a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, plants become more resistant to insects and diseases.

 2. Organic fertilizers will provide slow, steady feeding, as the plants require it. The release process is slow and largely dependent upon three factors: the microbial population in the soil, moisture, and soil temperature.

A healthy population of microbes in the soil is necessary for the digestion process. Moisture is required to sustain microbial life as well as to keep nutrients flowing into the plants root zone. And soil temperature is critical because as it rises, plants require nutrients more rapidly.

Fortunately, microbial activity mimics these requirements and increases as soil temperature rises, so that organics feed the needed nutrients as the plants require them.

Products used in this video:

Make a Mini Formal Garden


Miniature gardens are adapted from Japanese bonsai gardens, taking the idea of shaping and caring for a miniature tree for relaxation and creating a new way of gardening. Because they are miniature, the idea is to welcome fairies and small creatures to enjoy them, just as you enjoy your garden.

Your new mini garden will do better in an area protected from the elements. When thinking about where to create or place your Mini Formal Garden, think about the environmental factors like wind and rain that can ruin the garden. When Laura is done, she will place it on her covered porch where it will be protected!

Before we begin, there are a few things to note:

  • There is no drainage in this miniature garden, so water lightly and only when the plants need it. Laura suggests using a syringe to get the right amount of water exactly where it’s needed.
  • This is a seasonal project, so before winter comes find a new home for the plants, either in a greenhouse or indoors, in order to preserve them.
  • There is a longer version of this video if you are interested.

Materials Used: 

Plants Laura Used:

  • Common Juniper
  • English Yew
  • Helleborus ‘Vavavoom Pink’
  • Daylily
  • Asparagus Fern
  • Pansy ‘Nature Mulberry Shades’
  • Helleborus Winter Jewels ‘Red Sapphire’
  • Viola ‘Penny Red with Blotch’
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Gourmet Salad Mix
  • Irish Moss
  • Sedum ‘Firecracker’

How to Create a Mini Formal Garden:

  1. Line a container, box or old suitcase with heavy plastic in order to preserve it and keep the soil in one place.
  2. Fill with Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix and trim the excess plastic from the container to make it look clean and precise.
  3. Add plants. Remember to work from back to front adding height and texture to the miniature landscape. Use plants that will stay small, so they don’t outgrow your garden.
  4. Create a pathway. Cut photo paper to make a guide where you want the road to go. Mix water with shapecrete and pour between the photo paper. Let dry 30 minutes before removing the paper. It’ll continue to cure for 24 hours.
  5. Now is the time to set the formal scene and add in your elements. The little succulent hedge and gates are out favorite!
  6. Enjoy your new Mini Formal garden!

Use Espoma’s organic potting mix in your formal garden.

Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perlite vs. Vermiculite

Perlite or Vermiculite? How do you choose which one to use?

For Drainage and Aeration: Choose perlite
For Water Retention: Choose vermiculite

In this video, Laura from Garden Answer breaks down when to use which.

Perlite

  • Great for or Seed Starting or blending a custom potting mix
  • Helps loosen heavy soils and prevents compaction
  • White granular particles contain about 6% water
  • Neutral pH
  • Holds nutrients and 3-4 times it’s weight in water
  • Clean, odorless, sterile and non-toxic
  • Will not rot or mold
  • Lightweight substitute for sand
  • Can float to the top of potted plants due to its light weight

Vermiculite

  • Great for or Seed Starting or blending a custom potting mix
  • Helps loosen heavy soils and prevents compaction
  • Retains moisture and plant nutrients
  • Mixes well with soil
  • Clean, sterile, odorless, non-toxic

Dividing Aloe for Containers

Separating large aloe plants into several smaller ones is a wonderful way to propagate new plants to share with friends and family or to use in other projects. It’s also a great way to save money. The large Gold Tooth Aloe Laura from Garden Answer divides in this video cost $22 and produced over 20 new plants.

Aloes are desert plants that are hardy in zones 9-11, or to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  In cooler regions they may be grown in containers and brought indoors for the winter. Aloe is a clump-forming plant meaning they naturally produce many baby plants called offsets. Mature plants flower in late spring and early summer with bright orange-red blossoms that attract pollinators.

Six Steps to Separating the Offsets

  1. Gently slide the plant out of its container
  2. Wear gloves when handling succulents with sharp foliage
  3. Carefully tease the soil away from the roots
  4. Select an offset and follow its stem down to the spot that it’s attached to the main plant
  5. Break it off with gentle pressure, take your time to remove all of the others
  6. Remove dead, damaged or dried up leaves

Replanting the Mother Plant

It is always best to use fresh soil when repotting since the nutrients in the nursery potting soil are likely used up. All succulents and cacti need a free-draining, organic, potting soil like Espoma’s Cactus Mix. Roots will rot in wet soil. The main plant will still have plenty of roots and can be repotted. Wait to water it for about a week to allow the leaf scars to callous over. This helps to prevent disease and infections.

Photo courtesy of Garden Answer

Replanting the Offsets

The offsets all have open wounds where they were broken off from the main plant. The wounds need several days to dry and callus over. One method involves letting them dry on a table in bright, but indirect sunlight for 5-7 days before planting. They may also be planted right away but not watered in for a week.

Care and Feeding

Aloe prefers full sun to light shade. These plants are drought-resistant but container plants benefit from some extra water during the hottest days of summer. Feed regularly with an organic fertilizer like Espoma’s Cactus! Always follow the package directions.

Check out these blogs for more information about growing succulents and the secrets to their care.

Easy, Breeze Houseplants the Cool Your Home

How to Care For Succulents and Cacti in Winter

Succulent Success – What’s the Secret?

Espoma Products:

 

 

Plant your Window Boxes Like Garden Answer

Dressing up window boxes can add so much beauty and curb appeal to your home. They instantly greet you the moment you walk up to your home, brightening every day.

If you don’t have window boxes, just put a good sized container next to your front door and make the same combination in a smaller form.

If you have old soil in your window boxes, it’s best to remove it and start with fresh Organic Potting Soil from Espoma. In this case, Laura is only replacing half the soil because it was only used briefly in her window boxes last fall. Pour the new soil in until your planters are half full.

For these early spring window boxes and containers, you can take liberties with spacing and sun and shade preferences. The plants won’t actually grow much in cool climates, except for the daffodils. As you will see this combination contains both sun and shade-loving plants.

This gorgeous combination begins with Lenten rose, Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’. Their burgundy pink buds open to ivory with a pink blush on the back of the petals. These are the tallest plants in the combination and are planted in the back. Next, plant Martin’s spurge, Euphorbia ‘Tiny Tim’. The emerging foliage is deep red and picks up the reddish tones in the Lenten roses. A miniature Narcissus called ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is placed in between the spurge and will add a bright pop of yellow when they flower. Two varieties of pinkish apricot primrose are planted next and are interspersed with deep blue perennial violets.

This design is awfully clever for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it shows that it’s possible to create a sophisticated early spring display that can withstand very low temperatures. Secondly, it’s extremely economical. All of the plants in her palette, with the exception of the primrose, are perennial and will be planted out in her landscape in late spring. Having your plants do double duty is brilliant and saves money.

Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, get creative and try out different combinations or add branches for another design element. Have fun.

Espoma Products for Early Spring Window Boxes

 

Everything Old Can Be New Again with Terrariums

Terrariums are back in style and they’re a fun, easy way to grow and showoff your plants. Terrariums are made of glass and are generally enclose or have a few holes in the cover to provide fresh air. The glass cover traps humidity and recycles it as water, keeping waterings to a minimum. Air holes allow air to circulate and keep the condensation down so that you can see the plants. If your container’s lid doesn’t have air holes, just take the top off from time to time. This is a great way to grow ferns indoors because they need humidity to thrive.

 

You may not be familiar with hydrostone, a product used for the base layer. It’s a soilless growing media that feels like pumice. It helps deliver the perfect balance of air and water to your plants. It’s a 100 percent recycled product, made in the United States.

Begin by adding a one inch layer of hydrostone in your glass container. Top that with a solid layer of sphagnum moss. This helps hold the soil in place and keeps the stone layer looking clean. Next, add an inch or so of Espoma’s Potting Mix.

Choose your plants. Laura uses maidenhair ferns because they require a high level of humidity, which work perfectly for this type of container. Birds nest ferns and staghorn ferns also work well and look terrific with the curly foliage of the maidenhair ferns. Fern displays are all about texture. Gently remove the plants from their pots and shake off as much soil as you can before nestling them into the new container. Top with a bit more potting soil if necessary.

Decorate the top layer with more moss, rocks, miniature fairy garden figures or natural products like pinecones. Whatever you think will look beautiful is the best choice. Leave one little spot of the top soil open. This way you can look at it to gauge how wet or dry the soil is. Mist soil lightly.

At first, it’s a good idea to check your container once a week for watering needs. In general, they’ll only need water about once a month but each terrarium is slightly different. Don’t kill it with kindness, in other words, don’t over water it. Set your new creation in bright light but not direct sun light as the glass can act as a magnifying glass creating too much heat. Fertilize every other month with Espoma’s Indoor! Liquid fertilizer. Now, sit back and enjoy your very chic looking new art project.

Check out Garden Answer’s terrarium video.

Espoma Products for Fern Terrariums!