Plants That Grow Well In Terrariums

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If you weren’t already aware, I love plants, but am pretty lax with my plant care. I’m lazy and have executive dysfunction (which is a fancy way of saying I know I need to do stuff but can’t do it) which isn’t the best combination.

Terrariums are great for me all the stuff like light, water, and humidity, can be put on autopilot (also my boyfriend sprays it down). The lights come on on a timer, and the closed unit means that water evaporates out of the soil creating humidity, and then condenses and drips back into the soil. Look at me hacking the water cycle.

A lot of the plants I love, are picky outside of the terrarium but THRIVE inside. There are some that thrive a bit too much in the terrarium, so whilst I have them, I wouldn’t recommend them to others, and there are some that I thought would like it but, er, don’t.

Most tropical plants would LOVE to live in a terrarium, but practically aren’t that suitable. Monstera deliciosa, for example, would go wild in a terrarium but are clearly a bit big.

Plants that live in my terrarium

Currently we have:

  • A Rhapidophora tetrasprema

It LOVES the terrarium and is thriving but it’s too big. It’s gonna get burnt on the lights, plus it’s starting to block the light. I’m gonna put a prop of my big one in there and see if it’s a good way to propagate. I think it’ll probably be a yes.

  • Heartleaf Philodendron

Loves it, but it’s growing scary fast. Also the aerial roots are super creepy. Like little white furry fingers.

  • Calatheas beauty star and Velvet Touch

I rarely get to say this about Calathea but the love it in there. They’re currently growing two new leaves each. I’m hoping they stay pretty compact, but also, they’ll look really cool when they’re oversized in there.

calathea beauty star in terrarium
calathea velvet touch in terrarium


For some reason, the critters in the terrarium insist on covering her up with leaf litter. She’s either dying under there (if we unearth here she’s buried a few hours later) or biding her time. I kinda hope she’ll start to grow through her leaf litter layer.

I THINK she’d thrive in there because if any other plant were buried that much they’d be dead, but she’s alive, just…under the leaves.

I tried to unbury her to take a picture but I disturbed the frog, so you can have a picture of him instead:

  • Philodendron squamiferum

I don’t have high hopes for this one. I think perhaps the humidity is too high. Never mind, you win some, you lose some.

I didn’t take a picture because, er, you can just imagine a crispy brown leaf.

She’s doing really well, like the Calathea, but the slugs (no idea where they come from, it’s a terrarium mystery, but I assume eggs came in on…something) love to eat her. She looks like she has fenestrations!

aglaonema in terrarium

Thriving. Interestingly, we have a mix of white and cream leaves, suggesting that light isn’t the determining factor of leave colour. They’re all heavy on the white/cream though, whereas my ‘outside’ Marble queen has a lot more green on the leaves.

marble queen pothos in terrarium

How we picked our plants

We very much went with the ‘ooo that’s small enough’ method of picking our plants. A lot of gardens sell baby plants, so we just picked a few we liked (or couldn’t have before due to lack of humidity) and got those.

Some didn’t make it, but by sticking to tropical, rainforest-dwelling plants, rather than succulents, most of them are growing really well.

What to look for in terrarium plants

Think about the conditions you have in your terrarium. It’s likely to be high humidity and lower light (unless you have a light, but too much light isn’t usually a problem, especially for young plants that can adapt to it over time).

Terrariums are great because you can keep plants like calathea that people tend to avoid because they have a reputation for being picky. By keeping them in an environment that stays pretty stable by itself (even if you didn’t want to spray it down every day, the soil can stay damp for literally months), all the issues we ten to come up against (dry air, forgetting to water) are less of a big deal

Jewel orchids

We’ve had jewel orchids in the past, but that was back before they were a Thing and incredibly expensive. They are pretty, but I think you can get plants that are just as stunning but much cheaper.

Ours tried to bloom but it had a really tall flower stalk so it got stunuted and just looked a bit sad.

Also, our milipede took a massive chunk out of one of the leaves, which I understand isn’t a problem for those of you without a giant millipede roaming your terrarium at night.

We rarely see her, so it’s always a bit of a shock when she just turns up. Not only is she nocturnal, but they bury themselves in the substrate to shed their skin, so every time we do see her she’s a bit bigger.

They’re also great escape artists, so don’t get one if you can’t handle a giant millipede running across your kitchen floor. luckily she seems to have aged out of doing that.

Maidenhair ferns

These are also on the ‘plants you shouldn’t put in terrariums‘ article, but let me explain.

If you love maidenhair ferns, they can be great in terrariums, but you may need a mister or something because spraying ours caused the fronds to die. They do grow like a weed though, so if you don’t mind staying on top of chopping off the dead parts they’re a good one to get.

We got rid of our maidenhair ferns because they kept getting aphids, but if you can’t imagine your life without one, growing them in a terrarium is by far the easiest way to keep them happy.

Also, aphids love them, so even if they get them, they don’t tend to share them with other plants, which is good.


So, so good in terrariums. They’re so happy in there, and (so far) stay pretty compact. I’m sure it’ll grow enormous at some point, but I’ll either replace it with a new small one and pot up the big one, or divide it and keep one in the terrarium and pot up the rest.

Small peperomia

They creep everywhere and can make a really interesting ground cover. You could try something like a watermelon peperomia, but prepare for it to grow very big very quickly.

If you have a small, unhealthy watermelon peperomia, putting it in a terrarium could be a good way to revive it though (though please figure out why it was dying in the first place, otherwise you’ll just go in circles).

Creeping fig

We took our creeping fig out (don’t know why, my boyfriend just fancied a change) but it’s a great way to cover the back if it’s a bit of an eyesore. It’ll attach to plastic and grow up glass. They grow quickly enough but are really small so won’t take over like some others we won’t mention (HEARTLEAF PHILODENDRON).


Small, cute, colourful, and the best way to stop them from being massive drama queens.

Considering fittonias can be such a PITA outside of the terrarium, they’re incredibly easy inside one. They’re small and don’t spread too quickly, and they always look perky and happy. They’re also cheap and come in a few different colours. Love love love. We’ve tried them before, and the only reason we don’t have them anymore is that we wanted to try out something a bit different.

Here are some other house plants that stay small and COULD suit a terrarium (African violets can be very hit and miss, since, like maidenhair ferns, they will NOT appreciate being misted).

I hope this was helpful! I’ll update if anything exciting happens with the terrarium plants (I still have hope for the Squamiferum!). Let me know if you keep any plants in a terrarium that you never see mentioned!

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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