Best Plants for Closed Terrariums

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Miniature landscapes that remind you of fairy tales in your own living room? It’s now possible with plants that can thrive in closed terrariums. You can let your imagination run wild and create elaborate landscapes that are encapsulated in a veritable microcosmos.

You may assume that terrariums are difficult to set up, but if you choose the best plants for closed terrariums, you will have a much better time setting things up and maintaining the whole ecosystem.

Which plants can be grown in closed terrariums? And how does a closed terrarium work? Read on to get inspired and create your own little world of joy.

Plants that don’t require lots of light, plants that enjoy humidity, warmth and a moist soil, and slow-growing plants are the most suited for closed terrariums.

What is a Closed Terrarium?

A closed terrarium is a glass container fitted with a lid that creates a warm environment where moisture from the plant and soil evaporate due to the higher temperature inside the terrarium.

The resulting moisture and warmth create a self-sufficient environment. Ideal plants for a closed terrarium should have a slow growth to reduce the amount of maintenance needed.

Other things to consider when setting up a closed terrarium concern the soil, lighting needs, watering needs, temperature requirements, and maintenance requirements of the plants you’re going to place in the same terrarium together.

The plants I discuss in this article make great choices for closed terrariums. I’ll offer a quick overview of each plant so that you can choose the ones that work best for your closed terrarium idea and your time to focus on maintenance and related care.

Top Plants for Closed Terrariums

My top picks for best closed terrarium plants include:

  • Mosses
  • Ferns
  • Selaginella
  • English Ivy
  • Pilea
  • Peperomia
  • Nerve Plant
  • Creeping Fig
  • Selaginellas (Spike Moss)
  • Polka Dot Plant
  • Phalaenopsis Orchids
  • Spider Plant
  • Golden Photos
  • Baby Tears Plant

Some of these plants will require a bit more maintenance than others, but all are suited for closed terrariums, offering you a wide palette of choices for your closed terrarium project.

Mosses

Mosses are an excellent option for ground cover in your closed-off terrarium and they require virtually no maintenance. With no root system or a specialized water delivery system, mosses require constant contact with moisture that they absorb through their leaves.

They don’t grow much vertically and won’t make a fuss about being shaded by other plants, as they prefer being kept in shade.

Whether you’re combining different types of mosses or plants that tolerate dim light, mosses are the ultimate choice for closed terrariums.

Ferns

Now you may think ferns would not make a good plant for a closed terrarium seeing how some varieties grow quite tall. But there are several small-growing ferns that do make excellent candidates for these types of setups.

Miniature ferns still grow quite big (6-12 inches at maturity), so you’ll need to prune them occasionally to keep them at a manageable size.

Here are some miniature fern choices you can use in a closed terrarium:

  • Nephrolepis cordifolia (lemon button fern)
  • Adiantum capillus-veneris (southern maidenhair fern, Venus hair fern)
  • Adiantum raddianum (delta maidenhair fern)

Of these, the Adiantum raddianum is not as slow growing as the other two. It will need some pruning to keep it at a size that works for your terrarium.

Selaginella (Spike Mosses)

Not technically mosses, selaginella plants look a lot like mosses and they’re also used as ground cover in closed terrariums, where they thrive due to their moisture and warmth-loving nature.

Despite their name spike mosses are more closely related to ferns and they enjoy partial shade as they grow on the grounds of rainforests.

English Ivy

You may not think of the Hedera helix as something that could grow in a closed terrarium because of their crawling nature and fast growth. There are, however, miniature English ivy plants that don’t grow that fast, especially if kept out of too much sunlight.

With a variety of patterned leaves and colors, miniature English ivy can be a good choice for a closed terrarium.

Pileas

A plant that grows in tropical regions, the Pilea plant will do well in a warm and high-humidity environment.

The small growth of the plant, its beautifully variegated leaves, these plants are easy to look after and make a great choice for closed terrariums.

Some pilea varieties best for closed terrariums include:

  • Pilea involucrata
  • Pilea cadierei
  • Dark Mystery pilea
  • Moon Valley pilea

Peperomia

Growing in tropical and subtropical regions, peperomias are both small-growing and slow-growing.

The peperomia genus includes multiple varieties with lots of different leaf patterns and colors, so there’s quite a big palette of choices.

Peperomia varieties that are suitable for closed terrariums include the Peperomia obtusifolia, the Peperomia caperata, and Peperomia argyreia.

Nerve Plant

Available in more colors and native to some tropical forests of South America, nerve plants are small enough to make a suitable plant for closed terrariums. Plus, they enjoy warmth, humidity and partial to full shade.

Creeping Fig

The moist, warm environment of a closed terrarium is ideal for creeping figs, which grow as dense ground cover in tropical regions of East Asia. Climbing varieties are also abundant.

Just like English ivy plants, creeping figs will also grow quite fast, so looking for slower growing varieties is a must with these plants.

Of all the creeping fig varieties, some varieties like the Bellus, Curly and Dorty varieties are better suited for closed terrariums. Leaves are small and available in different shades of green including variegated ones.

Polka Dot Plant

Of all the plants I mention in this article on closed terrarium plants, polka dot plants are by far the most joyous and colorful.

They’re suitable to create cheerful ensembles in your terrarium and certainly add a splash of color to any arrangement.

On the downside, these plants require medium to bright indirect light, which makes them grow rather vigorously, translating into more maintenance work for you.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Just like English ivies, Phalaenopsis orchids seem like an unlikely candidate for closed terrariums because of the height they reach when they mature.

Thankfully, there are miniature phalaenopsis versions to prove us wrong. As long as you observe the needs of these plants, don’t overwater them, you can showcase a variety of blooming orchids in your closed terrarium.

Spider Plant

Another plant that isn’t thought of as a terrarium plant, the spider plant can be a good candidate still for a closed terrarium, provided that it’s not overwatered.

A small growing spider plant, the Variegatum variety, can be kept in closed terrariums, but you should watch out for plantlets that can soon overtake your entire terrarium. A more maintenance intensive plant for those who don’t mind a little trimming and pruning to keep the spider plant from overgrowing.

Golden Photos

Because of its adaptability, golden photos plants can also be adapted to grow in closed terrariums. It can thrive in the humid and warm environment of the terrarium.

Unfortunately, like many other trailing plants I mentioned in this article, this too can grow out of control and take over your entire terrarium unless you keep things under control by periodically cutting back the plant.

Baby Tears Plant

Possibly my favorite kind of ground cover plant, baby tears plants are native to regions of the Mediterranean and enjoy warm, humid environments and bright indirect sunlight. Baby tears plants should be housed with other plants that enjoy bright lights.

Although they’re small, they’re fast-growing, which may not make them ideal for a small terrarium, where they can quickly take over everything.

With so many options available, you can easily set up your dream terrarium and create a little universe that you can nurture and grow into an impressive landscape.

When setting up your terrarium make sure to take into account the different requirements of different plants — soil, lighting requirements, humidity, temperature, etc. — to make sure that their requirements either match up or that they can adapt to the same conditions.

Conclusion

Closed terrariums are little marvels that can certainly become the focal point of any room or office. They’re an interesting ecosystem and an amazing proof that gardening too is a highly creative endeavor.

I hope my article on the plants you should consider for a closed terrarium has brought to your attention a diverse range of plants that you could use to create elaborate little landscapes.

Plants that enjoy high humidity and warmth are ideal candidates to be grown in terrariums, but another prerequisite is that they shouldn’t grow fast.

Some of the plants I mentioned do grow fast (mostly vining plants), but you should be able to control their expansion or growth by cutting back the plant and setting up a good trimming regimen that keeps the plant under check.

Even though some of the plants mentioned in my list of best closed terrarium plants do need a little maintenance in the way of pruning and trimming, it shouldn’t hold you back from housing them in a terrarium.

Updated: February 29, 2020

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