Choosing the Best Plants for Your Miniature Terrarium Garden


A miniature terrarium garden is a self-contained miniature ecosystem housed within a clear glass or plastic container. It typically features small plants, little decorations, and a substrate like pebbles or moss.

Terrariums are low-maintenance, as they require minimal care beyond occasional misting and watering. This makes them an excellent option for beginners looking to try gardening in a small space. Plus, they look great displayed as decor on a desk or table!

When selecting plants for a terrarium garden, the most important factor is size—the plants need to fit and remain small. Many common houseplants are too large and fast-growing for these petite gardens.

Some great options for miniature terrarium plants include:


Succulents are ideal for terrariums because they store water in their leaves and stems. This allows them to withstand the high humidity of a covered terrarium.

Some popular choices are:

  • Echeveria: rosette-forming succulents with ruffled, colorful leaves They remain compact and come in vibrant shades like pink, blue, and purple.
  • Haworthia: tiny, unique succulents that look like aloe vera. Some have zebra-striped leaves or curled, pointed tips.
  • Sedum: groundcover succulents that spread out with small, stacked leaves on short stems. great for creating lush green carpets.


Moss thrives in the warm, moist environment of a terrarium. It’s the perfect background plant and helps maintain humidity. Some attractive options include:

  • Java moss, bright green and bushy with a velvety texture, grows in tufts.
  • Irish moss forms dense, cushiony mounds of wiry stems and tiny leaves.
  • Sheet moss flattens out to create a smooth green layer along the terrarium floor.

Air Plants

Air plants (Tillandsia species) are epiphytes, meaning they get water and nutrients from the air, not soil. This makes them ideal for terrariums, where they won’t get overwatered. For air circulation, avoid fully sealed containers.

Some air plants with compact shapes and sizes for terrariums include:

  • Tillandsia bulbosa: round, bulbous base with curly, spiky leaves
  • Tillandsia ionantha: clump-forming with thin, twisted green leaves
  • Tillandsia juncea has chunky leaves that grow in a peppermint swirl.


Delicate ferns lend an earthy yet graceful touch to terrariums. Look for miniature varieties that remain under 6 inches tall. Some to consider:

  • Rabbit’s foot fern: ball-shaped ends on cascading fuzzy fronds
  • Maidenhair fern: feathery fan-shaped fronds on wiry black stems
  • Button fern: dense, round leaves emerge on short, upright fronds.

Tropical Plants

Many tropical plants thrive in the high humidity of a closed terrarium. Just be sure to choose compact varieties. Some options:

  • Nerve plant: vibrant green and pink leaves with prominent veined patterns
  • Creeping fig: It trails along the ground and climbs walls with tiny heart-shaped leaves.
  • Peperomia: Many mini varieties, like watermelon and string-of-turtles peperomia, stay small.

The key is sticking to plants under 6 inches in height so they don’t outgrow the space. Mix and match different leaf shapes, colors, and textures for visual interest. With the right miniature plants, you can create a magical miniature world!

Just avoid overwatering, make sure plants have adequate airflow, and provide ample light from a sunny window. With proper care, a terrarium can house these little plants for years to come.
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Setting Up Your Miniature Terrarium

Once you’ve selected your plants, it’s time to assemble your terrarium garden. Follow these steps for setting up a thriving planted terrarium:

Choose a clear glass or plastic container.

Look for a wide, shallow shape to allow light to easily reach all plants. Make sure the container has a removable lid or an open top for ventilation. Glass apothecary jars, large glass bottles, and clear plastic boxes all make great terrarium vessels.

Aim for a size of 1–5 gallons—miniature tropical gardens are usually under 12 inches in height and width. Make sure the container is thoroughly cleaned before use.

Add a drainage layer.

Cover the bottom inch or two of the container with pebbles, gravel, sand, or LECA clay balls. This creates a drainage system to prevent the soil from getting waterlogged.

Include activated charcoal.

Mix a thin layer of activated charcoal into the drainage layer before adding soil. The charcoal helps absorb odors and prevent mold from growing due to the high humidity levels inside the closed terrarium.

Add fast-draining soil.

Use a light, fast-draining potting mix. Avoid standard potting soil, as it stays too wet. A good terrarium mix contains ingredients like peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, coconut coir, or sand.

Arrange plants attractively.

Un-pot plants, loosen roots, and plant them at the same depth they were growing before. Position plants so they aren’t crowded and have room to grow. Place moss as a lush carpet and use decor like rocks or branches.

Mist Well & Seal Environment

Water plants by gently misting inside the terrarium. Avoid overwatering.  Finally, seal the container while leaving a bit of a gap for air flow. Place the terrarium in bright, indirect light.

Caring for your miniature terrarium

Terrariums require minimal care when set up properly. Follow these maintenance tips:

  • Water when the soil dries out: Check the soil and mist when the top layer feels dry. less water in the winter.
  • Clean walls for light: Gently wipe down glass walls when foggy to maximize light.
  • Open for ventilation: Unseal the lid once a week for gas exchange and to prevent mold.
  • Trim overgrown plants: Prune plants that outgrow the space. Remove yellowing leaves and dying growth.
  • Supplement light in the winter: Add a grow light if sunlight from a window isn’t enough.
  • Divide rootbound plants: re-pot plants that fill roots into a container to prevent decline.
  • Refresh soils: every 2-3 years, replace a few inches of old soil with a new sterile mix.

With the right plants, setup, and care, miniature terrarium gardens provide low-maintenance greenery perfect for desks, cabinets, and shelves around the home or office. Just be sure not to fully seal the container, provide adequate warmth and sunlight, and avoid overwatering. Then you can enjoy these tiny worlds thriving indoors!

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