How to make an orchid terrarium

A step-by-step guide with Flourish author Willow Crossley.

I used to be rather dismissive of orchids. I decided they were not my style, a bit too tropical, too everywhere, too obvious. But now, the more I work with flowers, the more I’m beginning to enjoy them. There are some real beauties out there that I never even thought were orchids. If you mix them in with very wild, country-style flowers and foliage there’s scarcely a whiff of the tropics, more a feeling of lux. It’s all about the balance.

There are so many different types of orchid – about 30,000 in the wild and then at least 120,000 man-made hybrids at the last count. Orchidaceae, along with Asteraceae, are the two largest flowering plant families on the planet.

Orchids also known as Orchidaceae, are available all year round.

Saying that, the orchids used here are pretty tropical, but they are lovely being so small. So much better than their shoutier relatives that you find in supermarkets and garden centres. They also work really well contained like this in old pickle jars – a kind of a terrarium. It makes them feel like exotic specimens. My sons adore them like this too and are actually ‘looking after them’ for me in their bedrooms. Keeping orchids is a great way of introducing children to gardening and flowers.

Most orchid species grow in rainforests where they like the humidity and the shade. Housing them in glass helps mimic that environment while the open top lets the air circulate freely.

A lot of people struggle to keep orchids alive and it’s often looking after them too much that kills them. Too much water is a killer. Literally. Give them one pudding spoon of water a week, always from the top and allow it to drain through. Never let the pot stand in water for a long time. Mist the foliage every three days to keep up the humidity levels.


  • Mini orchids. These are mini purple Phalaenopsis. There are so many beautiful miniature orchids, my favourite is Ornithophora radicans.

  • Large recycled glass jar.

  • Pincushion moss – this can be found in the woods if you live in the countryside, otherwise from a florist.

  • Lichen if available.

Lasts for 8 weeks.


1. Start by taking your orchid out of its container and gently remove all the soil from the roots. Orchids are air plants, they don’t actually need soil.

2. Next add the clumps of moss. Ideally use pincushion moss as the little smooth chunks are far prettier that its flatter, more murky-coloured cousin.

3. Then nestle the orchid plant in between the moss balls, making it as secure as you can. Use the moss as support for the orchid.

4. The lichen is just for decoration, just scatter it on top of the moss. The purer the air, the more lichen you may find, keep your eyes peeled for it when you go for country or woodland walks. In the UK, Wales and Cornwall are major lichen hotspots.

Extract from Flourish by Willow Crossley. Published by Kyle Books. RRP$39.99

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