Difference Between Closed and Open Terrariums?

The term terrarium is derived from the Latin word terra meaning “land” and arium meaning “place” or “home”. A terrarium is a miniature garden housed in a glass container and they are the current rage here in Singapore. Being low maintenance and taking up little space, terrariums are perfect for Singaporeans who don’t have a green thumb or do not have the time to care for a garden, yet would still like some greenery in the home or office. There are two types of terrariums – closed and open terrariums. Let’s explore the differences between these two terrariums.

Closed Terrariums

EcoPonics Terrarium - Corporate Workshop
Closed Terrariums created at EcoPonics Workshop

Closed terrariums have a lid to enclose the plants entirely within the glass container. Moisture from the soil and plants evaporate in the slightly higher temperature inside the terrarium. This water vapour condenses on the walls of the glass container, and falls back to the plants and soil below. With this constant supply of water, the plants will not become too dry and wilt. A small scale water cycle is created within the terrarium, making it mostly self-sufficient. The glass container allows light to pass through for the plants to photosynthesize. However, they should not be placed under direct sunlight as it can cause the glass to heat up, cooking your plants.

The environment within a closed terrarium makes it ideal for moisture loving plants such as the Fittonia. Ferns, ivy and mosses are also popular for closed terrariums. The moisture in closed terrariums is constantly recycled, so they need minimal care. A layer of condensation on the inside of the glass container is normal and part of the water cycle within the terrarium. Water does not need to be added often; fortnightly or once a month is sufficient. At least once a month, the lid of the container should be taken off for about 10-20 minutes to let it air out.

Fittonia White
White Fittonia is suitable for closed terrariums.


Open Terrariums

Open terrariums do not require a lid. It is perfect for plants that prefer drier conditions and do not require a moist environment. Unlike closed terrariums, open terrariums do not have a water cycle since it is open to the air around us. This means that open terrariums have to be watered more frequently especially in Singapore’s climate; about once a week, or when you notice the soil is dry and leaves are drooping.

Most houseplants can be housed in an open terrarium, but succulents and cacti are especially popular as they require low maintenance.

A terrarium adds a sense of tranquility and peace to areas where space is limited, such as desks, countertops and night tables. Bring a little of that outdoor beauty into your home or office.

Check out EcoPonics’ terrarium workshops for Corporate clients here

or buy your own DIY/ready made terrarium here.



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