Terrariums appear as a world all their own, with small plants growing in an enclosed glass container. These charming displays feature small plants and decorative objects that portray a nature scene in miniature. Any glass container works well for a terrarium, including jars with lids, old fish bowls or large glass urns. A terrarium may be completely enclosed, or you can leave the top open. Although terrariums are often large and elaborate, even a terrarium in a quart jar is enough to add color and interest to a desktop or table.
While you can buy terrarium containers garden centers and hobby shops, you can turn almost any clear container made of plastic or glass into a terrarium. Clean fish bowls work well, or use a rectangular fish tank, brandy snifter or bottle. Avoid cloudy or colored glass, which blocks light to the plants. An open container without a lid is often better for beginners because the humid environment in a closed container often leads to rot and fungus. An open container requires watering more often than a closed container.
- Aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei)
- Button Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata)
- Moon Valley friendship (Pilea Involucrata)
- Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
- Red Nerve Plants (Fittonia verschaffeltii)
- Dwarf rex begonias (Begonia Rex-cultorum)
- Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)
- Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- Miniature Orchids (Phalaenopsis orchids)
- Baby’s Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)
- Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
- Joseph’s coat (Alternanthera ficoidia)
- Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
- Starfish flower (Stapelia hirsuta)
- Variegata Peperomia (Peperomia obtusifolia)
- Selaginella or Golden Clubmoss (Selaginella kraussiana)
- African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha)
- Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum)
Piles cadierei often called the Aluminium Plant for the beautiful silver variegation that’s splashed across the leaves. The characteristic silver splashes follow a regular raised pattern, with the longest streak radiating out from the base of the oval leaf, which then gives way to a series of smaller splashes. Aluminum plant does occasionally flower, but the tiny white blooms are not ornamental. You will want to remove them as soon as they bloom to conserve energy for the impressive foliage growth. With its shimmery foliage and low growing habit, it makes an attractive terrarium foreground plant to catch the eye.
Button ferns are small compared to other fern varieties. It is also commonly kept as a houseplant, especially because it doesn’t have high sunlight needs. The foliage of this fern remains evergreen. Its sword-shaped, blue-green fronds with many tiny leaflets are erect and arch as they grow larger. Like several other fern species, the Boston fern is a fairly slow grower and it may effectively serve as the focal point of your terrarium.
Moon Valley Friendship plant
Moon Valley Friendship plant is one of the most popular cultivars of the Pilea Involucrata, allegedly because its appearance resembles that of the craters of the moon.Moon Valley’ has a more upright habit than the species, which is a trailing plant. Its toothed, deeply textured leaves feature dark-red undersides.The bright, textured foliage and fuzzy leaves make it a great for growing in terrariums.
Jade plants produce fleshy oval leaves on thick stalks and can quickly grow into a shrub-like plant that reaches heights of 5 feet when grown indoors. These tough succulents require little care, making them a smart choice if you’re a novice, but they are attractive enough to capture your attention if you’re a houseplant expert especially when grow in open terrariums.
Red Nerve Plants
Also known as red mosaic plants, red nerve plants are common foliage houseplants, meaning they are grown for the beauty of their leaves rather than for their flowers. The leaves are a deep green-olive color and are ovate-shaped, with striking, red-tinged white veining that gives the plant its common name. The leaves are about 4 inches long, while the plant itself usually has a maximum height of approximately half a foot. When grown in terrariums, they add texture and color to indoor settings.
Rex begonias do produce delicate flowers but are usually grown for their spectacularly colored and intriguingly textured leaves. It produce dramatic, large leaves streaked, veined, or splashed in shades of silver, pink, purple, cream, green, or burgundy. Young plants and miniature varieties can be used in indoor container, hanging baskets or terrariums. Other common names for these plants are fancy-leaf, painted-leaf or king begonias.
Polka dot plant
The polka dot plant is an eye-catching little plant with brightly variegated leaves that stand out against most other foliage.The most common polka dot plants feature leaves with a pink base color and green spots. But there are several spotted or mottled varieties with purple, white, red, and deeper colors and brighter contrast, so the plants pop even more when grown especially in terrariums or hanging baskets.
Golden pothos has a well-deserved reputation as a bulletproof, indestructible houseplant, and that it is even truer in the controlled environment of a terrarium. It is without doubt the golden child of the houseplant world. It brings a touch of the tropics with its large heart-shaped leaves and long vining stems.The variegated foliage remains green year-round but most new growth happens in spring and summer. You can effectively grow golden Pothos in any climate in terrariums, as long as it is grown in the right soil medium.
Mini orchids, like standard size orchids, come in a variety of different colors. They can be pink, white, purple, and yellow; there are even “novelty” color strains such as green and orange. Since mini orchids are more compact than their full-size counterpart, they often have smaller blooms, though these blooms retain a vibrant color equal to that of larger orchid blooms. Many orchids that are sold as miniatures are miniature sized when they are young, but as they grow and develop, they can outgrow a terrarium or bottle garden.
The Venus flytrap is a flowering plant best known for its carnivorous eating habits. The “trap” is made of two hinged lobes at the end of each leaf.On the inner surfaces of the lobes are hair-like projections called trichomes that cause the lobes to snap shut when prey comes in contact with them.Though Venus Flytrap has a reputation as a difficult plant to grow, it grows beautiful with low maintenance in terrariums or bottle gardens.
This plant comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and its variegated foliage is the real star of the show. The dark green leaves feature pink, orange, red, yellow, copper, or purple splotches.Some are multiple colors dappled into one plant. Joseph’s Coat is easy to grow and looks its best if kept sheared to keep low growing and compact. When grown in terrariums, it adds color and texture to indoor spaces.
The prayer plant is one of the most distinguishable tropicals, thanks to its beautiful decorative leaves. The popular tricolor variety has deep green, velvety leaves with yellow splotches down the midrib and arching red veins traveling to the leaf margins. A slow-grower, the prayer plant can eventually reach up to a foot in height indoors. The prayer plant is fairly common in many places around the world as a houseplant and can be planted and cared for indoors in terrariums or bottle garden during any time of the year.
Also known as the African Starfish or carrion plant, this succulent type blooms large star-shaped flowers that roughly span between 5” to 15” inches wide. The middle of the flower has some stands of pink fur that attract pollinating insects. Same with most other varieties, its flowers tend to produce a foul smell. What makes it visually distinct from other types is the presence of yellow stripes on the petals. It looks amazing and wonderful when grown on a window sill or tabletop in terrariums.
Himalayan maidenhair fern
Himalayan maidenhair fern is an attractive, delicate fern with small leaves and contrasting black stems. This low-growing, spreading fern reaches heights of only 6 to 8 inches. Himalayan maidenhair fern is happy growing indoors with proper care and ample humidity. They also make eye-catching indoor plants and when grown in terrariums.
Sometimes referred to as a spike moss or arborvitae fern, Selaginella is a small tropical plant that sometimes creeps, climbs, and trails. Its mounding habit is made up of creeping stems that spread quickly across the soil, forming a dense mat of foliage. Selaginella adds a wonderful texture to any plant grouping. Those who live in humid and hot climates can grow it outdoors as an effective ground cover, but outside of that environment it’s frequently grown in terrariums or water trays where it thrives in the constant moisture.
Peperomia Variegata is an attractive, variegated version of the Baby Rubber Plant, with all of the same cherished characteristics, plus an added advantage. It is a bushy, upright plant with thick stems and fleshy, glossy, cupped leaves. It has a compact, spreading nature and is particularly suited to growing in low or fluorescent light, making it perfect for growing in terrariums in office as tabletop. It forms narrow spikes of off-white flowers on red-brown stems.
Baby’s tears is a mat-forming tropical perennial with myriad tiny leaves. What makes baby’s tears special is its dense, delicate mat of fine round or bean-shaped leaves on short, fleshy stems. Baby’s tears plants are easy to grow for beginners, but they require regular attention to look their best. It thrives in lower-light conditions and is commonly used in terrariums and mixed containers.
Miniature African violets
African violets have a reputation of being low maintenance, easy to grow houseplants. These compact, low-growing plants flower several times a year, and they are available in a multitude of leaf forms and color. Miniature African violets grow in 2- to 2 1/2-inch pots and reach heights of no more than 6 inches. These tiny versions of full-size. African violets have small leaves and blooms and spend their entire lives in small pots, making them ideal for tucking into small spaces. Regardless of the hue, these gorgeous plants can put on a colorful show all year round when grown in a terrarium.
Plants to Avoid
Succulents and semi-succulents will eventually rot in closed terrariums, because they require so little moisture and a closed terrarium remains humid. Succulents grow better in open terrariums or dish gardens. Climbing plants can push the lid off the glass enclosure, disrupting the ecosystem for the other plants and possibly even breaking the lid. Plants with large roots or roots that send up shoots can quickly take over the limited soil available to your other plantings.
Terrariums are a small, enclosed environment that functions as a mini greenhouse. The soil and the plants release water vapor, which gets collected onto the glass container walls and eventually trickles down back to the ground and the plant. Because of this mechanism, sealed terrariums are pretty much self-nourishing, and they would need very little maintenance. The water gets recycled repeatedly, and the terrariums creates it’s ecosystem. Terrariums look beautiful and whimsical, with tiny plants arranged as if they are in a mini habitat enclosed in glass. This characteristic is what makes building terrariums a fun yet challenging hobby.