Plants are remarkably versatile, and you can rest assured that there are plenty of species ideal for your space. Just like observing a garden to ensure that you’ll plant the right varieties that’ll thrive in the light, shadow, and humidity there, observe the room in which you’re planning to keep your terrarium(s) so you can determine which plants to use. When it comes to choosing a container, the sky really is the limit: I’ve used brandy snifters, mason jars, aquariums, and even glass teacups for mine, and a quick trip to the thrift store can provide you with several great containers for this project.
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What to Plant
Choosing the right species for your space will ensure that they’ll thrive, and they’ll require a lot less maintenance than delicate, fussy plants that aren’t ideally suited for your climate or home environment.
Warm, Dry Room:
- Tillandsia (also known as air plants) thrive on neglect, and draw the little moisture they need from the air around them.
- Succulents such as Hen and Chicks come in many different hues, are ridiculously adorable, and very low-maintenance.
- Cacti, like air plants, only need the tiniest bit of care in order to thrive. They also come in a wide variety of hues, forms, and textures, so you can create little desert scenes to your heart’s content. (Add little skulls, tumbleweeds, wagon wheels, and pioneer miniatures for a bit of fun!)
- Hardy Mediterranean herbs like oregano, and any variety of thyme. Woolly or creeping thyme work really well as creepers, and the more fragrant species will add scent to your room as well as beauty.
Cool, Dry Room:
- Pincushion plants (Nertera granadensis) are among my personal favorites, and ridiculously pretty. It does best in spaces that don’t heat up to more than 65F-70F, and needs a fair bit of light or it’ll grow more foliage than berries, but keep it out of direct sunshine.
- Most tillandsia species are also very cold-hardy, and it’s unlikely that your indoor space will frost over or get cold enough to kill them off.
Warm, Humid Room:
This is the easiest climate to work with, as most houseplants are tropical in origin, so you can go hog wild with your choices.
- Peperomia: There are many varieties of this genus, and most are quite small and compact; ideal for terrarium cultivation. is fabulous as a ground-creeper, while Peperomia verticillata has beautiful little rose-like buds.
- Carnivorous plants! Miniature Venus flytraps or pitcher plants are fabulous to intersperse with tiny ferns and mosses, and they won’t just be lovely in your space; they’ll chow down on any fruit flies that might pop up.
- Any miniature fern.
- Baby tears (Helxine soleirolii) is a gorgeous little green creeper.
Cool, Humid Room:
Although a cool, damp space might be a bit difficult to live in at times (parts of Scotland come to mind, along with my own corner of rural Quebec…) you can brighten up any room with some pretty plants.
- Mosses thrive in colder, moist locales, and you can likely gather some from around the neighborhood instead of having to invest in plants at a garden center.
- Lichens such as Pixie Cups (Cladonia pyxidata) also do amazingly well in cooler areas, and not only are they long-lasting, they’re absolutely adorable. Toss in a unicorn figurine and a bit of glitter and voila! Instant magic.
- English ivy, or any miniature ivy species. They like cooler climates and plenty of moist soil to keep them happy.
- Miniature roses are lovely, but are only well suited to larger terrariums, such as aquariums… or as stand-alone pieces inside cloches.
- Bulbs such as crocuses and muscari are small enough that they can work as centerpieces in a medium or small terrarium.
Once you’ve chosen the plants you’d like to work with, it’s time to pop them into their new homes. It’s best to keep compatible species together, so keep your succulents and cacti together in that nice warm, dry room, and the tropical, moisture-loving plants together in your steamy bathroom or otherwise humid space. Be sure to put down a layer of pebbles at the bottom of your container for drainage, followed by some activated charcoal (available at aquarium shops – it keeps algae from forming), then potting soil. Pop in your plants, and finish up with miniatures, rocks, twigs, or any other additions that make you smile.
*Note: There seems to be a magic ratio to terrarium building, and that’s 1:2 filling to space. Make sure that you don’t over-stuff your creation so there’s plenty of room for growth, as well as air circulation.
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Be creative with your terrariums! Adding miniature doll furniture can transform a simple mini-garden into a faerie home, or you could create different scenes with tiny figurines, be they human, animal, or just quirky little accessories. Turn bottles on their sides, or use rows of test tubes for containers. Take a cue from the folks over at Twig Terrariums for some ideas if you get stuck: Fairies, zombies, dancing cows, or any other number of figures can create truly spectacular scenes, and you can pop in some LED lights for extra effects. There’s really no limit to how inventive you can be, and you can switch out the plants now and then for new variations of color and texture throughout your space. If you have pets, it’s a good idea to create terrariums with lids or screens so they can’t get at your plants, but it would be wise to do some research about which plants are toxic to your particular pet so you can avoid them just in case.
Lead image © Josh Leo; All other images via Shutterstock, Josh Leo, David Lanham, and Tiny Garden Terrariums