Indoor Plant Care: How to Refresh a Terrarium

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When you have been tending to for as long as I have, you?ll find that over time those healthy little plants have sucked up all of the nutrients and moisture in the soil and it could be time for a little maintenance. To refresh a terrarium, I like to change the soil once each year, which is also great timing to check the design and make any adjustments.Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

You don?t have to disassemble the whole thing and start over; just a quick 15-minute terrarium refresh will give you another year of beauty to enjoy.

I do my refresh without having to remove the plants, but you can certainly if the plants are either overgrown or dead. I do this every few years because I like to change up the design as well as improve the plants.Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

Not all terrariums need to be completely made over each year, however. This little glass terrarium was planted a few years ago and looked like this:

Terrarium refresh

Now, here it is after two years:Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

I think that it is still looking lovely with the plant growing up and through the holes in the top and draping over in a darling way. I would not be able to remove the plant without damaging it.

The soil, however, is not looking as good. It is dry and lifeless and it no longer holds water well. There are also a few root balls in the terrarium of plants past. A refresh is really all that this terrarium needs. Here?s how to do it.

Start by removing everything in the terrarium that is not rooted down.

Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

Then, remove the old soil by gently loosening it around the roots, keeping the plant roots intact and in place.

When everything is removed, it is a great time to give the terrarium glass a good wash. I use a soft cloth and homemade vinegar cleaner.

Next, fill in the terrarium with fresh indoor potting soil. Be sure to use soil specifically for indoor potting to avoid introducing annoying critters like soil gnats to your terrarium. Water the soil well.Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

Add any new plants that you have adopted and redesign the decorative features. , bark, stones, and more can make for a natural and interesting terrarium design.Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

Refresh a terrarium annually to keep it gorgeous and healthy

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Small space gardens are as easy as one, two, three with these three simple strategies for designing the container of your dreams! You don?t have to be a pro to create eye-catching planters that look like they came from the most stylish nursery in town. By following a few simple guidelines, you?ll be able to create an endless variety of stunning arrangements that will add new life to your home, patio, or yard.

A stunning multicolored container <a href=garden winds replacement canopy for the windsor gazebo standard 350 beige_700032 planted using expert Jessica Walliser's design secrets" data-lazy-srcset="// 600w, 216w, 400w" data-lazy-sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" data-jpibfi-post-excerpt="" data-jpibfi-post-url="" data-jpibfi-post-title="Three Quick and Easy Design Secrets From a Container Garden Pro" data-jpibfi-src="//" data-lazy-src="//" width="100%">

Organic gardening pro Jessica Walliser?s book is the essential guide to small-space gardening. It contains a ton of great projects and ideas for growing all sorts of container gardens, and today Jessica is here to share her top three container garden design strategies. To get detailed instructions on how to plant the containers shown in this post, plus lots more useful tips and creative projects,

Cover image of Container Gardening Complete by Jessica Walliser

Three Strategies for Successful Container Garden Design

by Jessica Walliser
Much like designing your home, good container garden design is a matter of personal aesthetics. There will be color combinations that appeal to you and others that won?t. The trick is to find what you love.

But good design clearly extends way beyond color choice. It?s also about partnering foliage and floral forms and textures in a pleasing manner and pairing vegetables, fruits, and herbs in a way that yields a good harvest.

And, it?s not just about combining the right plants with each other, but also with the right container. When it comes to planting beautiful containers, there are three primary concepts to keep in mind as you create your designs.

 1. Get the Proportion Right

Plantings that aren?t in the correct proportion with their container look off-kilter, top heavy, too dense, or flat, depending on which direction the designer erred. Even if your aim is to create a naturalistic container rather than one that looks planted, proportion is important.

The rule of thirds is an excellent guide to maintaining proportion in both container gardening and floral design. Begin by looking at the height of your container.

For good proportion, your container should comprise either ? or 2/3 of the total height of the plants and container combined, with the height of the plantings taking up the remainder. In other words, you should strive for a container-to-plantings height ratio of 1:2 or 2:1. The container won?t be in perfect proportion until the plants reach their mature height, but most container plants grow quickly, and it won?t be long before the correct pot-to-plant proportion is achieved.

Small pot with abstract red design planted with purple flowers and foliage and placed on a concrete pedestal outdoors.

Here is an excellent example of a container design in proper proportion. The purple stems of the thriller plant, plectranthus, are highlighted by the purple leaves of the shamrock plant, and the balance and simplicity of the design are quite nice.

Container Garden Design Tip: to keep the plants in any container design in proper proportion with the container itself, be prepared to do some trimming and pinching throughout the season.

2. Designate a Focal Point

Another goal for container garden design is having a single focal point. A focal point can be very direct and obvious, or more subtle. Often the largest plant in your design becomes a natural focal point because of its size alone, but fun focal points can also be based on a jazzy color, bold leaf texture, variegated foliage, or a narrow, vertical element. No matter what you choose, use only one primary focal point for each container. Multiple focal points can be very distracting.

interesting foliage and pink flowers planted in a decorative black pot.

This striking combination of plants is very bold, and it thrives in even the densest shade. There are only three plants in this container, but it?s lush and full of interesting textures and leaf forms and has an eye-catching focal point.

Container Garden Design Tip: this combination of plants looks great when partnered with a dark container. Choose black, slate blue, or dark gray to really make the plants ?pop.?

3. Create Balance

Well-conceived designs always have good balance, too, both vertically and horizontally. Proper balance keeps a container planting from looking lopsided or top heavy.

A tall, narrow container planted with a tree will always look like it?s ready to topple over because the top-to-bottom visual balance is off. Or, if you?re planting a window box or another long container, keep the tallest plant toward the center or have two or three of them spread out through the entire length of the pot.

However, note that balance does not necessarily mean symmetry. You don?t have to use identical plants to get good balance, just select ones that balance each other in terms of visual weight.

Large gray-blue square container planted with variegated foliage in shades of pink, green, yellow, and white

I love the soft, rustic blue of this container partnered with the pink, tropical-looking caladiums and the striking variegation of the begonia.

Container Garden Design Tip: this design would also look nice with an added spiller plant. If you?d like to include a few plants to cascade over the edge of the container, consider using silver falls, creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), or white or pale pink bacopa (Sutera cordata).

Cover image of Container Gardening Complete by Jessica Walliser

About the Author

Horticulturist is the and an award-winning garden columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. She is a regular contributor to many national magazines, including Fine Gardening and Hobby Farms. Jessica is a co-owner of and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of The American Horticultural Society. Her company, , creates unique urban farming and gardening t-shirts to help gardeners grow in style. Jessica has authored five gardening books. Her newest title, , was released in December of 2017. She?s a big fan of plants, insects, microbes, and cupcakes ? not necessarily in that order.

Printed with permission from  by Jessica Walliser, ? 2017. Published by Cool Springs Press. Photography provided by Cool Springs Press.

Find more info on container gardening in these posts

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