Terrarium Update!

Mato & Hash Blog


Hey all! In our very first blog post, Sunday School Crafts to Keep Kids Engaged and Entertained, we included a fun take on terrariums with a Garden of Eden focus. Of course the terrariums you see in the post aren’t just studio magic, but real planted features that now live in the Mato & Hash office! Some may be skeptical of the longevity of such an endeavor, and we’re here today to show you how much these plants can really thrive in the right conditions!

     First up is our big guy, a one gallon lidded glass jar with two sweet succulents inside and an array of local moss. In this one went an echeveria “black prince” and crassula ovata “ET fingers”, or “gollum” variety of jade.

     The echeveria was healthy when purchased and quickly snuggled into its new home. As you can see there’s been quite a lot of growth, particularly in the stem portion, as the succulent reaches toward the window for light. 

These echeverias are typically planted in sunny, arid climates outside under full sun where they can soak up rays to their heart’s content. Although it is in a glass jar next to a huge window, our office is located in Michigan and the lil guy was planted in December, so it definitely needs to reach for optimal sunlight. The window is also West facing, meaning that it gets the most direct sun in the evening when sunlight is at its weakest, as opposed to if it were East facing and getting a lot of bright morning sun exposure.

     The crassula ovata in with it has also had quite a bit of new growth, and is doing relatively well! Most of the succulent leaves are plump and rigid with just a few here and there that are wrinkling. 

The wrinkling is a sign of lack of or inconsistent water, which makes sense considering we watered this terrarium sparingly from the start and haven’t replenished it much since. I regularly see a healthy amount of water droplets on the window facing side of the glass, but not so much that it creates any kind of fog. Generally succulents prefer to be on the drier side, and it’s always easier to rescue a plant from under watering than over.

     You can see that some of the moss in the jar is faring better than others due to these drier conditions. Moss typically tends to enjoy being quite moist, which may leave you thinking, then why put it in a terrarium with succulents? The answer is moisture retention! We want the environment in the jar to be efficient- soil that drains down quickly and evaporates from the substrate and gravel layers.

What we don’t want is moisture escaping from the soil’s surface and quickly depleting the closed container’s water supply, leaving the succulents out of balance and ultimately too dry. Since there’s such a little amount of water inside the jar, the soil needs to hold onto it long enough to nourish the plant roots. So far I think this system has worked well! And dry moss can always be spritzed with water locally to revive it.


     Our second, smaller jar was a somewhat experimental venture. The jar itself isn’t from a fancy home store nor was it ever meant to contain anything living other than the fermentation bacteria of the kimchi it originally carried! I always keep old glass jars, so it wasn’t especially labor intensive to utilize one here. Of course I cleaned it very thoroughly before using, including removing the label and all of its sticky residue (for aesthetic reasons). Speaking of aesthetics, we ultimately decided the white plastic lid that came with the jar was too ugly to leave up for decoration.

     To replace the top we improvised with some cling wrap that had copious small holes poked into it– an ever increasing number contingent with how much anxiety I had about the quickly forming jar fog. 

Ultimately I think the number of holes went on to hurt the terrarium, as this section of crassula ovata (you may remember from our original blog that the two crassula ovata pieces were purchased as a single plant) is wrinkled on nearly every leaf. Nothing a little extra water can’t fix, but it is certainly a sign of a too dry environment. Any moisture on the featured images is from a very recent, somewhat panicked watering!

     I think for long term maintenance a different covering solution will need to be implemented. Cork would work well and look nice, but the jar opening size is large and not really standard for cork plugs. Potentially the white lid could be put back on with some sort of burlap or other decorative fabric draped overtop, as is displayed in our original photos. The moss in this jar also reflects a dry environment, and most of it is dried at least or browned at worst. I still find them more visually pleasing than bare dirt however.

 A neat feature in this terrarium is the protruding sporophytes on some patches of moss. These stalks are much akin to a plant's flower, not only in that they’re interesting and beautiful, but that their function is to help the plant reproduce. Mosses, like fungi, reproduce via spores carried through the air or by a passing animal. These sporophyte tips each contain millions of tiny spores, and reach them above the most surface hoping to catch a breeze or wandering creature. Then, all a moss spore needs to grow is water! Given this jar’s stagnant, dry condition, I don’t think a new crop of mosses will be emerging from the soil anytime soon. But who knows, with a new lid and more regular maintenance it might just become a moss growing haven!

     So there you have it– the official 4ish month update on our miniature Gardens of Eden. Some care plans to be adjusted, but ultimately our green friends are quite pleased with their arrangements. There’s nothing wrong with reevaluating your plant’s needs and adjusting its conditions accordingly, even in what’s meant to be a closed environment. That’s what makes an attentive plant parent!

     Sounds off in the comments about your experiences keeping moss or succulents in a terrarium environment!


About the Author

Olivia is a designer from the Detroit area who's been working at Mato & Hash for over a year now developing apparel designs and web content. She loves gardening, activism, and BLTs.

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