grow your own – May 2013

If you’re a gardener with indoor cats, you know it’s difficult to decorate your home with plants. Felines love to eat the foliage and dig in the soil, leaving an ugly mess. What’s a cat-rich gardener to do? My secret to keeping houseplants tidy is to display them under glass!
Terrariums are clear containers with lids – mini greenhouses that not only provide a perfect environment for plants, but also create a space to display your miniature figurines, shells, stones and driftwood. Your indoor garden is limited only by your imagination and the size of your container, which can be as simple as a cookie jar or as ornate as an antique Victorian Wardian case.
Choose small plants in 1-to 2-inch pots at your local nursery, or select favorites from your garden, making sure they all have similar light and water needs. Combine a few cups of pea gravel with about a half cup of garden charcoal, mix well, rinse thoroughly, and drain. Layer this mixture in your container to about 1/5 its depth. Cut a piece of fabric, fine screen, or weed cloth (I used a piece of sheer curtain material) to cover the gravel mixture so the soil doesn’t sink in. This sets the stage for good drainage.
Add a 1/5-depth layer of sterile potting soil. Use a flat object to firm it down and add some contour to the landscape, if desired. A cork on a bamboo skewer works well for this task. Gently add your plants, firming the soil around the roots to hold them in place. Include one or two miniature figurines, some shells, pea gravel (or whatever strikes your fancy) to complement your garden. Add only enough water to moisten, not drench, the soil. Use a paper towel to clean the inside glass of any stray soil or plant debris. Put on the lid and place your terrarium in a spot that gets bright light, but not direct sunlight, which will burn the foliage. If condensation appears, remove the lid for a few hours or until the glass is clear again. Water only when the soil is nearly dry, every few weeks or possibly longer.
Recently I attended the “Blooms Galore and More” plant sale and festival at the Garden Club of Jacksonville. One vendor had a display of very clever terrariums. Kinsey McCullough is the owner/designer of Terrarium Creations & More, a home-based business that is just getting started. Her terrariums are made from many different types of containers and depict delightful and whimsical scenes, from a fairy garden to a camping expedition to an outdoor wedding. Kinsey’s dominant plant material is moss, and her terrariums can be created to represent a specific theme or event. Her online shop should be open by mid-May, so check it out at for that perfect wedding or birthday gift.
Refer to for more details on designing and building terrariums. Growing your own indoor, miniature garden can be just as satisfying as gardening in the great outdoors. It’s certainly not limited to just cat owners.

About Aline Clement

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.