Terrariums bring greenery to indoor spaces, and will flourish with the best terrarium plants. See our favorite selection of terrarium plants — in beautiful containers — to help you create your own.
Terrariums came of age with the Victorians and are enjoying a newfound resurgence, fueled in part by their affordability and the continued interest in all things gardening. “It’s something everybody can do,” says Tovah Martin, author of The New Terrarium and a lecturer who gives workshops on the subject across the country. “You can do it on a budget, do it with kids, do it with seniors.” Here are 12 terrarium plants, along with tips and inspiration, that will make it easy for you to start your own garden in miniature.
Moon Valley Friendship Plant
‘Moon Valley’ friendship plant provides delicate patterning with deeply textured craters and valleys on two-toned leaves, which are tinted red on the underside. The fast-grower tolerates low light and at its maximum reaches 12 inches tall and wide; it may surprise with delicate pink flowers, too. This plant is a perfect size to enclose in virtually any glass container that’s fit for a terrarium, such as cloches or jars.
Name: Pilea involucrata ‘Moon Valley’
Size: To 12 inches tall and wide
Variegated Spider Fern
Variegated spider fern seems to glow in a terrarium, thanks to the shine of its glossy leaves. A broad yellow center band on each leaf supplies visual interest for the easy-growing fern, which tolerates low light and enjoys the moist potting mix and high humidity found inside a terrarium. If it outgrows your glass container, you can plant it in shade gardens in Zones 6-9.
One of Martin’s favorite plants is the star-shape Cryptanthus bivittatus, also called starfish plant, which is a member of the bromeliad family. The strap like leaves nearly glow with iridescent stripes, which range from red to maroon, white, and deep green; the plant also has tiny flowers. The leaf colors of starfish plant change with the intensity of light, and its slow-growing nature — it reaches only about 6 inches at maturity — makes it well-suited for a terrarium. When filling your terrarium use 3/8-inch pebbles, horticultural charcoal, and potting soil. .
Nerve plant is a tropical choice with distinctively patterned leaves in burgundy and green. It thrives under the moist, warm air of a terrarium and will only reach 12 inches when fully mature. To plant a nerve plant inside a terrarium, Martin starts with about a 2-inch layer of pebbles mixed with a tablespoon of charcoal; the latter acts as filtration to keep everything “sweet” for terrarium plants.
Its foliage has little color variation, but the textural ripples or wrinkles on the leaves of Peperomia caperata ‘Variegata’ provide welcome contrast to terrarium plants that may be patterned with color. The plant stays 6 inches tall and likes the low but regular light and moist conditions under the glass of a terrarium. Divide it for a friend — or another terrarium — by taking a leaf cutting. Ensure success for your terrarium by layering in 2 to 3 inches of potting soil, and insert plants into that.
Even though Selaginella kraussiana ‘Aurea’, or golden clubmoss, stays compact in height — just up to 6 inches — it likes to spread. In fact, it can reach 2 feet across, so keep it trimmed inside a terrarium. The light green foliage works wonders to brighten darker-color plants. Keep the soil moist but not wet. In warmer Zones, it also can be used in shade gardens as a groundcover.