In this guide, you will learn more about the two common types of terrariums and discover the best terrarium plants for each type.
If there was ever an MVP for the plant world, it would hands-down be terrariums. Exploding in popularity, it is easy to see why so many people have them. Requiring virtually little to no care, they are the perfect choice for aspiring plant hobbyists with busy schedules (or those who struggle to keep up with watering).
What is a Terrarium?
According to The English Garden, terrariums were invented completely by accident when London doctor Nathaniel Ward was monitoring the life cycle of insects in a closed jar and found beautiful, tiny plants emerging and flourishing.
Looking at a 30,000 feet view, terrariums can be described simply as enclosed ecosystems.
Beginning in sealed glass jars, terrariums give plants the unique opportunity to thrive and grow in their own separate space. This is especially good news for busy plant hobbyists–as the nature of these ecosystems is that they are virtually self-sustainable and require very little watering and maintenance.
Which leads us to why you need them–terrariums are great, low-maintenance ways to showcase beautiful plants. They are one of the easiest ways to maintain and grow plants, and they don’t take up much space (in fact, all of mine are hanging from the ceiling), which makes them a must-have for those with smaller spaces.
There are two types of terrariums: open and closed. Keep reading to learn more about each!
Open terrariums provide plants with an enclosed space to grow and thrive. However, different from their ancestor, open terrariums do not require a lid.
While this may not seem like a big deal at first, it does drastically change the ecosystem inside the terrarium. Not having a lid means that the plant is exposed to the air and environment outside the ecosystem, which works especially well for cacti and succulents.
The pros to an open terrarium is that it can be a great way to showcase not just succulents, but also plants that need a lot of space to grow, like the string of pearls.
The downside is that they need to be watered more often than closed terrariums due to being exposed to air. If you choose to go with an open terrarium, you will need to water your plants about once a week, or whenever the soil is dry to the touch.
Closed terrariums make amazing centerpieces, as they display a thriving ecosystem that you can watch, and yet have very little to do in order to keep it going. Being completely enclosed guarantees a moist and warm environment, making it the perfect home for plants that require higher levels of humidity (such as ferns, mosses, & English ivy).
What might make a closed terrarium a better option for you is that they require little to no watering. Unlike their younger relative, closed terrariums feature an ecosystem that is completely self-sustaining. Water continuously circulates within the terrarium, making plants able to independently grow and thrive without you needing to constantly check their soil.
Also, a majority of plants that like closed terrariums enjoy medium-low levels of indirect sunlight–meaning that you can have a thriving terrarium garden no matter how much sun your space gets.
The only downside of closed terrariums is that your plant choices are limited, as cacti and succulents do not do well in these closed ecosystems.
You’ve decided between which type of terrarium you want to make. Before you go filling up your cart with beautiful plants, however, there are a few things you will need to ensure that your new plant babies have the perfect environment to grow and thrive.
Let’s take a look at how you can get started building your perfect terrarium garden.
Best Terrarium Plants (Open Terrarium)
You’ve done all the research, purchased the right tools and soil, and have decided that you want to make an open terrarium. All you need now is beautiful plants to get your micro-greenhouse going.
Since the majority, if not all, of the plants that thrive in open terrariums require lots of light, the following recommendations are plants that require at least 5 hours of bright direct or indirect sunlight.
Named for how it grows on cliffs in South Africa, this rare succulent is the perfect option for open terrariums. A trailing succulent, it is both easy to care for and grows beautiful orange-red flowers.
Known for bringing good luck and wealth, this beautiful succulent features gorgeous green leaves that closely resemble the jade stone.
Succulents are always great for terrariums. Can’t choose which succulent to go with? Grab this amazing assortment and make your own tropical paradise.
A relative of the popular string of pearls, fish hooks are a great option for a statement terrarium. Easy to care for and part of the succulent family, you will want to make sure that this beauty gets ample sunlight and only watered when the soil is dry to the touch.
Make your space a desert paradise with these beautiful succulents that closely resemble cacti. With all the different types included in this assortment, you are sure to make a beautiful terrarium!
Because every terrarium needs a pop of color.
Best Terrarium Plants (Closed Terrarium)
As we discussed earlier, closed terrariums are great for plants who need higher levels of moisture and humidity.
Because of this, our recommendations are going to include plants that need medium and low levels of light. Be sure to always check the light requirements before purchasing your plant, ensuring that your terrarium will be as healthy as possible.
If there was ever a perfect plant for closed terrariums, it would be baby’s tears. Low maintenance, this plant thrives in bright light and soil that is consistently moist.
Style Tip: Plant in this beautiful house-shaped terrarium for a gorgeous statement piece.
This very popular plant is easy to care for and blooms beautifully in closed terrariums. Highly recommended for beginners.
Cotton Candy Fern
My absolute favorite fern, the cotton candy fern adds a whimsical and fairy-like feel to your space, making you feel relaxed and at home.
Style tip: Display in this beautiful glass cloche for the ultimate fairytale-like feel.
English Ivy is a classic terrarium plant that never goes out of style.
A member of the ficus family, this super easy plant is impossible to kill and guaranteed to make your terrarium look vibrant.
We hope this guide to the best terrarium plants helps you find the perfect picks for your terrarium! Whether you’re building an open or closed terrarium, we’ve shared the top plants to add to your green sanctuary.