Terrarium Plants

1. Choosing terrarium plants

Choosing the right terrarium plants for your terrarium does not need to be a herculean task. After all, you are just going to raise plants in a lovely little glass sided box! However, several factors come into play which will guide you in your choices of the right plants for your situation.

First you need terrarium plants which are low light tolerant. Since they are indoors in an enclosed space they need to be shade loving. Plants which like low illumination are spider plants, pothos, snake plant, ferns, swedish ivy, and mosses. For flowers, the fuzzy African violet fits the bill as long as you change them occasionally. Small wax begonias will also survive in the terrarium setting if changed frequently.

Second, you have to consider how large the plant will grow and plan to move plants which get to tall and “leggy” in low light conditions. Plant smaller plants than you might want and let them mature. Arrange a layout that has height variances to move the eye and make your mini-world (terrarium) more “lifelike.”

Third, plan to move and replace terrarium plants in your design as they outgrow the setting or start to fail. Some plants might not due well in the humidity of closed container. Others simply will fail to thrive, so plan to replace items occasionally.

Fourth, you need to deal with fact that most terrariums are humid and not all plants can adjust to the humidity. Don’t over water and consider carefully plants which can adapt to harsh conditions. Or you can design a desert terrarium and use sand and cover with a screen to stop humidity.

Finally, consider the view. Look at your little world from the perspective of height it will be displayed and arrange a design that will please the eye. Create a tiny world all of your own making! Enjoy!

There are a large variety of plants suitable for terrariums. It is recommended to select plants that are slow-growing so that they wont quickly outgrow the confined space. As a very general guide, many plants belonging to the gesneriad, aroid and fern families are suitable for terrariums. Some of the most popular plants used in terrariums include babies tears, maidenhair fern, Venus flytraps, podocarpus and peperomia. Small palms and orchids can also be used, although they do tend to grow large.

 

2. Varieties of terrarium plants

Light levels must be considered when selecting terrarium plants. For terrariums with low light conditions babies tears, moss, small bamboo palm, maidenhair fern and peperomia are suitable. With the exception of maidenhair fern and moss, the same plants may be grown in terrariums with medium light conditions, with the addition of Venus flytraps.  Terrariums exposed to high light levels fill find that Venus flytraps and orchids are most suitable.

Choosing appropriate terrarium plants will also depend on the type of terrarium environment you want to establish. For a desert terrarium many species of cacti are suitable, such as the Mammillaria genus, some of the fishhook cacti (Ferocactus), and star cacti (Astrophytum). Succulent Euphorbia species can also a good option for dry terrarium conditions, although it is import to be aware that some people do have a high sensitivity to these plants and they can cause skin allergies. Haworthias and gasterias may also grow well in desert terrariums, although they do have lower light requirements than most cacti and euphorbias. Although perhaps less commonly available, some species of Pachypodium will grow well in extremely well lit terrariums.

If you are wanting to establish a aquatic terrarium then plants such as Eelgrass (Sagittaria), fanworts (Cabomba), Amazon sword plants (Echinodorous), lace plants (Ctryptocoryne), and hornwort (Ceratophyllum) are suitable. Dry Savanna terrariums can support plants such as small pachypodiums, snake-plants (Sansevieria), purslanes (Portulaca), aloes and Haworthias. Plants most suitable for woodland terrariums include partridgeberry, pipsissewa (Chimaphla), spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila) and various ferns.

Ultimately, when selecting terrarium plants it is important to consider the type of environment you want to create, the light requirements and necessary maintenance. Also, if your terrarium is designed to house certain animals such as reptiles, invertebrates or aquatic species, then it is important to ensure that the chosen plants are compatible.

 

Plants in a terrarium

3. Maintenance of Terrarium Plants

In order to have a healthy terrarium it must be well maintained and cleaned thoroughly.  If this is done on a regular basis, a terrarium will always look good and the plants maintain good condition. It is important to make sure that the terrarium surfaces are kept clean as dirty glass will limit the amount of light available to the plants. Using a damp cloth or paper towels, wipe down the outside surfaces of the terrarium to remove any dirt, fingerprints or other marks.

Sometimes it is necessary to wipe down the condensation on the inside of the terrarium.  This depends on how much condensation is being produced; too much condensation can cause mildew on the glass and the plants. The easiest way to remove condensation is to use a cloth or paper towel and simply wipe down the glass. This needs to be done carefully to ensure that the plants are not damaged during cleaning.

It is important to keep the plants well pruned. This helps to freshen up them up and takes away the stress of the dead foliage. Any dead foliage should be removed as close to the base of the plant as possible. Plants should be pruned as often as necessary to keep them in good condition. Any plants that have died need to be removed. Plants that are starting to outgrow their surroundings or pressing against the glass should be pruned and thinned as necessary.

It is a good idea to turn a terrarium around regularly, approximately once a week is sufficient. This helps to even out any variations in light exposure. It is important not to saturate terrarium soil; terrariums should only be watered when the soil surface becomes dry and the amount of watered added should be just enough to moisten the soil. Closed terrariums can be ventilated for a few hours once a week. Once the lid is closed again it is important to check that condensation begins to appear on the glass, if it doesn’t then a small amount of water can be added. If terrariums are being used to house small animals, it is important to remove animal waste and food scraps.

Carnivorous Terrarium Plants

Some of the most unusual plants that you can grow in terrariums have to be carnivorous plants. The advantage carnivorous plants have over other plant varieties is their unique ability to absorb nutrients from small insects. Consequently, nutrient rich soil is not necessary to support healthy carnivorous plants. This makes them a very attractive option to a terrarium enthusiast.

The most common types of carnivorous plants include Venus fly traps, Pitcher plants, Nepenthes, Sundews, Cobra Lilies and Butterworts.

Unless you are an experienced terrarium owner, it’s recommended that only one variety of carnivorous plant is included in a terrarium. This is because different species have different requirements and properly caring for one variety may be detrimental to another variety.

carnivorous terrarium plants

The easiest carnivorous plant to care for is the Venus fly trap because it is both hardy and easy to grow. Ideally the Venus fly traps should be planted in terrariums with between 50 and 70 percent sphagnum moss or peat moss. The remainder of the substrate can be made up of either pumice, perlite or sand. Potting soil should not be used. The terrarium should be kept in a well lit area, but not in direct sunlight. It is important to maintain high humidity, so enclosed terrariums with a dome top are necessary in dry climates. Only use distilled water for all varieties of carnivorous plants as chemicals in conventional tap water can kill the plants. The soil should remain moist but not soggy.  Don’t excessively spring traps because this will end up killing the plant. If using a closed terrarium it is necessary to add insects into the environment. Small crickets are a good option as these widely available in pet stores.

Venus fly traps do have a dormancy period for two or three months. If this in unappealing, Cape Sundews are a good option because they don’t have a dormancy period and they still have the same trap door action of the Venus fly trap, although it is slower in motion. Cape Sundews are also easy to care for and a good option for first time terrarium owners.