Need desert terrarium instructions

Ross Koning Koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Tue Jan 7 10:11:20 EST 1997

At  5:17 AM 1/2/97 +0000, Penina Freedenberg wrote:
>I teach 3rd grade and would like to make a desert terrarium with my
>class.  Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I would need and the
>best way to go about this?


My suggestions for a desert terrarium are simple.
First, don't try for a closed terrarium...too humid.
Rather go for a "dish-garden" concept.  The container
should have excellent drainage (succulent plants have
roots that are very sensitive to over-watering and
oxygen-reduction).  I would put the first layer of
substrate (soil) as some kind of pebbles for additional
air-space.  If you are going to use some kind of a
peat-based potting soil, I would mix it half-and-half
with perlite.  Lacking that, I would use sand to mix
with the peat.  Some succulent plants like really
chalky soil (high pH) so you could add a small amount
of ground limestone to the soil as well...maybe a half-cup
to a gallon (English units, Yuck!).

For watering, be sure that you never over-water.  If
you stick your finger down about an inch (EU,Y!) and it
feels slightly moist (cool) then don't water yet.  Wait
until the probe feels dry (warm) before watering.  The
fertilizer should be dilute and relatively infrequent...
maybe 1/4 strength (or less) and maybe every-other-month.
Light should be strong!  Indoor light is usually way-too-
few photons!  Sunlight in a south window is best...but
only if your container is OPEN to release the solar gain
(heat).  Most succulents respond well to a dry season
(summer) with low fertility followed by a less-dry season
(winter) with additional fertility.  They usually flower
with that kind of regime.

Remember, the keys to cacti are DRAINAGE and BRIGHT LIGHT.

Good Luck!


Ross Koning                 | Koning at
Biology Department          |
Eastern CT State University | Phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT  06226  USA | Fax: 860-465-5213

                Plant Physiology is Phun!

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 /\ | |__|=        NH       |  || ||           //\//\
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  COOH        H2C=CH2         N  NH

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