How to Plant a Terrarium

Wardian cases, or terrariums, were popular in the Victorian era since they allowed exotic plants from abroad to be displayed in temperate climes. Today Mary Ellen Gambutti is going to show us how to plant your own wardian case with bromeliads, step by step! She originally posted it on the Rainforest Garden Facebook page, but I thought that you guys would love to learn how she did it too.Here's Mary Ellen Gambutti's wonderful guest post, with descriptions to each photo.

(1) The Empty Case ~ A lucky find at Wegman's, begging to be planted with a selection of terrarium plants ~ How about Bromeliads?
(2) Nice selection of suitable Bromeliads from a specialty nursery in Fl., a piece of wood from the pet store (used for reptiles) to be used as a Tillandsia or 'Air Plant' mount, and a plastic plant saucer for a terrarium liner are ready.
(3) A 1" layer of gravel for drainage on the bottom...
(4) ...a layer of activated charcoal (also from pet store) to keep the terrarium air sweet...
(5) Soaking "frog moss". Squeeze to consistency of a sponge for the next layer.
(6) Layer the squeezed out wet moss over the charcoal and gravel for moisture.
(7) At the pet store, we found some nice fir bark to use as the medium...filled to the brim.
(8) Nice root system on this Neoregelia 'Chiquita Linda', a slow-growing rhizomatous Bromeliad.
(9) Healthy Neoregelia 'Chiquita Linda' :-)
(10) Next is Aechmea recurvata 'Red'... and I love it!
(11) The 3rd one is Aechmea nudicaulis 'Good Bands'. They all will have colorful blooms, so I'll update you!
(12) A bit of "frog moss" for decoration...
(13) Terrestrials are in the case...
(14) Here the first 'Air Plant', Tillandsia 'Concolor', is being tied onto the mounting stick with galvanized picture hanging wire.
(15) Meticulous work mounting the first Tillandsia....
((16) All Tillandsias mounted: (top to bottom) 2 Tillandsia 'Concolor', T. Ionatha 'Mexican', and Aechmea recurvata 'Ortgiesii'. The last can be grown either as a terrestrial or an 'Air Plant'.
(17) Wood and plants in place - featuring Aechmea recurvata 'Red'.
(18) Tillandsia 'Concolor', T. Ionatha 'Mexican'
(19) The final result with decorative stones and moss in place!
(20) Bright light, regular Bromeliad care including proper humidity and moisture, and good air circulation (there is ventilation in this case), and the terrarium should thrive!

Here are some more fun DIY projects here at The Rainforest Garden.
Tropical Vertical Garden
How to Make a Rainforest Drop
Design a Getaway Garden
How to Make a Gack-O-Lantern
How to Take Cuttings of Epiphytic Cacti
How I Made a Rain Garden


  1. Thanks for showing the meticulous steps in creating something so rich! The reward is well worth the time and care. Hmmm...ideas!

  2. I like it that you showed how to make the "stick" so that there's some vertical interest in it!

  3. Thank you,Steve, for the post and for the kind remarks! It was a fun project that has really been a focal point in the room! Just as did the Victorians, we still enjoy tropicals in our homes, and for us, in N.E. PA, we can experience the Bromeliads we would not otherwise be able to, by selecting those that do well in terrariums. Mary Ellen

  4. WOW!!! I have a Wardian Case and now I'm all inspired!! Thanks for the tips - like Katie, I appreciate the vertical element which can be hard to do with a Wardian.

  5. gosh, you've done it again!! Impressive, as usual. I must take part in this project - too pretty.

  6. This is beautiful! I have a few terrariums, but have never used wood chips, bromeliads or tillandsia. Mine are too short, I guess. But I might just have to expand my collection and try what you have so wonderfully explained through each step. Great post!

  7. That is gorgeous! Thanks, Steve for sharing it with us. I especially love the piece of wood with the tillandsias attached. Very cool!

  8. That is so cool! Thanks for sharing! You always do such inspiring things - I gotta try them out this summer!

  9. So pretty! The vertical element is the perfect touch. Now I'll be looking for the perfect container!

  10. Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing, and for the great instructions. Can't wait to try this.

  11. So beautiful and stylish Steve! :-)

    I recently went shopping for terrariums and held back from purchasing one because I thought it would be fun to make my own. Now I know how!

    Your step by step tutorial came and exactly the right time.


  12. Thanks, all, for the kind comments, and to you, Steve, for posting my how-to! I'm open to questions here....Mary Ellen

  13. Thank you for reposting this article here. The finish product is really beautiful! The tillandsias on the twig really capped it off.

  14. Thank you all for giving our guest poster Mary Ellen a warm welcome! I hope that I'll be able to share some of her other projects in the future!

  15. super cool! i just happen to have an empty latern like this just begging to be planted, thanks for the inspiration!!! =]

  16. Thank you. it has been reallyfun making showed the steps very clearly.oh!i can not express the helpp i got from these steps.thank you very mucH

  17. You are awesome ! This blog is so great. I really hope more people read this and get what you’re saying, because let me tell you, it is important stuff.

  18. Where can I find a plastic liner (18" x 18") for my square terrarium?


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!