September 29, 2013

  • Under Glass

    Maybe y’all have had a similar problem. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been going on, but I am baffled. There are several of you who have green thumbs, so I hope you can either tell me what the issue is or how to think about it.

    A few months ago (June), realizing that my home is rather sterile, I undertook to convert some old glass containers into terrariums (terraria?). I thought it would be nice to have some living things in the house. Plus, this was kind of a cool way to up-cycle some defunct glass containers I had.

    I laid a layer of rocks a couple inches deep and then another layer of soil (I left out the charcoal–I couldn’t find any at the store and I had an afternoon to do the project, so I just thickened the layer of rocks since the charcoal is mostly about drainage). I had already picked out plants that had similar light and water requirements. I can’t tell you what the plants I got were, but one had tiny leaves with pink spots/splatters and grew kind of bushy close to the ground. The other one was relatively taller and felt much waxier. It was variegated–yellowish and green in color. In each of the small pots I had, there were multiple plants, so I split them and put half in each of the two glass containers I had. After the “potting” process, I had two glass containers, each with two types of plants in them. I thought it was a rather handsome addition to my eating area.

    For a while things were going well. Being in the eating area, they never received direct sunlight, but got plenty of it in the afternoon. Both containers have removable lids, so when the sides got really foggy I just took the lids off to let things air out a bit. Since they are terrariums, I didn’t really have to water them–there was usually at least some visible moisture around the rocks at the bottom. But, I did water when things looked dry or limp.

    Sadly, one day I noticed that the pinkish plant had turned dark and got very limp. Within a few days, it was almost completely indistinguishable from the soil. In the meant time, the same plant in the other jar was doing well, as were the other plants. A few weeks later, the same thing happened to the plant of the same species in the other jar.  Recently, the waxier, taller plant in one of the jars also turned really dark and limp. And again, the plant is indistinguishable from the soil.

    So, of the four “plantings” I had in the two jars to start with, I have one surviving plant–but it’s survival chances don’t look so great in the scheme of things. My impression is that it looks like their environment got too humid and something (bacteria, fungus, etc.) got to them. But, I’m certain.

    SO! If anyone knows what’s happening to these plants, please let me know. I will field any suggestions. If I had a camera–or a smart phone that was actually smart enough to establish communication with my computer–I’d post pictures. But, that’s not the case, so I don’t.

    And really, it’s not that big a deal–the plants were small and inexpensive. I think I paid $5 for the both of them. Long ago I made a decision not to worry about mistakes that cost less than $10. But, the curiosity is killing me. Plus, I am considering getting some new plans to put in there (with fresh soil), so I don’t want to make the same mistakes if I can avoid it.

Comments (4)

  • It sounds like a fly or sorts got in and started munching your plants making them weakened and susceptible to a fungus… hard to tell but I’d examine the surviving plant to make sure you don’t see any little bugs.

    • I checked for bugs and there weren’t any. This morning the survivor looked a little wilty. I thought he was just thirsty since the soil looked kind of dry. But, I watered him a couple hours ago and he hasn’t perked back up. Where the stems attach to the main stalk have gotten dark. He may be falling the same way. *sigh* I’m wondering if they got too hot–there were a couple days where I turned of the A/C when I was traveling. So, maybe I’ll have a better play-by-play in the future. Thanks for your feedback, though–I don’t think I would have thought buggies.

  • I never put a lid on my terrariums. And you don’t need to water them at all. If you MUST cover them, do so with a thin Saran wrap plastic for a couple of hours OCCASIONALLY. You did every thing right, except putting the lid on and watering. A couple of bugs in the jars will not hurt the environment within it.

    All the best with your next venture.

    • That’s good to know. The containers I’m using are both pretty wide-mouthed–one is an old, big pickle jar; the other is one of those beverage serves with a spigot, but the spigot never worked right. I thought that too much moisture would escape…but after you said something, I looked it up, and you’re right. I’m thinking that the little plants just got too warm/humid in their jars without a way to cool down.

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