That Seventies Plant


Are terrariums back?  I miss those groovy, flying saucer-shaped Eames plastic terrariums of my youth. Maidenhair ferns spilled out of them, Spanish moss concealed the potting soil and gave a vaguely Southern Gothic air to the arrangement, and wisps of patchouli drifted from an incense cone tucked between the fronds. Then somehow terrariums just faded away, along with macrame and Starsky and Hutch. 

But if a seventies TV show can be revived as a mediocre summer blockbuster, terrariums might have a second act, too.   Consider the following–and yes, I am seriously contemplating an all-terrarium Christmas this year.  Who needs an iPhone when you can have a Venus fly trap in a plastic globe?

For cubicle dwellers, I like the Desktop Carnivorous Plant Set from ThinkGeek. "Perfect for the casual office worker who delights in watching
insects slowly meet their makers as they are painfully digestedCarnivorous
by an
engaging variety of meat-sucking flora. Nothing quite like it."  The only drawback to this little toy is that it comes with seeds, not plants.  I can see middle managers everywhere working themselves into a frenzy over their inability to get their pitcher plants to germinate.  Do them a favor and buy a few live plants to get them started.  $22.99

The Plantarium Garden Lab from Fat Brain Toys is marketed as a kid’s toy, and perhaps the brightly-colored gel will get kids interested in the otherwise mundane (ahem) process of watching plants grow, but I think these would also be totally cool in that hip urban loft you just redecorated. Just don’t let your guests mistake them for jello shots.  Comes with basil, cucumber, and tomato seeds, but I’d try rooting a psychedelic coleus cutting or a giant purple and black-spotted scarlet runner been seed.  For ages 5 and up, $23.95.

Finally, if you’ve got the budget, you’re definitely going to want to check out the custom-made creations atTeardrop the Terrarium Museum. You can get miniature Victorian conservatories, sleek contemporary sculptures, and
even these totally groovy terrarium lamps.  (here’s your attractive grow light solution, Elizabeth)

Ah, the return of the terrarium.  Those were simpler times.  Even Nixon and Ford don’t seem so bad, looking back on it. Perhaps the terrarium deserves a second chance after all.


  1. I’m buying plantarium thing for my kids – ok, actually for myself (I do have kids though). Honestly the same thing can be taught with water forcing paperwhites – my kids check the roots every day to see how far they have grown.

  2. There must be something “in the air” because just last week I bought a small Venus fly trap and immediately put it into an old glass apothecary jar. and yesterday I almost bought a glass jar of candy JUST because the jar looked like it needed plants growing in it!

  3. We can’t have a seventies throw-back party without macrame plant hangers. Or better yet, hanging a terrarium with a macrame hanger. Now that would be the seventies!

  4. I had a a very nice glass terr. shaped like a large pear. It was a going away gift from my first job. I killed everything I ever planted in it. Always over watered it. Kept the container for years, think it just went to the secondhand shop in the last 5 years.

  5. Those only light what’s attached to them, as far as I can see, but I am looking into some Victorian Wardian cases. Maybe one or two small ones. Smith and Hawken has had them some some time–pricey of course–and I think Logees has cheaper ones. Perfect for my decor.

  6. Keep in mind, most carnivores are North American natives. That means that not only is keeping them in terrariums unnecessary, it’s also a route to certain death. For example, did you know that the venus flytrap only lives in the wild in a one hundred mile radius around Wilmington North Carolina, and that without a cold dormancy that it will die? (See the International Carnivorous Plant Society’s website for the full scoop on growing these fascinating and endangered plants).

    If you must have a carnivore in a terrarium then stick with ones like the South African Dorsera capensis, or the southern butterwort Pinguicula primulaflora. Of course, I personally advocate that an outdoor bog garden is really the way to go! (and a good way to get rid of pesky unwanted neighborhood children!)

  7. Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads? And you like to garden? Michele, would you marry me?

    I’d have to ditch the wife & kid first though.

    But if brought a terrarium into the relationship, that would be a deal breaker.

  8. Jim, what a heady fantasy! We could blast the Clash out the front windows while doing the spring mulching…together.

    Best not to dwell on it.

Comments are closed.