Dino Battle! (and Building a Terrarium)

As mentioned here, we already made the first leap towards building a terrarium. I know, big deal, so we bought the vessel – but dang, that was not easy to find! From too-high price points to chintzy fish bowls at the hobby stores, we just weren’t finding the one. Well, you know, until we did.

Finally feeling mentally prepared, we headed to Sprout Home for the greenery. Originally hoping for a succulent filled vase, we were admittedly bummed to find out we would be unable to provide the proper light. Knowing our terrarium would ultimately sit on our media wall (seen here) and not a sun-packed windowsill, the friendly staff advised us to stick with ferny leaves and ground covering moss – which hold up well in bright, indirectly lit environments – perfect for us. We left the garden hot spot (seriously, if you’re in the Chicago area, you’ve gotta get to Sprout) with a teeny pot of club moss and a variation of Peperomia. We loved how crazy vibrant they were, and the Peperomia had a nice, meaty leaf with promises of conical white flowers. Of course we advise talking to your local plant experts (or even your green-thumbed pal) about your home lighting environment before purchasing based on prettiness. Which is so not what we were planning to do (har-har).

But on to the building. You’ll see we have 3 layers going on, from the bottom up: crushed rock for drainage, charcoal (keeps the soil fresh), and potting soil. We learned that the general rule is that your vessel should be filled at least 1/3 of the way once all the layers are in place, with your soil layer being as deep as your largest root ball – in our case, it was the 4″ ground covering moss. We used white aquarium gravel for our drainage level (but any gravel, stones, or craft-store pebbles would do the trick) and regular potting soil. Our charcoal was borrowed from a friend, but most garden stores will have this in stock.


Next, we added our plants. This was, um, stressful. Then again, take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m a bona fide Polly Panic and break a sweat when things don’t go perfect on the first take. The small opening, while large enough for my hands, was still constricting and awkward, but after I took a moment to calm down, it all worked out. (Watching Scott’s big boy hands dig around was enough to induce a near-on heart attack, so perhaps let’s leave that part to the ladies, yeah?) Like I said, a grain of salt.


For the final touches, we beheaded two Billy Buttons (omg, love those), sprinkled in a few plastic flowers, and created a dinosaur battlefield. Ooh, dino battle! In a flowerfield! All items were found at Sprout, but I did use acrylic paint to glitz up the T-Rex and what we think is a Triceratops – although sans horns, so who knows.


Scott’s been having too much fun role playing for the dinos (okay, so have I), and I’ll often hear exaggerated raawr!s coming from the living room. We’re still deciding on names. Any suggestions?


Upon completion, we gave it a good watering, making sure the soil was visibly wet. Since then, we’ve misted the plants with a water spritzer, and we were specifically told to give a a more substantial watering if the soil’s looking parched (although misting between regular waterings should avoid that).

Remember to have fun with layering your rocks and soil – uneven landscaping can certainly add interest, and it’ll most definitely provide rough and tough terrain for your animal figurines! Pruning along the way is also a must, snipping off any dead leaves and removing any dust that might collect in your vessel. And for a full blown tutorial on DIY terrariums, check out this guide, which we referenced more than once during our own process.

Any other plant-filled-vessel-fillers out there? It’s been a good week since we finished ours, and we’re happy to report healthy, happy plants (alongside a very serious dino battle, of course). But a week of fresh plants is a near record for our broken thumbs. In other words, we’re eager to scoop up any other tips and tricks for lively greenery. Let’s hear it, green thumbs.


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