15 Best Terrarium Plants for Low-Maintenance Greenery

No Green Thumb Required: Easy Varieties for Beginners

Glass terrarium filled with succulent varieties

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

As a beginner gardener, you might wonder, What, exactly, is a terrarium, and why all the hype?

Terrariums are mini gardens surrounded by a glass receptacle (think, fish bowl) and can include succulent plants, gravel, and moss. There are so many amazing types of terrarium plants for beginners, it can be difficult to choose which ones to include. If it's your first go at planting a terrarium, start by stocking it with a few low-maintenance plant varieties—a well-balanced terrarium can last for years.

The terrarium plant ideas in this list are not only easy to grow, but will survive and thrive when planted in the appropriate environment. In a closed terrarium without air holes, the air will be recycled and the forced humid environment will help the right plants grow happily without the need for water.

An open terrarium has no lid and receives fresh air, has easier access, and plants tend to grow fast. Planting an open terrarium also reduces the risk of mold growth, which may be more prevalent in closed terrariums. It helps to note that succulents work best in open terrariums, but a cactus terrarium may be tough to manage, even if it's open. These desert plants do not always fare well in a high-humidity environment with little to no air circulation.

Read on to find out about 15 plants that do well in a terrarium—including succulents, ferns, mosses, cacti, and some tropical plants—as well as ideas on how to care for your open or closed glass garden.

Tip

Be sure to buy plants that are small enough to fit into your terrarium jar, preferably without touching the sides. A good way to make sure they'll fit is to bring your jar with you to the nursery or store or bring measurements.

  • 01 of 15

    Artillery Fern (P. microphylla)

    Artillery fern terrarium plant with small round leaves on thin stems overhead

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Artillery ferns are not actually ferns at all but are members of the Pilea family. They are called artillery ferns because they shoot seeds with a popping sound—and sometimes quite a distance. Despite that explosive trait, these plants are delicate and have a lovely, interesting texture. Artillery ferns are easy to grow, and they will best thrive with minimal care in a closed terrarium, as this plant loves moisture and humidity.

    • Light: Medium to bright indirect light
    • Water: Medium
    • Color: Insignificant bloom
  • 02 of 15

    Aluminum Plant (Pilea Cadierei)

    Aluminum terrarium plant with iridescent white and green leaves in white pot

    The Spruce / Krystal Slagle

    The aluminum plant, a native of Vietnam, likes low to medium light and warm temperatures. This plant thrives in a closed terrarium, as it favors the humid environment. The leaves of the aluminum plant have almost iridescent white markings that make them shine. This plant grows fairly quickly, so you may have to pinch it back occasionally. The aluminum plant is easy to root as well. Simply take a small cutting and plant it in moist soil. 

    • Light: Low to medium light
    • Water: Regularly in spring and summer; less at other times
    • Color: Green leaves with white markings
  • 03 of 15

    Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

    closeup of a polka dot plant

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Polka dot plants seem to have a great sense of humor. This plant is cheerful and comes in pink, red, and silver varieties. This terrarium plant is easy to care for and might need to be pinched back if it gets too tall or starts to get spindly or leggy. For this reason, the polka dot favors the controlled microclimate of a closed terrarium. A closed terrarium will keep polka dot plant's growth in check, preventing the need for extra maintenance.

    • Light: Bright, indirect light
    • Water: Regularly in spring and summer; less at other times
    • Color: Green leaves with white markings
    2:44

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  • 04 of 15

    Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

    closeup of maranta leaves

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack 

    Red-veined prayer plant is a stunning plant. The prayer plant got its name because it folds up its leaves at night, as if in prayer. If it is not getting enough light, you will know because the leaves will stay folded even during the daytime. Prayer plants thrive in greenhouse-like conditions, so keep your prayer plant in a closed terrarium and away from cold windows or chilly drafts.

    • Light: Medium, indirect light
    • Water: Regularly in spring and summer; less at other times
    • Color: Green leaves with white markings
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    Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Prayer Plants

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

    young pothos

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    While the meandering golden pothos vine may look pedestrian as a houseplant, it can look fabulous in a terrarium. Golden pothos has a well-deserved reputation as a bulletproof, indestructible houseplant, and it is even truer in the controlled environment of a closed terrarium. Prune it back regularly so it does not become unruly, and your pothos should look good for years. It can also handle low light conditions and is easy to propagate by rooting the stems in water.

    • Light: Bright, indirect light
    • Water: Relatively little water; do not overwater
    • Color: Green leaves with white markings
  • 06 of 15

    Peperomia (peperomia caperata)

    closeup of peperomia leaves

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    There are about 1,000 peperomia cultivars. The common peperomia caperata can either have all green leaves or leaves that are blushed with some red. This slow grower does beautifully in closed terrariums where the environment is warm and humid. Peperomia also sometimes produces cool-looking flower spikes. If you are lucky, these showy flowers add a nice color pop to your terrarium.

    • Light: Low to bright indirect light
    • Water: Relatively little water; do not overwater
    • Color: Green leaves or green with red
  • 07 of 15

    Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

    closeup of baby tears

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

    Baby tears is a small plant with a lot of common names. The plant is also called angel's tears, mind-your-own-business, peace-in-the-home, Pollyanna vine, mother of thousands, and the Corsican's curse. The curse may be referring to the fact that, given the right conditions, baby's tears can be seriously invasive, taking over whole gardens. In a closed terrarium, it will behave quite well, as this low-growing plant will be kept in check.

    • Light: Bright light
    • Water: Consistent moisture
    • Color: Creamy ivory flowers
  • 08 of 15

    Button Fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)

    Button Fern
    ValMcNic / Getty Images

    There is something about a small button fern that is terrifically appealing. Hailing from New Zealand, it's hardy and drought-tolerant. It is slightly mop-headed, but also kind of delicate and elegant at the same time. Since button fern can tolerate periodically dry soil, an open terrarium will suit this plant just fine.

    • Light: Full shade to filtered light
    • Water: Water weekly
    • Color: Green foliage
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Creeping Fig (Ficus primula)

    overhead view of creeping fig

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Creeping fig, with its small, variegated heart-shaped leaves, makes a lovely addition to almost any terrarium. It is a perennial climbing vine, so you can train it to creep up structures, which could be interesting to try in a large terrarium. Creeping fig prefers a warm, moist environment and will grow well in a closed terrarium. You can easily propagate creeping fig by rooting a branch-cutting in water.

    • Light: Partial to full sun
    • Water: Water occasionally
    • Color: Green foliage
  • 10 of 15

    Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)

    closeup of a croton

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Croton can add some bling to your terrarium. Its shiny, thick leaves come in a huge array of amazing colors and shapes. The gold dust croton, for instance, is one of the narrow-leaved varieties that will have various amounts of gold, depending on the cultivar. It is not well known as a terrarium plant but works particularly well when grown in open-jar terrariums.

    • Light: Bright indirect, dappled light
    • Water: Water occasionally
    • Color: Green, gold, and salmon foliage
  • 11 of 15

    Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)

    closeup of hens and chicks succulents

    The Spruce / Kara Riley 

    Succulents are ideal open terrarium plants because they stay small and don't need to be transplanted. One of the best types of succulents for an open terrarium is hens and chicks, which form small rosettes and offshoots. Hens and chicks are not the only succulents that look great in a terrarium. Mix this type with other small desert plants, like ‘Mini Jade’ or ‘Hobbit’ jade plants (Crassula ovata).

    • Light: Bright light
    • Water: Let dry out between watering, drought-tolerant
    • Color: Red, green, blue, gold, or copper leaves
  • 12 of 15

    Sphagnum Moss (Sphagnum capillifolium)

    Closeup of spaghnum moss

    The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

    Moss, especially sphagnum moss, is an important part of any terrarium for its practical and decorative purposes. It stores water in the terrarium for other plants to use and works well in both open and closed terrariums. Water and mist the moss frequently so it can continue to do its job and make your terrarium thrive, though overwatering can result in mold growth.

    • Light: Indirect light, shade
    • Water: Keep moist, lightly water once a week
    • Color: Sage green
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Tillandsia (Air Plant)

    air plants

    The Spruce / Kori Livingston

    An air plant doesn't need any soil to grow since it attaches itself to another surface, like driftwood or a stone, for its survival. The plant will take in water and nutrients through its leaves. But, this type of plant greatly prefers an open terrarium so it doesn't drown from too much humidity.

    • Light: Bright to medium indirect light
    • Water: Varies per variety, but likes a soaking
    • Color: Varies
  • 14 of 15

    African Violets

    African violets

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    African violet is a huge fan of bright, warm, and humid conditions. This compact flowering plant is ideal for closed terrariums. The only caveat: the violet cannot touch the sides of the terrarium or water will collect on its leaves and blooms resulting in rot. Check the violet plant every so often to make sure the water is draining into the gravel that you need to put beneath the African violet mix. The African violet prefers a terrarium temperature between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • Light: Bright but not direct sunlight
    • Water: Moisten soil with warm water
    • Color: White, pink, red, blue, and purple
  • 15 of 15

    Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis)

    closeup shot of a fittonia

    The Spruce / Alonda Baird

    This attractive, slow-growing tropical plant is a classic closed terrarium pick because of its love for humidity and warmth. It can be used as the main plant in the terrarium because of its bold nature.

    • Light: Bright, indirect light
    • Water: Constant moisture is important or it will literally faint
    • Color: White and red flowers with colorful veined leaves
FAQ
  • How long do terrarium plants last?

    Under the right conditions, terrarium plants can last forever. However, healthy terrarium plants will always outgrow their container and need to be transplanted. Don't be afraid to prune them to keep things in check.

  • Do terrariums attract bugs?

    Air-tight terrariums don't attract bugs, but open terrariums can be affected by gnats, mites, or mealybugs. Overwatering is usually the culprit, so make sure to keep your terrarium balanced to ward off invaders.

  • How often should I water my terrarium?

    Closed terrariums should be watered every two to three weeks, taking care not to water your plant's leaves, which may cause damage. Open terrariums should be watered at least once a week, and air plants can be misted regularly.