Blooming Potential-My Terrarium Experience (Part 1)

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Chicago Chad

Well-Known Member
Apr 23, 2013
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It was suggested that I share my growing experiences with terrariums and how I set them up. So since I like talking plants more than anything else, here it is.

(In the beginning…)

I’ve been growing orchids for about 5-6 yrs. In this time I have tried to grow many different Genus of orchids. Some turned out better than others. Halfway through this time, I had to give up my orchid collection (about 150 plants) and move across the country as a result of many continuous bad decisions. Rather than sulk over my previous plants, now departed, I became determined to really focus my collection within a few choice areas. I spend more time researching orchids than growing them so I have a fairly detailed understanding of cultural requirements. With those in mind, I had to create an environment that allowed them to flourish. Due to limitations in my budget, my current and unforgiving geographical location and so on, I decided that growing in terrariums (orchidariums or whatever you choose to call them) would be the best option for me. I know that at some point I will indeed move again, so I have no intentions of building a greenhouse here. I now have more plants than I previously had collected before the move, but with greater success, better health and worthier stock. My terrarium experience has been exceptionally positive and I would like to share my experience.

(The Target Group)

I wanted to target a more specific group of orchids so I focused on growing miniatures, mostly within the Pleurothallid alliance along with PNG Dendrobiums and other oddities. And of course, I grow paphs. I grow and bloom paphs in the terrariums as well. If they outgrow the tanks I have a cheap, plastic lined zip up GH. It was $40 at Lowes, has multiple shelves and is super light. For the price and low maintenance, it works sufficiently. I even throw in an extra CFL light and a few fans for good measure.

I had to decide between two different styles of tanks, natural or functional. This seems to clearly divide terrarium growers. Many hobbyists want that naturalistic, jungle sort of look, but I find that these setups pose many more problems that often complicate things. I am satisfied with the aesthetics of my terrariums and will probably never do a natural setup as a result. Many growers who use a natural setup that have plant problems, did not start with plant problems, but tank issues that translated into that. I do not have these concerns.

I researched as many terrarium growing blogs, websites, ect as possible. I emailed other growers for advice and gathered as much info as I could find. The best sites I found are OrchidKarma by Karma Forester and Orchids in Bloom in My Orchidarium by Ron Hanko. Both growers have tremendous success and have been featured in Orchids Mag. Ron has won numerous AOS awards for culture, flower and display. They both are quite receptive to comments and questions and have even provided more detailed information regarding future builds. They have both given me permission to link their sites. I highly recommend them. Plus their photos are fantastic.

My issue going in was that I wanted similar success, but with a more feasible design. So this is what I did:

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