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 open or closed clear glass containers (think fish bowl) in which plants are grown. In addition to plants, the materials that are used to create a terrarium are layers of activated charcoal, gravel, sterile growing medium, sphagnum or sheet moss, and decorative elements (optional). Many amazing terrarium plants are available for beginners, and it can be difficult to choose which ones to include. If it's your first attempt at planting a terrarium, start by stocking it with a few low-maintenance plants—a terrarium composed of plants with similar growing conditions can last for years.

The plant suggestions 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 airflow, 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, provides easier access for maintenance, and plants tend to grow fast. Planting an open terrarium also reduces the risk of mold growth, which can be more prevalent in closed terrariums. It helps to note that succulents work best in open terrariums, but a cactus terrarium can be difficult 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 learn 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.


Be sure to buy plants that are small enough to fit into your terrarium container, preferably without touching the sides of the glass. A good way to make sure they'll fit is to bring your container with you to the nursery 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 for 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 might 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 become spindly or leggy. For this reason, the polka dot plant favors the controlled microclimate of a closed terrarium. A closed terrarium will plant 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 colorful, often pink, markings

    Watch Now: How to Grow Polka Dot Plants Indoors

  • 04 of 15

    Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

    closeup of maranta leaves

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack 

    Red-veined prayer plant is a stunning plant that can grow up to eight inches tall so consider it for a large terrarium container. The prayer plant received its common name because it folds up its leaves at night, as if in prayer. If it is not receiving enough light, you will know because the leaves will stay folded even during the day. Prayer plants thrive in greenhouse-like, humid conditions, so grow your prayer plant in a closed terrarium kept away from cold windows and chilly drafts.

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

    Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Prayer Plants

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  • 05 of 15

    Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

    young pothos

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    While the meandering golden pothos vine might 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, however, this low-growing plant will behave quite well.

    • 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. Because 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
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  • 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 sun
    • Water: Water occasionally
    • Color: Green foliage
  • 10 of 15

    Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)

    closeup of a croton

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    A small 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 large, open 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 can be grown in open terrariums 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 used in terrariums 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: Brownish 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 because it attaches itself to another surface, like driftwood or a stone, for its survival. The plant will absorb 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 an occasional soaking
    • Color: Various shades of green, brown
  • 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 plant every so often to make sure the water is draining into the gravel that you need to layer beneath the African violet potting 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 choice because of its love for humidity and warmth. It can be used as the main plant in the terrarium because of its beautiful variegated leaves.

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

    Under the right conditions with plants that have the same growing 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 to keep them at a manageable size.

  • 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 cause, 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 wet plant leaves, which can cause damage. Open terrariums should be watered at least once a week, and Tillandsia (air plants) can be misted regularly.