House Plant Hospital Called The Wardian Case

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When people are sick, they are sent to the hospital, where under good conditions and watchful care, they recover their health. 

Every plant lover realizes how much plants are like people, and so most flower grower readers should not think it strange when I say that when plants show signs of ill health they too should go to a hospital.

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Plant Hospital

But just what is a plant hospital? Well, a large plant hospital would be a greenhouse, and a small one would be a Wardian ease. 

And what, the younger generation plant lover may ask, is a Wardian case? 

The name is the one by which our grandmothers knew it, but for the benefit of our younger friends, we may call it an oversized terrarium.

Wardian Case

The Wardian case was invented in 1836 by an Englishman named Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward. 

He designed it, not as a plant hospital, but for bringing delicate plants on shipboard from distant lands—a task whose problems had defied all efforts until his case was invented. 

The Wardian case usually consists of a wooden frame with glass sides and a top that can be closed to make it nearly airtight. 

As originally used, this kept out the salt air during long voyages and maintained a moist atmosphere and even temperature inside with a minimum of care.

Wardian Case’s History

In the 70s, the Wardian case changed its name to a more “genteel” one and was called a “fernery.” No Victorian parlor was complete without one of these eases filled with ferns of many kinds.

Two of these cases came into my possession some years ago, and I have found them invaluable. The more ornate one was made by a devoted husband to house his wife’s floral treasures. 

The stand is light but firm, and the castors make moving easy. Small hooks inside at the top make hanging plants possible. 

A neatly fitted door opens one side for easy access. The plainer ease is less convenient, in u 0 11 heavier, and the top must be removed to open it. Both have zinc trays that hold about 2” inches of moist sand.

Cleaning Of Plants With Illness

Plants whose ill health is due to insect pests must be thoroughly cleaned before putting them in the Wardian case. 

Young plants, newly transplanted, will get a good start in life in these cases, and then by increasing the amount of air in the case they may be gradually acclimated to the house air safely. 

Velvet-Leaved Plants

Most of the velvet-leaved plants thrive beautifully in these cases —Begonia imperialis, for example. 

Saintpaulias or African violets flourish in them and even cattleya and cypripedium orchids will grow and bloom in them. The third change in the name of the ease terrarium brought a change in size. 


Terrariums may be handled more easily and will take up less room, but they will naturally accommodate fewer and smaller plants. 

But, large or small, they are useful for many kinds of plants, sick or well. 

And it is possible, by planting just the right kiwi of plants in just the right number, to maintain a proper balance of plant life and thus to render watering and other care unnecessary. 

What could be nicer, these busy days?

44659 by Bessie R. Buxton