Best Terrarium Plants

Best Terrarium Plants

Best Terrarium Plants
By Rob Sproule

Baby Tears
African Violet

Building your own Terrarium isn’t as hard as you think, get the how to here!

Everything old is new again. Terrariums, voted the trendiest gift of 1847, are back in style with a vengeance. 2 years ago we couldn’t get 5 people into a succulent Terrarium workshop, now they fill quickly with lengthy wait lists. But not just any plants thrive inside the glass. It’s humid, there’s little air circulation (depending on how closed it is), and competition is fierce. You can’t use just any plants. I’ve broken down my favourites (and one plant to tread lightly with), below. Enjoy!

Baby Tears

This delicate bully is a terrarium staple. It hasn’t hit its stride in Alberta, before, largely because our burning sun renders it a poor summer container stuffer. But the recent surge in terrarium interest has it riding high.

It’s easy to grow. When we need more at the greenhouse, we take some existing plants, rip off some chunks and plant them separately, and let them all fill in again. Give them humidity and protection from direct light and it’s unstoppable.

In your terrarium it will spread quickly via creeping stems. Protect other plants from it and it will form a thick, lawn-like carpet. People won’t believe that it grows as fast as it really does, and it will look like you’ve had your terrarium for years.

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African Violet

You’ve seen it on the windowsill, but did you know that it doesn’t really want to be there? African violets struggle in our dry air but thrive in terrariums’ moist air. As one of the few plants that will bloom regularly in terrariums, they’re a must, even though mini-Violets can be hard to find.

They’re fussy about drainage, so add a couple inches of gravel (no more than 1/4 the total media) to the bottom. They’re also a bit prissy, so plant them in the centre where none of the leaves will touch the glass.

After that, the less watering it needs, the better (while it loves humidity, it spurns wet leaves). They perform well in lidded terrariums. Like all terrarium plants, you’ll need to protect it from direct sun.


The terrarium classic! They’ve been a staple since the first Wardian cases. They bring a stately elegance, and a visceral link to history, that no other plant can.

Ferns are a massive group of plants, so let’s be clear that this does not include your giant Boston fern basket or your Ostrich fern from the garden. Opt for pint size Pteris, Button, Rabbit’s Foot (if you don’t find them creepy), or, preferably, Maiden-Hair or Plumosa. Maiden-Hairs are delicate beauties that prefer the high humidity or a slightly enclosed glass space, and Plumosa bring a distinctly Oriental look.

Keep your ferns moist but not soggy, and mist them if they’re in an open bowl. Look to them to provide size, texture, and a touch of class.


Well, sort of. I include them because, as popular as they are, they often shouldn’t be planted in terrariums. They’re not that versatile. If you do include them, make sure it’s an open terrarium with ample air flow. If it’s the perfect space for Baby Tears and ferns, it’s probably lethal to succulents. Their fleshy leaves need to stay dry and wet feet rot their roots quickly.  If you want to grow succulents, you’re not alone. Get the sandy tidbits here.

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