If you live in a dry place where tropical plants rarely thrive, you’ll love building a terrarium. Similarly, you may just appreciate the beauty of some plants in a small area – like a closed terrarium.
Either way, you’ll need the ideal plants if you want the terrarium to be successful. If you don’t use the right species, there’s a high chance the terrarium won’t prosper as expected. And that can be a massive waste of time, effort, and money.
To prevent that from happening, we’ve assembled a list of the best closed terrarium plants you can take into any terrarium. This list is more of a guide, with information about size, environmental needs, and more about each species.
What’s even better, we’ve classified them in herbs, ferns, vines, foliage, mosses, and carnivorous plants. Depending on what you find more enticing for the terrarium, you’ll find an alternative within this article.
Herbs as Closed Terrarium Plants
We are going to start with herbs. These are often small, easy to grow, and almost perfect for tropical environments that closed terrariums produce. Here are some of them to consider:
1. African Violets (Saintpaulia)
The first and probably most attractive plant you can get in a terrarium is the Saintpaulia. As the common name of African Violets says, it produces purple and dark violet flowers. What sets them apart is how small they are, growing not more than 5 inches tall and 10 inches wide.
You’ll need indirect sunrays and moist soil for them to thrive.
2. Baby’s Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)
As soon as you check the plant out, you’ll know where the name comes from. With small round leaves and thin stems, it is a uniquely enticing addition to any terrarium. The plant is super-small nonetheless, growing almost like moss at no more than 2 inches tall. It can grow to more than 20 inches wide.
To grow it, you’ll need consistently humid soil and a lot of light.
3. Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis amabilis)
Also known as the Mini Orchid, this plant is one of the rarest types of herbs to plant. Being rare, they are hard to grow and exceptionally good-looking. The orchids it blooms are often white or purple with red and violet stripes. Either way, it grows to about 10 inches in height and 8 inches in width.
You’ll need a warm environment, humid soil, and consistent brightness.
Ferns as Closed Terrariums Plants
Because ferns reproduce using spores and don’t require particular environments to thrive, you can grow them on closed terrariums with little effort. However, ferns include over a thousand species. They’re all similar, holding sword-like shapes on their leaves. But they still have small differences. Check them out:
4. Giant Sword Fern (Nephrolepis biserrata)
Growing dense and thick, the Giant Sword Fern is an excellent choice for big terrariums. If you have enough space to fit a person or more, you’ll love having a plant like this. The large sword-like leaves make it popular, as it can cover a lot of space. Each leaf can reach 20 inches in length and 11 inches in width.
It is one of the sturdiest tropical ferns, thriving in warm and moist environments.
5. Chinese Brake (Pteris vittate)
Also boasting a sword-like leaf, the Chinese Brake is super-resistant, withstanding almost any environment. Despite that, they grow slowly, and their leaves tend to be pretty fragile when handled. Having said that, its leaves can grow to over 25 inches long and 10 inches wide.
To grow it, you’ll only need humid environments with constant sun rays (it’s not picky about soil).
6. Fishtail Fern (Microsorum falcata)
While the Microsorum genus includes over a hundred species, the Fishtail Fern is the most popular. Each plant can grow to over 25 inches long and over 15 inches wide. They’re ideal for large terrariums where smaller plants would look underwhelming. They also host large shapes with several laminae on the stipes.
This one requires constant sun exposure and decently humid and warm environments.
7. Golden Clubmoss (Selaginella kraussiana)
The name of Clubmoss comes from the moss-like appearance. But despite its looks, the plant is actually a fern. One exciting feature of this species is the dense and gorgeous appearance, almost a grass-like shrub. It can grow to 8 inches tall and cover a vast space.
This one requires indirect sun exposure, a humid environment but well-drained soil.
8. Hare’s Foot (Davallia canariensis)
It has many similar cousins like the Rabbit’s Foot and Deer’s Foot. Their shape is similar to most ferns, but with a broader bottom and a thinner tip (epiphytical shape). Either way, their leaves are lush green and grow dense but separated, covering a large space of 40 inches wide, growing up to 20 inches tall.
These are always starving, so they require decently damp soil and environments.
9. Leather-leaf Fern (Rumohra adiantiformis)
In contrast with other ferns, the leaves of the Ruhmora adiantiformis as often thick and bright, adding a particular attractiveness. Their leaves can grow to 10 inches in length and about 2 inches wide. They grow dense and tightly together, achieving a bush-like appearance when adults.
You will need a tropical environment, meaning a lot of sun rays and humid soil.
10. Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aleuticum)
One of the most common terrarium ferns is the Maidenhair. The leaves on this plant don’t grow too large, typically staying between 10 and 14 inches in height and no more than 10 inches wide. For that reason, you can plant them almost anywhere, especially in medium-sized terarriums.
These prefer a lot of shade, constant humidity, and well-drained soil.
11. Spleenworts (Asplenium trichomanes)
Famous for its attractive intense green and square-shaped lamina, the Asplenium trichomanes grows to about 12 inches tall and between 15 to 20 inches wide. It is a pretty good choice for medium-sized terrariums as well as gardens.
You’ll need humid and shaded places for this plant, and it can grow on almost any type of tropical soil.
Vine Plants for Closed Terrariums
Alongside ferns, vines are the most popular species of plants for terrariums. You can find everything from climbing and creeping to trailing species. As long as its crawls through surfaces, that’s a vine that probably grows effortlessly on terrariums. Here are some to consider:
12. Baby Rubber Plant (Peperomia obtusifolia)
The circular-shaped and thick, fleshy leaves give the Baby Rubberplant a super-tolerable resistance, meaning they can grow almost anywhere. These leaves can be light green, dark green, or variegated, with white or red touches. Either way, it grows no more than 10 inches tall and 8 inches wide.
These are super-easy to care for, only requiring indirect sun exposure and little water to thrive.
13. Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)
Sometimes confused with the water lilies, the Chinese Money Plant boasts circular leaves with intense green color. Their leaves hang from a thin stem that can grow to over 15 inches in length. A Pilea peperomioides can also cover spaces up to 20 inches wide.
They require medium light and consistent humidity in warm environments. It prefers well-drained soil.
14. Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)
Boasting heart-shaped leaves and intense green, the Creeping Fig gives honor to its name. This plant can cover vast areas of rock, dirt, or even metal. Interestingly, it works better in large terrariums as it can be somewhat invasive.
It thrives in full-sun, occasional watering, and dry soil. Yet, it also appreciates humid environments.
15. Million Hearts (Dischidia ruscifolia)
If you don’t like creeping, crawling, climbing, or trailing vines, you can always go for cascading ones. The Million Hearts is one of those. The fleshy heart-shaped leaves grow with stems that typically hang from wherever you plant them. This plant may produce small pink flowers that augment any terrarium’s appeal.
It prefers hot and humid places, as close to an Asian tropical environment as possible.
16. Mini English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Also boasting heart-shaped leaves with pointy tips, the Mini English Ivy is one of the most attractive and easy-to-grow species you can get on any terrarium. Its leaves can achieve variegated tones of gold, yellow, white, and sometimes red. The plant loves to spread in areas of over 50 feet in some cases.
It is ideal for large terrariums with low light but dry soil. Requires weekly watering.
17. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Many people know it as Pothos, but it’s also popular as the Money Plant. The leaves are often variegated, with tones of yellow and white in the green leaves. This one grows super-quick and covers large areas. Typically, one stem can reach 50 inches long and over 20 inches of spread.
You will need a lot of indirect light, little watering, and warm environments. It is ideal for both small and large terrariums.
18. Mini Pixie (Syngonium podophyllum)
An arrowhead shape on the leaves makes the Mini Pixie one of the most recognizable plants in tropical environments. You can also find it as the Arrowhead or Butterfly plant. Its leaves have a light green with white stripes or veins. The plant can grow to 30 inches tall and 20 inches wide.
It often demands tons of light but can also thrive in shaded areas. However, the soil needs to be humid.
Foliage Plants for Closed Terrariums
Plants that don’t climb but produce dense green areas are often known as foliage. Some of these can come from entirely different species (like palms and shrubs), but they all offer this ability to grow thick and lushly. One of these foliage plants can be an excellent addition to your terrarium:
19. Elephant Ears (Alocasia & Colocasia)
You can find Elephant Ears of all colors and sizes, covering species like the Alocasia and Colocasia. Some of them can reach over 50 inches in length with 3-feet-large leaves. But others grow no more than 10 inches high and 5 inches wide. Either way, they all boast a triangular ear-like shape.
You can grow these in a terrarium with tropical environments: high humidity and constant sun exposure.
20. Giant Huembe (Philodendron giganteum)
If you’re building a large terrarium, no other plant will fit the space like the Giant Huembe. Its leaves can reach over 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, plus total heights of 4 feet – it looks gigantic. Other Philodendron species can grow smaller but require a lot more care.
These thrive in humid environments and soil with tons of sun exposure.
21. Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis)
One of the classical terrarium plants is the Nerve Plant. Also known as the Fittonia, it has a veined leaf from which it gets the name. The leaves are often green with white stripes and pink veins. The plant grows super-dense. Most Nerve Plants grow between 12 to 20 inches tall and about 6 inches wide.
These love a lot of sun exposure but could also thrive in medium shade. Either way, it likes tropical rainforests, so you better ensure a humid environment with dry soil.
22. Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)
A classic as a terrarium plant, the Polka Dot is lovely, boasting green leaves with a white, red, or pink shadowy pattern on the leaves. These can grow anywhere from 4 inches in small spaces up to 20 inches in the right environment.
You will need consistent brightness and water to make it grow. Sadly, it often lives about 3 or 5 years.
23. Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconera)
Even though they’re more common as indoor plants than they are for terrariums, they still make one of the best alternatives. Their unique enlarged oval-shaped leaves with unusual colors (dark green, light green, white, and sometimes purple) make it a perfect terrarium plant. It can grow to 15 inches tall.
A Prayer Plant thrives in humid areas with well-drained soil and medium indirect sun exposure.
24. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum cosmosus)
Typically called the Airplane Plant, Spider Ivy, and Ribbon Plant, it gets the name from its long leaves with pointy shapes. The leaves can grow to 24 inches long and 1 inch wide. Often, the whole plant can reach 20 inches of total coverage. Apart from that, you can find it in green and variegated forms.
The plant grows well in tropical areas with consistent sun exposure and humid environments.
25. Strawberry Begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera)
Because its leaves look similar to the strawberry plant, it gets such a name. These leaves are often variegated, boasting colors like white veins and a pink border alongside a dark green. The leaves are rounded and can reach up to 8 inches tall. It is likely for the plant to trail to 12 inches around.
The plant loves a lot of light like the original strawberry, especially in the morning. It requires humid soil.
26. Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens)
While the original begonias are over 1,300 different species, the Wax Begonia is probably the most attractive. It boasts intense red leaves with yellow and orange flowers. The plant often grows to 8 inches in height and about 2 inches in width. It’s perfect for small and medium-sized terrariums.
Despite its unique appearance, it requires constant light and heavily humid soil.
Mosses as Closed Terrarium Plants
You may believe that moss is for lawns and gardens. And while you wouldn’t be wrong, mosses also thrive in enclosed spaces like terrariums. In fact, they probably prefer places like that due to the high humidity these areas produce. Here are some mosses to consider:
27. Haircap Moss (Polytrichum commune)
Looking at the Haircap Moss is like looking at a small beach palm. The leaves are often bright green with a red-to-brown stem. Interestingly, this moss can grow to 2 feet in height and cover an area of over 5 feet in diameter. The plant may grow some flowers that look like small fungus.
They require partial shade and depend heavily on highly fertilized soil with high humidity.
28. Pincushion Moss (Leucobryum glaucum)
You could say it looks like a terrestrial coral, and you wouldn’t be out of place. The moss grows to about 5 inches with super-small leafy shrubs that grow to 5 inches tall and can cover 3 feet in diameter. Generally, it comes in a light yet vibrant green that makes it look like a cushiony coral.
It generally demands partial shade and moderate humidity. Though, you can grow it in dry places as well.
29. Springy Turf Moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
Growing in intense green and sometimes with yellowish tones, the Springy Turf Moss gives honor to the name, boasting small leafy stems with tiny pricks. Despite that, the plant is entirely harmless and grows to about 6 inches. It can create moss beds of several feet in width.
This one prefers partial shade and damp places, preferably with consistent rains or watering.
30. Common Tamarisk Moss (Thuidium tamariscinum)
It looks more like an herb or fern than it looks like moss, but that makes it so attractive. Like every moss, it forms a wide bed on any surface. More importantly, it can reach 6 inches tall and produce lovely green leaves with a brown stem.
The plant obviously requires a lot of humidity, but it can handle neutral soil and partial shade.
Carnivorous Plants as Closed Terrarium Plants
Even though carnivorous plants are hard to grow anywhere, they make exceptional plants for an enclosed terrarium. Actually, it’s easier to grow them in an enclosed space like this than it is to grow them outdoors or indoors. Below, we talk about some of them:
31. Cobra Lilies (Darlingtonia Californica)
Some people call it the Cobra Plant and the California Pitcher. Either way, the Cobra Lily is probably the most enticing of all carnivorous plants. And it’s for a reason. This plant boasts unique colors and shapes, typically found in purple with red tones on its cone-like body. It holds a tongue-like part that hangs from its center.
This plant requires humid places, where it rains a lot and the soil is moist most of the day.
32. Sundews (Drosera spatulata)
It’s one of the rarest forms of carnivorous plants that would likely thrive on enclosed terrariums. It is gorgeous, boasting a green body with pink pricks coming off it. The pricks are sticky glands that capture insects, as it produces an attractive smell. It can grow to 5 inches tall and about 5 inches wide.
This one prefers humid areas, yet it can grow on almost any soil (even on rocks and stones).
33. Venus Flytraps (Dioanea muscipila)
If you’re looking for an easy-to-grow carnivorous, the Venus Flytrap should be your first choice. It is also the most common type of carnivorous plant, holding long stems with a mouth-like leaf. This leaf closes when an insect poses on it. Then it feeds itself. You can find these stems to reach over 15 inches tall.
Being one of the easiest to grow, it typically requires medium humidity in both environment and soil.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We went through the best plants you can take to any terrarium. This doesn’t mean these are the only ones. And even more important, there are way more factors to consider before planting. In this section, we talk about these things a bit more in-depth:
How often should you water a closed terrarium?
It depends on the species you’re planting. However, it’s worth noting that terrariums recycle humidity. That means the vapors coming off the soil typically stick to the walls. This humidity usually falls back again to the plants and soil.
For that reason, it is wise to only water when the soil looks dry. Still, follow the specific species’ needs. You don’t want to water a tropical fern like you would water moss.
Can I grow other plants in a terrarium?
Obviously, you can plant hundreds of different species and genera in a terrarium. But you should always go for humidity-loving plants like the ones above. Otherwise, you will either struggle to keep the plant growing or without a disease.
Should you grow succulents in a terrarium?
One of the reasons you should only choose humidity-loving for a closed terrarium is the unique environment. Plants like succulents and cacti, for example, won’t thrive because they require dry soils. Humid places like closed terrariums will cause them to get diseases and likely to rot.
How long can a closed terrarium last?
It depends on the plants you’re growing and the overall care. Generally, however, terrariums can last over 50 years with expert maintenance. With the right conditions in a small place, you can make one last 20 years without problems.
So, are you ready to start your own terrarium? It will be a fantastic experience from start to end. You just need to remember how difficult it can be. Luckily, the closed terrarium plants above should make it easier.
If you’re eager to take your chances and try building a terrarium, then start right now. It takes a lot of work and time – but it’s completely worth it. Use our advice and plants above – you won’t regret it.