Terrariums have become wildly popular in the past few years, perhaps because of their prevalence in Etsy shops and retail home and gardening stores. These delightful little ecosystems are virtually self-sufficient and can give even the most black-thumbed gardener a boost of confidence. Choosing the right plants for your ecosystem isn't a difficult undertaking, and there are plenty of options for the conservative or adventurous horticulturist. Between bite-sized bonsai trees and petite peperomias, you can fill your terrarium with personalized selections that you'll enjoy for years.
Peperomia is a small houseplant with thin branches that hold round, succulent-like leaves. It’s relatively easy to care for and doesn’t require frequent watering, which makes it well suited to a terrarium. Spring or early summer is the best time to trim this plant back to keep it small enough for your terrarium. In an open terrarium, water the soil when it feels dry to the touch. In a closed terrarium, you’ll likely only need to water the plant as often as you mist the small environment — around once every couple of months.
Spiderwort loves moist soil and full to partial shade. It will likely do well in an open terrarium that’s in a bright spot but removed from direct light. In a closed terrarium, placing the spiderwort in the sunlight will help boost the humidity in your bottle or container, and the plant will enjoy the light as long as it remains well-watered.
Tillandsia, also known as the increasingly popular air plant, will likely find the moist conditions in a terrarium perfectly suited to its needs. Airplants gain their nutrients through the air, hence the nickname, and don’t need soil. They’re well-suited to open terrariums, since they shouldn’t be in an environment that’s too damp. You'll also want to ensure their leaves don’t touch the moist walls of your container. Water your air plant by removing it from your terrarium and misting or submerging it once a week.
Another plant that will enjoy an open or closed terrarium is the pothos. It has a tendency to vine, and its long limbs need to be trimmed regularly. It likes tropical temperatures but isn’t picky about the amount of light it gets or the type of soil. Pothos also roots quite readily, so you can drop your trimmings into a glass of water and replant them somewhere else once they’ve grown roots. It doesn’t need regular watering. Wait for the soil to dry before you water a pothos growing in an open terrarium.
Baby tears is a great plant for beginners taking on their first terrarium. It’s a creeping plant that will thrive in dappled shade or indirect light. It needs good circulation, so it may do better in an open terrarium than a closed container. It enjoys high humidity with slightly cooler temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F. Feed this plant every two weeks during the spring and summer growing season. With the right care, baby tears will reward you with small white flowers in the springtime.
Nerve plants enjoy bright, indirect light and are popular choices for terrariums. In fact, they grow best in a closed terrarium with high temperatures and high humidity. Houseplant enthusiasts trying to grow a nerve plant in an open container should be aware of its moisture levels; it will decline rapidly without enough water. You can grow this plant under fluorescent lights if your space doesn’t have enough indirect light. It should be pruned regularly, and you can propagate clippings in water for new plants.
Many people use Irish moss as a base or cover for other plants in a terrarium, but it can make your enclosed space even more beautiful on its own. One of the only problems that you might run into with Irish moss is too much moisture at the bottom of your container. This can be solved by ventilating the space every once in a while. You can also place rocks or gravel under your moss. Irish moss prefers moderate or indirect light indoors, which you can achieve naturally or with a grow light.
Bonsai trees are not part of a genus. Rather, "bonsai" refers to a method of growing small trees by keeping them meticulously trimmed. Some trees respond well to bonsai techniques and can be grown in a terrarium, including certain types of ficus, bald Cyprus, and bougainvillea. Before purchasing one, check that it can tolerate humidity and moisture — some perform better in dry conditions.
Masdevallia orchids are small flowering plants that enjoy humid conditions and are suitable for terrariums. You can use moss as a base for these orchids and enjoy their attractive blooms as long as your terrarium remains moist. Some masdevallia orchids bloom multiple times per year in the right conditions. Make sure your plant receives some bright but indirect light for a few hours per day.
Snowbush is a small bush-like plant that can be grown in an open or closed terrarium. Its leaves are often laced with a whiteish tint, which gives it the appearance of ice crystals. It’s a tropical plant that likes full to partial sun and to remain evenly moist. In a terrarium, prune this bush back to keep it from growing too large for the space.
Ding Kuan Tack / Getty Images
Get daily tips and tricks for living your best life.