When selecting plants for a closed terrarium, the ideal choices are small, slow-growing varieties that tolerate warm, humid conditions in limited air flow. Consider factors like mature size, growth habit, moisture needs and light requirements when choosing terrarium plants to create a healthy, flourishing indoor ecosystem.
What Are the Benefits of a Closed Terrarium?
A closed terrarium provides an ideal environment for growing miniature houseplants and tropical species. The clear glass container traps moisture and allows sunlight to enter, creating a greenhouse effect. This self-contained ecosystem circulates water continuously through transpiration and condensation. With the right plant selections, a closed terrarium can thrive for months or even years with minimal care.
Terrariums are low-maintenance, making them perfect for beginner gardeners or anyone with limited time for plant care. Once assembled, they require little watering or fertilizing. The sealed habitat helps plants conserve moisture and nutrients. Any dieback of plant matter simply decomposes in place, providing a natural fertilizer. Closed terrariums allow gardeners to easily cultivate plants that require higher humidity than average indoor conditions.
These miniature gardens make unique, decorative statements in any living space. Terrariums contain complete little worlds and add natural beauty to desks, shelves, tabletops or anywhere they can be displayed. Closed terrariums are portable and compact, making them ideal for small apartments. They provide a relaxing focus for meditation or mindfulness. Overall, closed terrariums are attractive, self-sustaining, low-maintenance ecosystems perfect for bringing nature indoors.
A closed terrarium is a miniature garden encased in a transparent container. The sealed environment allows plants to thrive with little maintenance while creating a decorative, living centerpiece for any indoor space.
What to Consider When Choosing Terrarium Plants
When selecting plants for a closed terrarium, the most important factors are appropriate size, growth habit, cultural needs and light requirements. To thrive and avoid overcrowding, terrarium plants must remain small and slow growing at maturity. Plants suited to warm, very humid conditions will flourish. Varieties that need less water are ideal to reduce moisture buildup inside the container. Ensure all the selected plants have similar light requirements so the terrarium environment caters to all inhabitants.
Consider the following when choosing plants for a closed terrarium:
- Mature size: Select small plants that will not outgrow the terrarium. Large plants will quickly become root bound.
- Growth speed: Slow growing varieties are ideal for closed containers. Quick growing plants can rapidly choke out companions.
- Growth habit: Choose plants with compact, low, mounding or trailing habits. Tall, leggy growth often fares poorly.
- Cultural needs: Opt for tropical plants that enjoy warm, very humid conditions. Alpine or desert species will struggle in a terrarium.
- Moisture needs: Include some drought tolerant plants to prevent overly moist conditions. Varieties that demand constant moisture may rot.
- Light requirements: Match plants with similar light needs, such as shade, low or bright filtered light. Avoid combining sun lovers and shade dwellers.
Selecting plants suited to terrarium culture ensures a healthy miniature garden that will thrive with minimal maintenance required.
10 Best Terrarium Plant Species & Varieties
Many small tropical plants are well suited to closed terrarium environments. When choosing varieties, opt for dwarf, slow growing cultivars to prevent overcrowding. Here are 10 of the best terrarium plant species and varieties to consider:
1. Cryptanthus (Earth Stars)
These Brazilian native Bromeliads come in a variety of leaf colors and patterns such as pink, red, silver and green. The striking foliage offers great textures and designs. Cryptanthus varieties stay compact, reaching 3 to 6 inches tall and wide. They handle the warm, humid terrarium environment well. Low light varieties like ‘Ruby’ and ‘Black Mystic’ are ideal.
2. Asian Spleenwort Fern
This slow-growing fern has delicate green fronds emerging in clumps from slender rhizomes. It reaches 6 to 8 inches tall and spreads slowly. Asian Spleenwort thrives in the warm, humid conditions of a terrarium. It prefers low to moderate indirect light. Prune old fronds to keep it tidy.
3. Watermelon Peperomia
Native to South America, these soft-leaved trailing Peperomia stay under 6 inches tall. Their red stems display rounded, striped leaves resembling mini watermelons. They spread by above ground stolons and thrive in low to medium light and high humidity, making them perfect terrarium trailing plants.
4. Creeping Charlie (Pilea depressa)
This plant grows just 2 to 4 inches tall with tiny round green leaves along trailing stems. It spreads readily via stolons and handles pruning well. The vining, creeping habit of Creeping Charlie looks great draping along the walls and floor of a terrarium. Keep soil slightly drier than very moisture loving plants.
5. Oak Leaf Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila ‘Quercifolia’)
This Ficus variety has tiny juvenile leaves shaped like oak leaves in a reddish hue. It clings to surfaces with aerial rootlets as it creeps along, staying under 3 inches tall. The vining stems add great texture and interest against the terrarium glass. Prune often to control growth and promote bushiness.
6. Kimberly Queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata)
With delicate bright green fronds on short upright stems, this slow-growing mini fern reaches just 6 to 12 inches tall. It handles warm, humid conditions well but avoids overly wet soil. Kimberly Queen Fern grows well in low to medium indirect light, adding lush texture within a terrarium environment.
7. Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis)
A native of Peru, Nerve Plant stays under 6 inches tall with spread out stems and gorgeously veined leaves in shades of red, pink, white and green. Some varieties have ruffled or mosaic patterns on the foliage. Nerve Plant thrives in humidity and low to medium light, handling the warm, moist terrarium environment beautifully.
8. Miniature African Violet
These compact houseplants grow 3 to 6 inches tall with trailing stems covered in colorful blooms. African Violets thrive when potted in small containers like miniature terrariums. Provide bright filtered light. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Many varieties such as ‘Tiny Tina’ and ‘Little Suzie’ suit terrariums.
9. Cretan Brake Fern (Pteris cretica)
This compact fern forms a vase-shaped clump 8 to 14 inches tall. It has arching fronds divided into oval leaflets. The Cretan Brake Fern enjoys the warm, very humid environment of a closed terrarium. Keep it trimmed to maintain its tidy, mounding shape. Low to moderate light suits this little fern.
10. Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)
This low-growing plant reaches just 4 to 8 inches tall and features vividly spotted leaves in shades of pink, white and red. It thrives in humidity and heat with lower light. Pinch back leggy stems to encourage bushiness. The colorful foliage provides great contrast among other terrarium plant companions.
With a mix of compatible miniature plants, a closed terrarium provides a thriving indoor ecosystem. Choose several trailing, mounding, upright and vining varieties in a range of colors and textures for visual interest. Blend moss as a living mulch. Arrange plants artistically by size and shape as you would a container garden before sealing the terrarium.
How to Plant & Maintain a Closed Terrarium
Once you select plants, cultivating a thriving closed terrarium only requires a few simple steps. Use these tips for planting and care:
- Clear glass container with sealable lid
- Small gravel or pebbles
- Potting mix or compost
- Sheet moss or live moss (optional)
- Miniature tropical plants
- Distilled water in spray bottle
- Chopstick or tweezers to plant with
First, add a thin layer of small gravel or pebbles in the bottom of the container to provide drainage. Next, fill the container about halfway with a lightweight potting mix, patting it down gently.
Now artfully arrange the miniature terrarium plants in the soil, spacing them out well to allow room for growth. Bury the root balls slightly below the soil surface. Use a chopstick or tweezers to carefully place delicate plants. Top dress around plants with bits of chopped sheet moss or live moss to give a finishing touch.
Lightly mist the terrarium plants and soil using the spray bottle until moist but not saturated. Take care not to overwater initially. Once planted, avoid opening the lid in order to maintain high interior humidity. Seal the terrarium lid securely.
Place the planted terrarium in bright filtered light, avoiding direct hot sunlight. Monitor moisture on the glass walls in the following days. If the terrarium looks very dry inside, give plants a gentle misting. Try to find the right balance between adequate humidity and overwatering.
Inspect plants regularly through the glass and wipe excess moisture that condenses on the walls to allow in needed light. Remove any dead leaves or stems immediately to prevent rot issues. Also, prune and trim plants over time to prevent overcrowding and promote healthy growth in the enclosed space.
A properly constructed closed terrarium needs little maintenance. Resist opening the lid frequently since the self-contained environment loses humidity easily. With suitable miniature plants and proper initial planting techniques, the terrarium will thrive naturally as a decorative living garden.
Enjoying Closed Terrariums in Every Space
A closed glass terrarium allows a tiny realm of plants and moss to thrive on display anywhere in your home. Miniature gardens offer delightful focal points in so many spaces:
- Place a terrarium on an office desk or workspace to enjoy as a living landscape while you work. The greens and textures soothe stress and increase productivity.
- Add a terrarium as a centerpiece or living decoration in any room. The unusual container and miniature plants become an intriguing conversation piece for guests.
- Let kids create their own terrariums for their bedrooms so they can learn to care for plants independently.
- Give a handcrafted terrarium as a gift for any occasion – birthdays, holidays, Mother’s Day, teacher gifts, hostess presents or housewarmings.
- Use terrariums to add natural elements and green accents to bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms or anywhere lacking sufficient space for large plants.
- Group a collection of varied terrariums together to create a lush indoor garden display.
With endless possibilities for placement, closed terrariums allow anyone to enjoy the beauty of thriving exotic plants anywhere inside the home or office. Miniature gardening at its finest!
Unique Terrarium Design Ideas
One of the joys of closed terrariums is exercising your creativity to design unique living art pieces and planters. Try these ideas:
- Use an apothecary jar, vintage bell jar or other repurposed glass container for the vessel.
- Incorporate found objects like stones, seashells or figurines to add whimsical accents.
- Affix air plants to the glass walls with decorative pins or waterproof putty for distinctive displays.
- Arrange layers of colored sand and tiny pebbles for visual depth and texture.
- Choose a theme like a desert or beachscape and select plants to match.
- Use wire, natural wood or cork to sculpt architectural shapes and frames to support plants.
- Suspend bits of moss or tiny plants from the glass lid with thin wire or fishing line.
- Look for interesting shaped pieces of driftwood, unique small planters or collecting jars to use creatively.
- Group assorted containers in matching or contrasting sizes.
With boundless ways to get creative, constructing closed terrariums is truly an art form. Let your imagination run wild!
The unique environment of closed terrariums allows tropical plants to thrive as living works of art. Select small, humidity-loving varieties to create lush, low maintenance indoor gardens. With proper plant choices, these miniature ecosystems easily sustain themselves while purifying air and soothing senses. Bring peaceful natural beauty inside with the meditative art of closed terrarium gardening.