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Terrarium Plants: Creating Miniature Green Paradises

When choosing plants for a terrarium, you need to consider their needs and the environment from which they come. Those that like very humid conditions will generally do very well in a sealed terrarium container, while an open terrarium will be better suited for those plants that prefer moderate to low humidity.

terrarium plants

Here are some terrarium plants that make good choices for beginners:

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair fern, Adiantum raddianum can be a somewhat fussy plant. But it can be relatively easy to keep it happy in a closed terrarium. These ferns thrive in moist but well drained substrate in high humidity conditions and so are a good choice for a closed terrarium where water will cycle within the system and you will open it up only once in a while. 

When choosing where to locate a terrarium containing tropical maidenhair ferns, remember that these should always be kept above 10 degrees Celsius and ideally between 15 and 21 degrees C..

Button Fern

Button fern could be a good choice for an open terrarium. Button fern is an evergreen fern also known as New Zealand cliff brake, round-leaved fern, or Tarawera. It is a compact plant that won’t take up a lot of space and so it can be a good choice for a compact terrarium. 

Button ferns need humidity of at least 50% and an acidic substrate, so use an ericaceous potting mix when making up your terrarium soil. And choose other acid-loving companions for this terrarium scheme. Keep the medium moist but not waterlogged and make sure the leaves don’t touch the sides of your terrarium. 

Prayer Plant

Prayer plant, Maranta leuconeura, is a tropical plant with dramatic and attractive foliage. It likes humid conditions and bright but indirect light and can do well in a large enough closed terrarium where you can create greenhouse-like conditions. 

This is a plant that can tolerate lower light conditions and so it could be a good choice for a somewhat dimmer home where it is challenging to get enough light for many other plants. 

Earth Star Bromeliads

Crypanthus are a type of terrestrial bromeliad from Brazil. Naturally growing on the rainforest floor, they like plenty of moisture and humidity, which makes them perfect for a closed terrarium. 

These earth stars, as they are sometimes known, come with a wide range of different foliage shapes, colors and textures and can even change color depending on how much light they receive. However, you do need to make sure that the substrate remains moist but not waterlogged when growing these plants. 

Polka Dot Plant

As the name suggests, polka dot plants have dotty leaves, with spots that can be pink, red, or silver, that stand out against the dark green background. They can do very well in the controlled environment of a sealed terrarium, where their growth will be kept in check. 

Called Hypoestes phyllostachya, this plant should thrive when the closed terrarium is placed in a suitable location with bright but indirect light;. 

Baby’s Tears

Known by many names, Soleirolia soleirolii, or baby’s tears, or angel’s tears, or mind-your-own business, or mother of thousands… this plant is another good choice for consistently moist conditions in a closed terrarium. 

This low-growing plant with its small leaves can look good filling gaps in front of or around the star of the show in a terrarium display. 

Pilea Ssp.

A number of different members of the Pilea genus can make great terrarium plants. For example, you might consider artillery fern, Pilea microphylla. This plant will love the moist and humid conditions in a closed terrarium. 

Pilea cadierei, aluminium plant, is another option. This  plant with its green leaves with gleaming white markings will also like the humid conditions in a closed terrarium. 

Another attractive and striking foliage plant, Pilea involuctrata, also known as friendship plant, is another in this genus to consider. The strikingly colored and crinkled leaves can make them the stars of the show in a closed terrarium. 

You might also choose Pilea glauca, with its silver-gray, round leaves and bright red stems. This, like baby’s tears, can also work well as a low-growing trailing plant within a closed terrarium. 


There are also plenty of Begonias that will thrive in a terrarium. Rex begonias like plenty of moisture and so can be good choices for a closed terrarium. And their foliage is particularly striking, coming in many different varieties. 

In a larger terrarium, several different cultivars together can create an attractive and varied display. There are numerous options to choose from with leaves of very varied hue.  

Peperomia Ssp.

Peperomia are rainforest plants, many of which are prized for their compact growth habit, small size and decorative foliage. Many can work well for smaller open terraria. 

You might consider, for example, Peperomia caperata, with its leaves that can vary from dark green to cream edged, to purple, to red. It is also known as ripple plant. 

Another to consider is Peperomia orba, with its zingy bright green leaves and compact size. 

Ot how about Peperomia prostrata – a ground-hugging trailing plant also known as string of turtles. 

Tillandsia Air Plants

Tillandsia air plants are fascinating. They don’t grow in soil but rather on substrates of wood or stone… They can be good choices for an open terrarium where things to do not get too humid and where airflow is reasonably good. 

These plants absorb water and nutrients through their leaves rather than through roots, and will just need a soak every once in a while so they can be good low-maintenance houseplants to grow. 

Of course, this is by no means a complete list of the many terrarium plants that you might grow. As you continue with the hobby you will find near endless plant options to explore.