How to Create a Garden That’s Nearly Impossible to Kill

Can’t seem to keep a houseplant without killing it? Then you need to read this. We got the secrets straight from Brooklyn Plantology by Lapide’s gardening guru Mary Ann Rounseville.
  1. Decide on Open or Closed

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville
    Before you begin building your terrarium (yes, terrariums are the secret for all you black thumbs) decide if you should create an open or closed one. We went with a closed version that had a glass cloche top, which is best for tropical plants. A closed terrarium creates its own environment (just think of a mini-version of ‘90s flick, Bio Dome) that sets its own ideal temperature as it recycles water and air, allowing tropical varieties to flourish. Open terrariums with succulents and cacti are best for warm climates that receive lots of direct light.
  2. Gather Your Materials

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville
    What you’ll need: 
  3. A glass container (open or closed)
  • Activated charcoal pieces
  • Potting soil (we like the organic type)
  • Smooth stones
  • Gloves (if you want to save your mani)
  • Terrarium plants (ferns, moss and other leafy greens for closed; succulents and cacti for open)
  • Spray bottle
  • Trowel
  • Lay Your Foundation

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville

    Proper drainage is required to keep your plants happy, and while it may sound complicated, it’s super-easy to set. Start with a base layer of small pieces of charcoal that’s spread evenly. Arrange a single layer of stones on top of the charcoal, which will lift plants and help build a little ecosystem that drains, rains and grows strong. 

  • Mix Your Soil

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville

    Make your petite plants sing with a mix of customized dirt made from the remaining charcoal and (organic) potting soil. Dirt don’t hurt, so get your hands in there and mix around until it’s about a 70-to-30 ratio of soil to charcoal. 

  • Place Your Soil

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville

    Using your trowel, rest your custom soil over the stones. Don’t be shy about laying it on thick—you’ll need lots of material to work with. And if you have room, like we did in our big mama of a cloche, make a mound that you can work off of to tier your plants for top viewing potential. For added oomph, put a rim of single stones around the edge to hold the soil in place while adding visual texture.

  • Place Your Plants

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville

    Start with the largest shrub (we used a colorful red-veined prayer plant) and then arrange the plants however you want. The only rule is you should leave some space for them to grow. We completed our full (glass) house by adding Irish moss, varying sizes of ruffle ferns and polka dot plants for a pop of pink.


    Check out the uber-green terrarium inspiration that our expert created on Pinterest
  • The Finishing Touch

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville
    Plant a final layer of Irish moss, the hyper-green carpet of the gardening world, around the perimeter, which adds great texture and will hold soil in place. Tip: If you’re using a larger piece of moss, break it up into smaller ones so you don’t overwhelm the entire terrarium. After planting, gently press the soil to extricate any air pockets, as fewer air bubbles means a happier terrarium.
  • Spritz and Spray

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville

    Simply spray your plants with a water bottle; there’s no need to overwater your newly assembled closed terrarium. The moisture from the soil and breathing greens will circulate its own watering system.

    Check out Brooklyn Plantology by Lapide here

  • Top It Off

    Photo by Mary Ann Rounseville
    After all your plants have found their home, gingerly add the glass lid, making sure to not amputate any leaves. A chopstick comes in handy to shift around larger leaves so they grow top-side up. Play around with the lid so it rests evenly on the soil. Then, give yourself a round of applause—this assemblage of plants just gave you a green thumb. Remember: Bio Dome! It’s a self-contained tiny ecosystem, which means no watering!

    Here are some additional pitfalls to avoid:
  • Too much light (you’ll roast them alive)
  • Too little light (try for indirect sunlight)
  • Prune occasionally so they it doesn’t turn into Plants Gone Wild
  • Remove dying leaves to avoid a plantdemic
  • Clean glass with a lint-free cloth