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GardenSMART :: 6 Stellar Plants for Terrariums

6 Stellar Plants for Terrariums

By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Gardening Expert
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms

Enjoy a colorful, easy-care terrarium by picking the right plants. Here are six perfect plants to start with.

It’s fun and easy to create a terrarium. These miniature worlds are perfect décor for your home and office, and depending on the plants you pick, will thrive in just about any room you want to use them in. Not sure what plants to use? Here are some of my favorite plants for terrariums.


Ferns, such as rabbit’s foot or lemon button fern, add lacy, elegant textures to terrariums and are particularly outstanding choices for terrariums that have a closed lid or small opening. This is because ferns thrive in high-humidity areas, and indoor air (especially in winter, when air is heated by a fireplace, furnace, or other source) is sometimes too dry to maintain these beautiful plants. In fact, terrariums may be the only way you can enjoy success with ferns during the cold months in some homes.

Nerve Plant

Nerve plant (Fittonia) is a top choice for terrariums because it’s a small, tidy plant and adds a bold pop of color. Like ferns, nerve plant likes lots of humidity, but it doesn’t require it, making nerve plant a fun pick for both open and closed terrariums. Most nerve plant varieties have dark green leaves boldly decorated with bright red, pink, or white veins.

Waffle Plant

Waffle plant (Hemigraphis), like nerve plant, is a small, mounding species that’s easy-growing, tidy, and colorful. This indoor plant thrives in medium or bright light and appreciates evenly moist soil and average to high humidity. There are several stunning varieties, including:

  • Purple waffle plant, which bears dark green leaves strongly flushed with purple.
  • Belgian Waffle, which features silvery-green leaves variegated with cream and pink.
  • Snow White, which features silvery-green leaves variegated with white and pink.


Peperomia is a big family of versatile houseplants. Many are small, mounding plants perfect for small, medium, and large terrariums alike. Most peperomias have thick, rubbery leaves that help them store extra water during dry times, so they can go a little longer without watering than the average houseplants. Because there are so many types of peperomias, you can create a colorful, easy-care terrarium with just these plants. For example:

  • Creeping types (such as Peperomia prostrata or P. quadrangularis) create a groundcover effect.
  • Upright types (such as P. ‘Golden Gate’ or ‘Jelly’) have larger leaves, making them great focal points.
  • Mounding types (such as P. orba ‘Variegata’ or P. caperata) fill in with color and texture.


Like peperomia, pilea is a large family of diverse plants, most of which are excellent choices for terrariums. They grow in much the same conditions than nerve plants, waffle plants, and peperomias --- thriving in medium or bright light, with average or high humidity, and evenly moist soil. Some of my favorites include:

  • Dwarf aluminum plant (Pilea cadierei minima) is an upright type that shows off dark green leaves accented by silver splashes.
  • Dark Mystery pilea (P. ‘Dark Mystery) offers long, narrow purple leaves highlighted by a silver streak down the middle.
  • Glauca pilea (Pilea glauca) is a creeping groundcover with cute, button-shaped silvery-blue leaves.


Succulents might be for you if you want a fun terrarium that doesn’t need much care because they’re low-water plants that practically thrive on neglect. Because most succulents don’t like a lot of humidity, they’re great choices for terrariums with wide openings so there’s plenty of airflow. They also like bright light, so a sunny windowsill is a must for a successful, long-lived terrarium filled with these textural plants. A few top varieties include:

  • Echeveria: These low-growing plants almost look like roses and appear in a range of colors, including green, blue, silver, and purple.
  • Life Saver plant (Huernia zebrina): This succulent looks like a cactus with green stems covered in pointy tips, and it bears interesting starfish-shaped flowers that have a unique red ring in the center.
  • Haworthia: Haworthias grow similarly to echeverias, but have longer, narrow leaves often decorated with white stripes.

For more interesting houseplant ideas, go to Costa Farms.

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