The Ultimate Guide to Terrarium Plants

You love plants but don't have much space or time for them? Then a terrarium is just the thing for you. A terrarium is a small garden in a glass container that creates a tropical atmosphere for your plants. Terrarium plants have many benefits, such as improving air quality, reducing stress, and beautifying and enlivening your space.

The thought of choosing your own plants already overwhelms you? No problem, this article will do the work for you!

In this article we present you a list of the best terrarium plants for different types of terrariums and show you how to take care of them. Whether you want to create a closed or an open terrarium, here you will find the right plants for your miniature paradise.

person fixing the plants inside a clear glass terrarium
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Types of terrariums and plants

There are two basic types of terrariums: closed and open. The only difference is whether the glass jar has a lid or not. This affects the choice of plants, because each type of terrarium has a different microclimate.

Plants for closed terrariums

Closed terrariums are hermetically sealed and form their own water cycle. Moisture evaporates from the soil and plants and condenses on the glass walls. It then drips back into the soil and provides water for the plants. This means you rarely if ever need to water a closed terrarium. Find out more about the water, oxygen and nutrient cycle here. And here you'll find the ultimate guide to a perpetual terrarium.

Plants that like high humidity and low light are suitable for a closed terrarium. These are mainly tropical plants such as ferns, mosses, orchids and carnivorous plants. Here are some examples of closed terrarium plants:

A closed terrarium in a brightly lit living room. The terrarium is oval shaped and sits on a small brown wooden table. It contains ferns, moss and succulents.
A closed terrarium with ferns and moss
  • Ferns: Ferns are classic terrarium plants that like it moist and shady. They have delicate leaves with different shapes and textures. There are many types of ferns you can use for your terrarium, such as the button fern, maidenhair fern, or deer's tongue fern.
  • Mosses: Mosses are also ideal terrarium plants because they have no roots and need little soil. They can absorb water from the air and form a soft green carpet in your terrarium. You can combine different types of moss to create an interesting contrast.
  • Orchids: Orchids are beautiful flowering plants that can thrive in a closed terrarium. They need good drainage and loose soil with bark or coconut fiber. They like indirect light and high humidity. You can choose small orchid species like Phalaenopsis or Dendrobium. You can read more about orchids here.
  • Carnivorous Plants: Carnivorous plants are fascinating terrarium plants that can catch and digest insects. They need an acidic soil with peat or sphagnum moss and distilled or rain water. They like bright light and high humidity. You can take carnivorous plants like Venus flytrap, sundew or tube plants. Here you can find a whole article about carnivorous plants.

Plants for open terrariums

Open terrariums have no lid and get fresh air. They are easier to plant and maintain, but they also need more water as they dry out faster. Open terrariums are suitable for plants that like dry or temperate conditions. These are mainly succulents, cacti, air plants and herbs. Here are some examples of open terrarium plants:

  • Succulents: Succulents are plants that can store water in their leaves or stems. They are very low maintenance and require little water and lots of light. They also have different shapes, colors and textures that will make your terrarium attractive. You can choose succulents like Echeveria, Haworthia or Crassula.
  • Cacti: Cacti are a type of succulent plants that have spines. They are also very undemanding and require little water and plenty of light. They can also make beautiful flowers that brighten up your terrarium. You can choose cacti like Mammillaria, Echinopsis or Gymnocalycium.
  • Air plants: Air plants are plants that do not need soil and absorb their nutrients from the air. They are very versatile and can be placed in a variety of locations in your terrarium. They only need to be sprayed or soaked occasionally. They also have interesting shapes and flowers. You can choose air plants like tillandsia or bromeliads.
  • Herbs: Herbs are plants that you can use not only for your terrarium, but also for your kitchen. They need good drainage and nutrient-rich soil. They like bright light and moderate moisture. You can choose herbs like rosemary, thyme or basil
A close-up of a rectangular open terrarium containing a lush garden of plants and flowers. The terrarium is made of metal and glass and has a rustic look. The plants are green and yellow and have different shapes and sizes.
An open terrarium with succulents and other plants

How to choose terrarium plants

Once you've found the right plants for your terrarium, there are still a few things to consider to arrange them in the best way possible. Here are some tips on how to choose the best terrarium plants for your glass container:

  • Consider the size, shape, color, texture and growth habit of the plants: You should choose plants that fit your glass container and are not too big or too small. You should also choose plants that complement or contrast each other in shape, color, and texture. For example, you can combine round succulents with pointed cacti or green ferns with colorful orchids.
  • Create contrast and harmony among plants: You should try to create a balance between different heights, shapes, colors and textures. For example, you can put tall plants in the center or background and low plants in the foreground or on the edge. You can also use different shades of green or accent colors to make your terrarium more vibrant.
  • Find good sources for terrarium plants: You can buy terrarium plants or collect them yourself. For example, you can search nurseries, online stores, or even your own garden for suitable plants. You can also grow terrarium plants yourself, using cuttings or seeds.
A cylindrical closed terrarium with many different plants. It contains ferns and moss. It is placed in a greenhouse.
A cylindrical closed terrarium with ferns and various types of moss.

How to care for terrarium plants

Terrarium plants are relatively low maintenance, but they still need some attention and love. Here are some general guidelines on how to care for your terrarium plants:

  • Water your terrarium plants depending on the type of terrarium and plant: Closed terrariums rarely need watering because they recycle their own water. You should only water if the soil looks dry or the plants are wilting. Open terrariums need to be watered more frequently because they dry out more quickly. You should water when the soil is slightly moist. A spray bottle or pipette is sufficient for this purpose.
  • Cut back your terrarium plants to maintain their shape and size and avoid crowding: Terrarium plants can grow quickly and stick out of their glass container or crowd out other plants. In a closed terrarium this may even be intentional, but in an open one it usually just looks unkempt. You should therefore regularly cut off the tips or the yellow or brown leaves.
  • Fertilize your terrarium plants sparingly and with a dilute solution: Terrarium plants do not need a lot of fertilizer because they live in a confined space and consume few nutrients. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots or cause excessive growth. You should therefore fertilize only every few months and use a liquid fertilizer with half strength.
  • Clean your terrarium plants by removing dead leaves or flowers, wiping off dust or dirt, or using a soft brush or tweezers for hard-to-reach areas: Terrarium plants can become dirty or affected by pests or diseases. You should therefore regularly inspect your terrarium and clean your plants. You can use a damp cloth or a cotton swab for cleaning.


Terrarium plants are a great way to fill your home with greenery and create a tropical atmosphere. You can choose from many different plants to suit your taste and your glass container. You just have to make sure that you create the right conditions for your plants and take care of them regularly.

I hope this article has helped you find and care for the best terrarium plants for your miniature paradise. If you give it a try, feel free to share your results or questions in the comments! I always appreciate your feedback.

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