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Reconstructive Surgery (Terrarium v.4, Take 5)

First, congrats to Tara, the lucky winner of a 16″x20″ giclée from The Print Shop! Thank you to all who entered and encouraged us to get up and running in the first place. You’re awesome. See all available prints (based on your votes) right here!

We’d been doing so good with our houseplants for a good, long time. Our cute banana plant was strong and green, and our most recent terrarium has been thriving for months. Months! Considering it was our fourth attempt, this is a pretty big deal. But just as we started getting cocky, the dry winter air settled over our home and started taking things out. (That jerk.) The banana plant? It has, like, 3 leaves left. And the terrarium? Well, it had seen better days:

We’ve accepted that we’re not green thumbs (and we’ve apologized, too), but we’re still learning the ropes of what keeps each leafy guy happy. Maybe one day we’ll get it! Unfortunately for now, we didn’t alter our watering schedule with the changing seasons – ugh, so much to learn! – but the good news is that our terrarium still had a fighting chance.

Just like many, many other blog lovers, I fell in love with all the terrariums that were creeping into my Reader, and for practical reasons – i.e., our Maddie can’t eat the plants if they’re covered in big, glass vessels – Scott and I jumped on that bandwagon. And although our first attempt didn’t make it, we tried and tried again.

For a while I started to think that, well, terrariums must have a shelf life! I mean, right? (No, really, do they?) But since attempt #4 is still hanging on after four months, I thought we’d revisit and update. A little reconstructive surgery was in order, and in true photo fashion, here’s how we saved its life (hopefully!). For all you fellow black thumbs, this one’s for you. We can do it!

SO, IN (OTHER) WORDS…

  • After pulling out all our accessories (penguin, decorative rocks, air plants and billy buttons), we trimmed the dead, scooped the fallen and re-packed the soil around the living.
  • Before putting the accessories back in, I spent a good chunk of time cleaning the inside of the glass, making sure to really wipe off water spots and dried soil.
  • I followed that with an even watering and re-staged the terrarium extras, switching it up a bit and moving items around to new nooks.
  • For extra credit, I swapped out the old billy buttons completely, replacing them with new ones from my secret stash (because yes, they’re always on hand around here!). I’ve found that not only do the old ones get dusty, but all the moisture leaves them slightly moldy, too.

For four months we watered, pulled off dead sprigs and wiped down the outside of our vase, but holy moly, it was well worth the effort to take 30 minutes and really address our sad plant’s state. Silly us for waiting so damn long. New signs of life are budding (or is that what we’re telling ourselves?), and I’m telling you, this one – yes, Terrarium v.4 – is the one that’s going to last.

We’re nothing if not persistent.

How do you keep your terrariums thriving?

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  • Hannah K3.6.13 - 7:27 AM

    I’ve been wanting to make a terrarium SO bad. I too am a “black thumb” and have such a hard time keeping greenery in the house — but I love it so much!!ReplyCancel

  • Kim3.6.13 - 9:26 AM

    Hannah, yes, it’s super sad for Scott. If it were up to him, we’d have more plants than anything else!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble Abode3.6.13 - 10:59 AM

    Total black thumb here. Funny that keeping plants alive is more difficult than a human or animal. Why is that?! Orchid, dead within a month. Mini rose plant, nearly dead within a week. I had almost given up on it and moved to from the bright, sunny spot to the darker kitchen window. (Where I put plants to remember to water them which becomes the plant graveyard). I kept watering it and surprisingly, it came back to life! New green leaves and fresh growth.

    So, maybe your light amount isn’t ideal? We’re also having success growing grass seed in small indoor planters. If all else fails, I buy fake succulents (the most realistic fake I’ve found) and pop ’em in a dark spot. No watering or care and it adds life to an area it wouldn’t otherwise grow.ReplyCancel

  • MJ3.6.13 - 9:21 PM

    I love this terrarium!

    I always dream of having a giant garden that I could wander through where I can grab an orange off a tree and enjoy it right there. Alas, my little patio hardly gets any sun and only allows me to grow succulents. (I secretly think this is a blessing though because I know I don’t have the skills to grow an orange tree)

    MJ
    http://thehappinesshypothesis.blogspot.com/ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.7.13 - 8:06 AM

      Amanda, black thumbs unite! :)

      MJ, an ORANGE TREE. Now that right there sounds like heaven.ReplyCancel

  • Helen3.7.13 - 1:36 AM

    Hi Kim, I buy cactus mix and fertilizer from California Cactus Center. . The guy at the shop said cactus mix at places like Home Depot is not as pure as they mix it with other dirt. Hope you have a similar place like this in Chicago? Maybe order online to try?ReplyCancel

  • Kim3.7.13 - 8:04 AM

    Helen, good call – I should have mentioned that we do use cactus soil! The good news is that this is our longest living terrarium yet, so hopefully our reconstructive surgery will help keep it that way.ReplyCancel

  • Marlene @ Jade and Fern3.20.13 - 12:47 PM

    Come on, penguin terrarium, you can do it!ReplyCancel

  • Kim3.20.13 - 12:52 PM

    Marlene, ha! C’mon, little guy!ReplyCancel

  • Arielle8.5.14 - 5:03 PM

    have you ever tried watering your plants with ice cubes?ReplyCancel

    • Kim8.5.14 - 5:06 PM

      I think we’re doomed with (mostly) closed terrariums! Next time we give it a go, I’m absolutely trying the ice cube route.ReplyCancel

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