One of the best things about terrariums is that they don’t require a lot of tools to maintain. While you can buy small garden tools that are perfect for terrariums (which we”ll get into later), it’s likely that you’ve got everything you need lying around the house somewhere. The best tools for terrariums are small and precisely made, with long handles that allow you to reach into your terrarium container, as they often have a narrow opening. If you’re building your terrarium in a large open container like an old aquarium, it’s still helpful to have smaller tools than the average gardener would use out of doors. Even a normal garden trowel is difficult to handle in a space like that, and you definitely don’t want to break or scratch your terrarium container!
The bare minimum tools you’ll need for terrarium planting are:
- A miniature trowel
- A miniature pair of shears or clippers
- A water mister or spray bottle
Other tools depend on your specific terrarium setup and what plants you’ve chosen to include. An eye dropper can be useful for watering desert plants like cacti, and you may want some pH testing strips to determine the pH balance of the soil you’re using.
Choosing Your Miniature Terrarium Trowel
Often, the best thing to use for a trowel is a spoon. It does more or less the same job as a garden trowel, but it’s already conveniently hand-sized. It’s not quite as good as the real thing, but it will do the trick quite nicely. If you have a spoon you can dedicate to the task, it might be useful to adjust the shape of the bowl a bit so that it is closer to a traditional trowel shape.
Depending on the container you use, however, you may find that it’s difficult to actually plant your tiny terrarium plants in the soil, so it’s time to get a little bit DIY creative. Find another spoon, but this time make it a plastic spoon – a cheap, lightweight one from a delivery restaurant or something similar is perfect – and find a cigarette lighter or matches. (Kids, make sure you get your parents to do this part for you! Make sure you do this outside or in a well-ventilated area, as plastic smoke is both gross and potentially harmful.) Gently warm the plastic handle just above the bowl of the spoon until the plastic becomes soft and malleable, and then bend the spoon at a 90 degree angle so that it’s shaped like the a capital letter ‘L’. Let the plastic cool and harden into its new shape, and then wash off any residue that might have built up around the place where you heated the plastic to be sure you don’t harm your plants, or get toxic chemicals into your soil. Now you’ve got the perfect gardening tool for lowering your seedlings and other terrarium plants into your container!
Choosing Your Terrarium Pruning Shears
Any garden needs some occasional pruning to ensure that it looks its best, and a terrarium is no different. In fact, a terrarium will probably need to be pruned even more regularly than a outdoor garden, because it is such a confined space with very little room for plants to expand and grow. You’ll have to keep a close eye on your terrarium (though you’d be doing that anyways, of course, right?) to make sure that your terrarium plants don’t get overgrown and start to get damaged by being pressed up against the sides of your chosen container. The solution? Pruning shears.
Like your trowel, you’re going to need a much smaller set of pruning shears than you would use for an outdoor garden. If you’re not willing to lay out any money on your tools, you can probably get away with using a pair of scissors that you have lying around the house, but they are not going to be the best choice. If you do decide to use them, though, make sure they are very tight (many pairs of scissors have a screw at the joint for tightening the two blades) and make sure they are very sharp. Dull scissors will do more harm than good, as they are more likely to break the plants apart rather than actually cutting them.
If you do want to purchase a pair of miniature pruning shears, there are a wide variety available that are originally designed for use with bonsai trees which should do a great job for terrarium plants as well. Take a look at some of the options below in a nice wide price range, and select some that are best suited for the kind of terrarium container you’re using.
Choosing Your Terrarium Water Mister
Many new gardeners think that they can recycle any old spray bottle for use with their gardens – and they couldn’t be more wrong. Depending on what was in the spray bottle originally, there may be trace amounts of chemicals and other residue that will be deadly for your plants. Washing these out thoroughly with soap and water may still not be good enough to clean out every last bit of chemical residue, and in a closed ecosystem like a terrarium, even the smallest bit of toxins can be deadly to the whole setup. Most local garden stores and hardware stores sell miniature spray bottles that have never been used before for anything, and these are probably your best choice – and they’re not even very expensive at all. Again, the misters used by bonsai enthusiasts can be great tools, so check out the selection below to see if any of them fill the bill.
Of course, if you’re working on a desert terrarium or one with low humidity, you might want to skip the water mister and stick with a small watering can. If you decide to go that route, make very very sure that you’re not going to accidentally overwater your terrarium, which is easy to do in such a small space.