These are the 5 Best Plants For Terrariums — 'Try These for a Flourishing Indoor Ecosystem'

Populate your terrarium with these plants for a beautiful display of foliage

A terrarium on a shelf next to other houseplants
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Few things look quite as striking or unique as a beautifully executed terrarium. Accidentally invented over 200 years ago when a botanist discovered that plants could thrive in these miniature ecosystems, terrariums have been a popular feature in homes ever since, but choosing the right foliage is key to a beautiful display. 

Terrariums are miniature indoor gardens with their own microclimates, within which you can grow plants all year round, whatever the weather. You can cultivate plants in any sealed glass setting of your choosing, whether that be an old fishbowl or plant vase, which allows you to inject some personality into it. However, it’s important to apply careful consideration when selecting which plants to populate your terrarium with. 

According to Paris Lalicata, plant expert at The Sill, you should first consider whether you’re aiming for a desert-like open terrarium or a sealed tropical terrarium. ‘If you’re aiming for a desert-like open terrarium working with different species of succulents is the best option,’ she explains. ‘They're great to work with because they don’t need to be watered as often, they grow more slowly, and they require less pruning.’

However, what about if you’re looking to create a more conventional, sealed terrarium? The variety of plants that can be used in these types of terrariums is much more expansive. To find out which plants work best in an enclosed, tropical terrarium, we asked some plant experts for their advice. Try the suggestions below for a flourishing indoor ecosystem with a dramatic display of foliage. 

1. Pilea Cadierei (Aluminum Plant)

A close up of a terrarium

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When decorating with plants, you want to choose options that have beautiful foliage, something the Pilea Cadierei, otherwise known as the Aluminum Plant, can certainly offer. With a unique and playful appearance, these flowering plants are an optimal addition to your tropical terrarium.

‘Pilea is a low-maintenance plant that thrives in the humid conditions of terrariums,’ explains Paris Lalicata at The Sill. ‘It only grows a foot tall but with regular pruning during the growing season, the plant will grow more round instead of tall. Its metallic-looking leaves add a unique touch to a terrarium arrangement.’

2. Fittonia (Nerve Plant)

White tiger fittonia

(Image credit: Thompson Morgan)

The intricate, delicate white veins on their striking evergreen leaves make Fittonias one of the best houseplants to include in your terrarium. 'This plant has vibrant, colorful foliage and thrives in the high humidity levels typical of terrariums,' Paris explains. 

Like all the plants listed here, the benefit of the Fittonia - also aptly referred to as the nerve plant after the delicate veining on the foliage - is that it doesn't grow too large or too quickly. 'It prefers indirect light and doesn't grow too tall, only about six inches, making it perfect for small terrariums,' adds Paris. 

3. Ferns (Various Species)

A close up of a terrarium with a fern in it

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A classic in every way, ferns are definitely worth considering when planning your terrarium. They are a vibrant and luscious plant that injects a tropical vibe into the terrarium environment.

‘Ferns such as Maidenhair Ferns, Asparagus Ferns, and Button Ferns are excellent choices due to their love for humidity,' says Paris. 'They add a delicate, lush look to terrariums.’

4. Baby Tears (Soleirolia Soleirolii)

A close up of a terrarium

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Baby tears are fast-growing perennials that are popular as indoor plants. According to Paris, they work well in terrariums as they spread out across the space to create a beautiful framing effect. 

‘With its tiny, round leaves and creeping growth habit, Baby Tears create a lush carpet-like effect in terrariums,’ she explains. ‘They prefer high humidity and indirect light.’

5. Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor)

A close up of a terrarium with an orchid

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like the unique blooms of any orchid, the jewel orchid is a statement addition to your terrarium. 'With their striking foliage marked by intricate patterns, add a touch of elegance to terrariums,’ Paris explains. 

Beyond the aesthetic benefits of opting for a statement orchid in your terrarium, there are some practical ones, too. ‘Their compact growth habit and manageable size make them perfect for creating lush, visually captivating displays within the limited space of a terrarium,' notes Paris. Make sure you're brushed up on how to care for orchids, however, as these plants can be notoriously difficult to look after. 

Katie Baxter
Trainee Writer

Katie is a freelance writer and MA student at City, University of London studying Magazine Journalism. Katie discovered her passion for lifestyle journalism after finishing her BA at The University of Oxford, when she started pitching to major lifestyle publications and covering various topics from popular culture to wellness. She is a regular contributor at Well+Good, where she writes experiment-based beauty and fitness pieces.