Plants come in all shapes and sizes, as do the container to place them in for an indoor garden. One favorite for those living in small spaces is a terrarium. These are like mini-greenhouses, supporting the plants with minimal care requirements, making them a fantastic choice for beginner gardeners or those who can’t handle full-time plant care.
Best of all, you can use almost any clear container for a terrarium, so you can recycle old items or use brand-new decorative pieces for your little garden. You also need the best terrarium plants, which can vary depending on the type of container you’re using. Our detailed list can help you choose the perfect options for your home.
What Is A Terrarium?
A terrarium is a mini-ecosystem created from a small, clear container. The plants and soil added to the container release water vapor, essentially watering the plant continuously for weeks, requiring only minimal tending. There are two terrariums to pick from, depending on the plants you want to grow.
A closed terrarium is sealed, with a removable lid that traps moisture inside, so you don’t need to water the plants often. Though sealed most of the time, the lid can be lifted now and then to allow fresh air into the container. There are specialized terrarium boxes or you can use any sealable piece, like mason jars, cookie jars, or coffee carafes.
An open terrarium doesn’t fully seal. Though it still traps moisture, some vapor escapes, requiring you to add water more frequently than a closed container. Some options for an open container are a fish tank or bowl, vase, jar, or open globes.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide on terrariums, then check out our full guide here.
Best Terrarium Plants
When choosing terrarium plants, you need to consider the container since not all plants work in both closed and open options. We’ve selected a few plants that are appropriate for each container.
Baby’s Tears is a tropical plant, so it hates dry conditions or harsh lighting. That’s why it is the perfect plant for the damp climate of a terrarium, even in homes with low light. It can also be somewhat invasive, so trapping it in a container prevents it from spreading. The plant grows quickly, creating a dense mat of fleshy stems and rounded leaves, which looks lovely among other terrarium plants.
Hens And Chicks
Hens And Chicks feature fleshy leaves that grow out from the center, similar to the petals of a flower in bloom. As a succulent, this pretty plant prefers its soil to dry out between watering, so it is best used in an open terrarium that allows consistent airflow. There are several color options, including blue, red, copper, gold, or classic green, so you can pick a favorite or add a few to your container. They also like bright light, so place your terrarium near a window.
Button Ferns hail from New Zealand and are drought-tolerant, though they prefer medium moisture and high humidity so are perfect for open terrariums. The leaves are small and round, darkening from pale to dark forest green as the plant matures. These plants are also robust and delicate at the same time, adding a touch of elegance to any terrarium. They prefer low light, so can be placed near north- or east-facing windows and still thrive.
Nerve plants are compact beauties that only grow about 10 to 15 centimeters tall, so they are an excellent choice for small containers. They also have a unique look, due to the veins of red, pink, or white on their dark green leaves. These plants can be somewhat dramatic, literally fainting when they get too dry and perking up again immediately after watering. Nerve plants work best in closed terrariums to maintain the high humidity and consistent moisture levels required.
Unlike most plants, the air plant doesn’t need any soil to survive. Instead, they attach to other items, like stones or driftwood, and take in moisture and nutrients through their leaves. These types of plants are also known as Epiphytes. In fact, watering them involves soaking the entire plant for 30-60 minutes once a month and leaving it alone the rest of the time. It does like airflow, so an open terrarium is best, as long as it is placed where the plant receives medium to bright indirect light.
Club Moss creates a thick moss-like carpet as it grows while producing spores like ferns, giving you the best of both worlds in one plant. There are several varieties, so you can choose the leaf type and coloring to match your tastes, though all options are hardy and easy to manage. It prefers the damp soil and high humidity of a closed terrarium and likes low light over bright rooms.
Polka Dot Plants
Polka Dot Plants have a somewhat deceiving name since they aren’t exactly spotted. Instead, the green leaves feature variegation in red, white, and pink that seems almost splattered across each one. These lovely plants can grow tall and spindly if left unchecked, though a closed terrarium can maintain a smaller size. The warm, damp climate in the container ensures it has the moisture it needs without overwatering. The Polka Dot plant requires bright, indirect light, so be sure to place your terrarium near a window.
Bonsai plants are one of those unique options you can grow in open and closed containers due to the dozens of species available. You can choose a tropical species for a closed container or an option that prefers drier climates for an open terrarium. Bonsais vary in sun tolerance as well, so check the instructions carefully before placement. The compact size of these tiny trees fits well in almost any terrarium, though you may want to leave enough room to prune and shape the plants.
Jade plants are succulents, featuring woody stems and thick, oval leaves. They grow slowly but don’t like too much moisture, so are a terrific addition to an open terrarium. Jade plants are also thought to bring prosperity and good luck, hence the “money plant” nickname, so it’s often placed in home offices. These plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight and soil that is consistently damp, though not soaked.
Best Terrarium Plants
Terrariums are a great way to pack a lot of green into a tiny space. They’re also great for those looking for a low-effort way to start growing some plants. If you’re looking for more terrarium information, then check out our article on them. In it we dive into some of the other aspects of setting up a terrarium, plants are only one piece to them after all.