In the 1800’s what we now call terrariums were very popular. Interest in the hobby faded then returned in the 1970’s, only to fade again. We are now in the middle of a renewed interest in indoor gardening. This article from 1883 proves that the old saying “everything old is new again” still rings true. If you look at the original pjicture that came with this story, you will notice that it is very similar to a fish tank. Now that the fish have died you have something to use that tank for.
Excerpt from Gardening for Pleasure, a Classic Reprint from Algrove Publishing Ltd. (originally published in 1883).
Plant cases for the growth of plants that require a moist, still atmosphere are numerous. The form commonly known as the Wardian case has glass all around the sides and top, the top being hinged to allow the escape of excess moisture.
The plants grown in this way are of kinds valued for their beauty of foliage rather than for their flowers, and should be of a slow growth. All rampant growing plants, such as coleus, are unsuited.
The effectiveness of these cases depend a great deal on the arrangement of the plants. The tallest and most conspicuous things should be in the center, with smaller ones towards the edges, varying the interest by contrasting the different colorings and forms of leaves. Among the best suited for growing under these glass coverings are dracaenas, gymnostachyums, marantas, caladiums, some of the ornamental leaved eranthemums, and dwarf growing begonias, peperomias, etc., and ferns and lycopods of the finer sorts. Most of these are plants whose natural habitat is shady woods or marshes, and for their well being, the nearest that the Wardian case can be made to imitate such, the better.
The soil used in these cases should be light and porous. The most convenient, and a very suitable material, is the leaf-mold, which can be got in any piece of woodland. After planting, the soil should be watered freely, so that it is settled around the roots. And to allow evaporation, ventilation should be given for a few days after the watering, and again when an excess of moisture shows on the glass. Other than this, there is no trouble whatever in the management. The watering given on planting will be sufficient to keep it moist for 6 or 8 weeks. In winter the temperature of the room in which the Wardian case is kept may run from 50°F to 70°F at night.