13 Beginner-friendly Terrarium Plants (Guide for Guaranteed Success)

I have been making terrariums for a long time.

Sure, I experiment a lot. I like to try new plants, create new designs, and build new worlds.

But, supporting my journey all these years has been a group of reliable, hardy, predictable plants.

By reading this guide, you will skip the trial-and-error era of your terrarium journey because I’ve been through it for you.

And this is no generic list; I’m highlighting which plants are best for what aspect of terrarium creation – and I’ll tell you exactly where you can buy them.

Scroll on to discover my 13 favourite plants for building closed terrariums.

Tropical cube terrarium

After reading this list, come back to this cube terrarium and see how many plants you can spot!

1 | The 13 Best Terrarium Plants

Before we begin, I want to explain exactly what I look for in a terrarium plant and what I avoid like the plague.

But if you’re in a rush, use my quick guide below to jump to my top picks. 

And, don't forget to browse our full range of terrarium plants available on our shop. 

If you're outside the UK, don't worry! We've included a 'where to buy' guide in each item. 

1.1 | Quick shortlist

  1. Best all-around terrarium plant: Fittonia spp.
  2. Best fern for terrariums: Nephrolepis exaltata
  3. Best terrarium plant for height: Asparagus setaceus
  4. Best plant for scenic terrariums: Pilea libanensis
  5. Best for terrarium plant for colour: Begonia spp.
  6. Best creeping/vine terrarium plant: Ficus pumila
  7. Best carpeting terrarium plant: Soleirolia soleirolii
  8. Best for terrarium plant for rootless propagation: Peperomia spp.
  9. Best Moss for terrariums: Leucobryum glaucum
  10. Best budget terrarium plant: Selaginella apoda
  11. Best carnivorous terrarium plant: Drosera
  12. Best for centrepiece terrarium plant: Ficus ginseng
  13. Best for small projects: Callisia repens

1.2 | What is a terrarium plant?

Big ball terrarium

In short, a terrarium plant is any that survive the conditions of your terrarium!

To be clear, when I say ‘terrarium’ I am talking specifically about a near, or totally, sealed self-sustaining ecosystem.

I have written a deeply comprehensive beginner’s guide to terrariums if you want to check that out first.

So, in closed environments, we need plants that enjoy humid conditions, right?

Water is trapped inside the container, and the transpired vapour has nowhere to go. Thus, tropical plants are typically the best choice for terrariums.

Here’s a breakdown of what I look for in my tropical terrarium plants:

  • Size: The size of your container will dictate the size of the plants you can use in your terrarium. Generally, I recommend you err on the smaller side. Most of the plants I use are in 6-10cm pots. All the plants listed here are available in small sizes.
  • Care conditions: Terrarium plants generally prefer moist but well-draining soil, neutral-acidic soil composition, medium-high humidity conditions, mild temperatures, and bright yet indirect sunlight. All the plants I have selected enjoy these conditions.
  • Pizzazz: Are you unfamiliar with pizzazz? Google it; I’ll wait here. Yeah, you know what I mean? Pizzazz. Every plant on this list has an S-tier level of pizzazz.

1.3 | What to avoid

Arid cactus terrarium

Honestly, even with an open container arid plants don't tend to fare well. 

And a quick (but necessary) disapproving wag of the finger to those eyeing up the plants on my no-no list.

Actually, honestly, I hate ‘rules’ when it comes to terrariums.

Several times, a so-called expert has given me that finger wag when I chose one plant or another to use in my terrariums, but so often have they been wrong.

So, you know what – don’t be afraid to experiment. Do not fear the finger.

By all means, do your research, but don’t confine yourself to the list of some dorky internet plant man (that’s me). 

That said, don’t be shoving cacti into a closed container. It will be a slow and painful death for your spikey friend. That’s my one rule.

Enough talk of death, to the list!! 

1. Best all-around terrarium plant

Fittonia spp. (Nerve plant)

Fittonia plant in terrarium

The G.O.A.T - Fittonia

People, you are in the presence of a celebrity.

The Fittonia is undoubtedly the most well-known plant in the terrarium space and with good reason.

Fittonia plants come in a huge array of colours. Seriously, I’m talking greens, reds, pinks, yellows and even silvers, for crying out loud.

Not only that, but they’re also hardy as all heck. Honestly, if I’m running a workshop, and an attendee has branded themselves as a plant-killer, I’ll always recommend Fittonia first.

Fittonia inside tropical terrarium

Fittonia grows well in closed terrariums - though I recommend occasional pruning to avoid 'leggyness'. 

The Fittonia can resist overwatering, underwatering, misplacement and a fair bit of general neglect inside a terrarium.

They also come in many shapes and sizes, too! Whether you’re looking for something larger and bushier, like bubble-leaf Fittonia, or something with delicate, tiny leaves for to-scale designs, Fittonia has you covered.

Plus—and I promise I’ll stop gushing soon—Fittonia are super simple to propagate.

  • Pro tip: Take a cutting from your Fittonia plant just above a node (where the leaves split from the stem). Nestle this cutting in-between some moss in your terrarium, and you’ve got yourself a baby Fittonia plant!
Where to buy Fittonia

Shop Fittonia in the UK

Shop Fittonia in the USA below:

And that’s our first entry, the certifiable gateway drug of the terrarium plant world.

Let’s move on.

2. Best Fern for Terrariums

Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston fern)

The colour, the shape, the fronds! What's not to like?

No other plant does it for me quite like a fern, aesthetically speaking.

The vivid green, the delicate yet intricate fronds, the unmistakable woody-ness of them – they evoke nature itself.

Yes, I am waxing poetic over ferns.

But which fern would I recommend for a beginner? That honour goes to none other than the Nephrolepis exaltata – otherwise known as the Boston fern.

This is a wonderful entry-level fern choice because it is forgiving. Maiden-hair ferns, on the other hand, tend to be much fussier.

I’ve been using Nephrolepis species for years and I’m seldom disappointed.

Nephrolepis boston fern in tropical terrarium

A recent terrarium of mine featuring the Boston fern. 

Not only are they un-fussy in a terrarium but they are visually striking. They are wonderful in either the background or foreground as their fronds create a complexity that begets depth and texture. 

The Nephrolepis fern also grows at a very manageable rate which keeps your maintenance work to a minimum. 

  • Pro tip: You can split Nephrolepis ferns into two! Pinch the plant out of its pot and ruffle off as much soil as you can. Pinch the base of the plant and very gently eek apart the plant, you should see a natural separation. Hey, presto! Two plants.
Where to buy Nephrolepis:

Shop Nephrolepis (Boston Fern) in the UK

Shop Nephrolepis (Boston Fern) in the USA below:


But – you’ll need something with a little verticality to compliment your new fern friend.

3. Best terrarium plant for height

Asparagus setaceus (Asparagus fern)

Asparagus plumosus for terrariums

Asparagus plumosus creates wonderful shadow on the undergrowth of your terrarium. 

I always say variety is the spice of life.

I don’t actually say that, because it’s corny, but that is certainly a sentiment I live by.

And it’s no different when it comes to terrarium design. Mixing up the plants you use creates a luscious, realistic environment.

There are a few tricks to pairing up the right plants, but some just go with everything

Enter, the Asparagus fern.

My two favourite species are the Asparagus setaceus and Asparagus plumosus.

Asparagus fern fronds

They look just like little trees!

These tall, frondy, fern-like plants are, actually, a part of the lily family – but they bring an elegant, arched beauty to a terrarium just like any fern I know.

The Asparagus fern is characterised by towering stems and fluffy fronds that cast wonderful shadows across the terrarium landscape.

And that’s exactly why I love them! They enrich the environment. And, especially for scenic terrariums – they can pass off as miniature rainforest trees, almost like a canopy!

  • Pro tip: Asparagus ferns have frustratingly springy roots. When planting, you can trim the roots slightly or ‘bundle’ them together so that your stems stop springing out of the soil (because, trust me, it gets annoying).
Where to buy Asparagus ferns:

Shop Asparagus fern in the UK

Shop Asparagus fern in the USA below:

And, while we’re talking about scenic terrariums…

4. Best plant for scenic terrariums

Pilea libanensis (Silver sprinkles)

Silver sprinkles for terrariums

The Pilea libanensis is perfect for 'finishing touches'. 

Delicate, shiny, adorable.

These are just some of the words I would use to describe this dear old friend of mine.

The Pilea libanensis or Pilea glaucophylla (also known as Pilea glauca) was one of the first ‘scenic’ terrarium plants I ever used.

It opened doors for me.

What do I mean by a ‘scenic’ plant, you ask?

Well, I characterise a terrarium as ‘scenic’ when its design attempts to recreate a realistic, shrunken-down, or miniaturised scene.

For example, a mysterious cave entrance with grassy knolls at the rear or a mountainside teeming with brush. 

The illusions of an intricate scene such as the above are somewhat broken when you have what would be a 100ft fern towering over the top of the mountain.

Pilea glauca carpeting in terrarium

A Pilea beginning to carpet in one of our terrariums

What you need are plants that fit the bill and look the part, so to speak.

That’s where Pilea libanensis or ‘Silver sprinkles’ comes in:

The teeny-weeny leaves form in clover-like clusters atop the even teenier and weenier stems.

Thus, they are perfect partners if you’re endeavouring into the scenic terrarium scene. 

  • Pro tip: As they are so small and lightweight, Pilea libanensis are fantastic additions to a moss wall. Just take small cuttings above nodes, and ever-so-gently insert them across your green palisades.
Where to buy Pilea Libanensis:

Shop Pilea libanensis in the UK 

Shop Pilea libanensis in the USA below: 

5. Best terrarium plants for colour:

Begonia spp.


Slightly on the fussier side, is our Begonia. But - it's more than made up for in colour. 

Begonia are b-e-a-utiful plants.

Arguably, Fittonia or Hypoestes would be in strong contention for this spot as the best terrarium plant for colour.

But, the sheer difference in colour, leaf shape and patterns give the Begonia a serious edge.

Out of all the plants on this list, Begonia is one of the trickier ones to get inside the terrarium environment. But, if you manage to pick and plant the right one – you shouldn’t have any issues.

Begonia inside terrarium

There's so much vibrance in every single leaf

The main mistake I see people make is selecting plants far too large for their terrarium, such as Begonia maculate.

Instead, my top picks in the Begonia genus would be Begonia blancii, Begonia chayo or Begonia rex etna.

The Begonia’s large, richly coloured leaves lend themselves wonderful to more colourful scenes, especially if you’re trying to capture a Jurassic vibe.

Where to buy Begonia:

Shop Begonia in the UK

Shop Begonia in the USA below

Colour is not the only way your miniature ecosystems can be enhanced, however.

6. Creeping/Vine terrarium plant

Ficus pumila (Creeping fig)

Ficus pumilia

If you're hoping for the 'full' look in a few years, look no further. 

A terrarium is an ecosystem – a closed one; thus, no matter how harmonious things may seem, there is competition under the surface.  

Time and time again, I see Ficus pumila winning this battle.

The oldest terrarium (as of writing) we have in our shop is a huge carboy with the Ficus pumila having taken over the entire front section.

This plant is perfect for beginners for this very reason; you can be assured that if your general set-up is suitable, the Ficus pumila will perform well.

As a bonus, the vine-like stems allow you to create some truly unique environments.

For example, I quite like to wrap the vines around spider wood branches or up and over some Dragon Stone set pieces.

This can create a more natural-looking environment that feels like it’s been there for a lifetime (rather than just a few minutes!). 

Ficus pumilia in carboy terrarium

 Two years of growth speaks for itself. 

As they tend to grow vertically upwards, Ficus pumila are also great for achieving some height in an otherwise flat closed terrarium. 

  • Pro tip: Keep an eye out for the rare Ficus quercifolia, a rarer find with similar behavioural patterns to the pumila but even more gorgeous, oak-like leaves. These two Ficus plants complement each other perfectly.
Where to buy Ficus pumila

Shop Ficus pumila in the UK

Shop Ficus pumila in the USA below

I’ve advocated for vertical growth quite a lot…but what about the horizontal?

7. Best carpeting terrarium plant

Soleirolia soleirolii (Baby’s tears)

Such bright and tiny leaves make for a rich, bush-like undergrowth in any terrarium. 

Despite its unmistakably creepy common name, Soleirolia soleirolii is the G.O.A.T of carpeting.

Carpeting growth is when plants spread all across a floor/surface – and this is surprisingly difficult to achieve inside a terrarium.

Most plants will grow exclusively upwards, towards the light, and those that may otherwise carpet grow upwards, too, because of the lack of airflow.

But Baby’s tears (otherwise known as ‘mind your own business’, also weird) defy the odds and guarantee healthy, long-term growth.

They are a little weird to plant, honestly:

Because the leaves and stems are so tiny, it’s difficult to take rootless cuttings like you might with the Pilea libanensis.

I end up cutting clumps off the entire plant and nestling them into the soil bed. 

Baby's tears carpeting in terrarium

The early stages of a carpeting baby's tears

Plus, Soleirolia soleirolii comes in a few different shades of green and is very bright, typically, which can bring much-needed lightness into a terrarium scape when contrasted against the darker greens of moss.

  • Pro tip: Plant your Baby’s tears sparingly as you can expect the growth to become exponential. I tend to dot a few clumps here and there and wait for the magic to happen!
Where to buy Soleirolia soleirolii:

Shop baby's tears in the UK

Shop baby's tears in the USA 

Next up: another plant perfect for propagation.

8. Best for rootless propagation

Peperomia spp.

Peperomia prostrata

One of our biggest Peperomia prostrata plants - a mother for all cuttings (mothercutter?)

Peperomia plants are, in my mind, one of the core genera of plants in the terrarium universe.

Many Peperomia can be ‘rootlessly propagated’ meaning you can simply take a cutting from them and place/plant it inside your terrarium.

How does this work? Well, you can grow plants from cuttings anyway, but the terrarium environment is stable and constant – making an ideal climate for low-effort propagation.

There are so many species, each with their own beautiful traits, that function in a variety of different styles of terrariums.

For example, and at one point I became obsessed with them, Peperomia prostrata (string of turtles) work fabulously in a vertical terrarium. Simply take one of the ‘strings’ and lay it on top of your moss.

Watch it slowly take root and enjoy the tortoise-shell leaves multiply. The same can be done with Peperomia pepperspot. 

Peperomia rotundifolia inside a closed terrarium

This is Peperomia rotundifolia - one of our staples. 

Peperomia rotundifolia is another favourite of mine. This plant has round, bright green leaves and is very consistent.

I like to nestle the stems of my cuttings between some cushion moss and cuttings of Pilea libanensis. These two plants contrast wonderfully!

  • Pro tip: Peperomia prostrata and Peperomia pepperspot often shed their leaves, especially under handling. But don’t throw them away! Plant them gently into your terrarium soil, and they may develop roots over time.
Where to buy Peperomia rotundifolia:

Shop Peperomia rotundifolia in the UK

Shop Peperomia rotundifolia in the USA

Where to buy Peperomia pepperspot:

Shop Peperomia pepperspot in the UK

Shop Peperomia pepperspot in the USA

Where to buy Peperomia prostrata:

Shop Peperomia prostrata in the UK

Shop Peperomia prostrata in the USA

There is a plant we’ve not given much mention to so far. It would be criminal not to include it on this list.

9. Best terrarium moss

Leucobryum glaucum (Cushion moss)

Cushion moss for use in terrariums

Leucobryum is the most forgiving moss for terrariums, hands-down. 

I love moss.

Yes, I know; I’m saying I love everything.

But I really do love moss. It’s so underappreciated and often so underutilised inside terrarium designs.

Closed terrariums are made by moss. Nothing screams ‘tropical’ like a rich green undergrowth that permeates the entire environment.

Cushion moss is versatile, it could be rolling hills in your background or verdant grassland in your foreground. 

You can use many species of moss in your terrarium, and each has its own pizzazz (to reference our earlier criteria). 

But if we’re talking beginner-friendly, affordable, accessible, and beautiful, my pick is Leucobryum glaucum.

This bouncy bryophyte has more common names than you can shake a stick at:

Cushion moss, bunn moss, pole moss, bolmos, pillow moss, ball moss, pincushion moss…the list goes on.

Cushion moss is defined by its round mounds that can so readily emulate hillsides or verdant grasslands.

It can also be easily broken apart for gap-filling across your design.

In truth, even a terrarium made totally from Leucobryum glaucum can look stunning. 

In my experience, cushion moss is especially hardy and resilient against chemicals from tap water compared to many other species of moss.

  • Pro tip: You can trim off the brown/yellow rhizoids at the base of your cushion moss clumps to get greater control of your moss. These are merely ‘anchors’ to help the moss adhere to surfaces. Most mosses take in all nutrients through their leaves.
Where to buy Leucobryum glaucum

Shop Live Moss in the UK

Shop Live Moss in the USA

Moss can be surprisingly expensive, considering its slow growth rate, but our next entry is all bang-for-buck.

10. Best Budget Terrarium Plant

Selaginella apoda (Meadow spike moss)

Selaginella for terrariums

Selaginella is undeniably gorgeous. The detail increases the closer you look. 

I have selected every plant on this list based partially on affordability and availability.

Because what good is a terrarium plant if you can’t get your hands on it?

But – some plants go a little further than others. 

Enter: Selaginella apoda. 

This genus of plants is often mistaken for moss (hence their common name: spike moss), and the Selaginella apoda is particularly moss-like in its form.

And although this may not be accurate, meadow spike moss can be divided just as easily as any cushion moss. 

This is exactly why I consider it one of the most budget-friendly plants. 

Many plants can indeed be broken down into smaller parts, but none can be split into as many as Selaginella apoda.

The low-growing plant forms into round clumps, making it great for ground coverage.

Selaginella for tropical terrariums

A selaginella cutting growing next to a ruined colosseum  

To split the plant, you need only pop it from its container. Then, lightly pinch the amount of Selaginella you want and pull it from the base plant. 

You should be left with a clump that includes roots! 

These can then be spread across one terrarium or many, especially if you are making multiple spice jar terrariums. 

There are other species of Selaginella, too, that you can experiment with, such as Selaginella uncinata.

  • Pro tip: Meadow spike moss has very light, delicate leaves, so it is tricky to plant using your hands. I always use tweezers to grip the base of my clump before feeding it into the soil, which mitigates any potential damage.
Where to buy Selaginella apoda

Shop Selaginella in the UK

Shop Selaginella in the USA

And now for something a little different.

11. Best carnivorous terrarium plant

Drosera spp. (Sundews)

Drosera in terrariums

If using carnivorous plants, consider having your terrarium 'open' so that it can access food. 

Carnivorous plants and terrariums don’t go exactly hand-in-hand.

I have experimented with Nepenthes and Venus fly traps, but neither fared well.

Complications usually include conflicting light conditions, soil type, humidity requirements and nutrition.

So, complications with everything, then.

Carnivorous plants often require lower levels of humidity and completely a-nutritious soil.

Their source of nutrition is, of course, animals – hence their being carnivorous – so any terrarium would need some nutritional content.

My advice then is to veer away from carnivorous terrarium endeavours as it’s probably simpler to enjoy these two hobbies separately.

But, if you must, Drosera are the way to go.

Specifically, I have found Drosera adelae to be the most tolerant of terrarium conditions. 

Ensure your substrate is nutrient devoid. For the best results, I recommend a blend of sphagnum moss and pumice.

They’ll need higher levels of water but humidity ranges of only 50-70% - so I would recommend an ‘open’ terrarium that is more closely monitored.

  • Pro tip: Got a fungus gnat problem? Carnivorous plants are a great way to tackle them, while providing your hungry houseplants with a decent dose of nutrition.
Where to buy Drosera

Shop Drosera in the UK

Shop Drosera in the USA

Let’s return to more typical tropical terrarium plants, shall we?

12. Best terrarium plant for centrepieces

Ficus ginseng macrocarpa (Ficus bonsai)

Ficus ginseng for terrariums

Every time I run a workshop, everyone wants a piece of Ficus ginseng. 

The Ficus ginseng macrocarpa is an iconic houseplant.

It has a gnarly, hardy, and sometimes suggestive root ball that makes the plant tree-like.

Thus, it is a perfect centrepiece plant for when you want to keep things simple yet still make a statement. 

Rather than explain, I’ve got the perfect example. Check out this ‘bonsai’ terrarium I made a few months ago.

See what I mean? It draws the eye and allows for simpler, modern, minimal designs (which are seldom celebrated in this niche).

Plus, every Ficus ginseng has a different root ball so you can get some really fun shapes that dictate how your closed terrarium will unfold.

Some have more hand-like roots for example, allowing space under the plant to host paths or mossy deposits.

  • Pro tip: Ficus ginseng will shed leaves periodically. You’ll need to ensure to remove these leaves as they do or cluster them together somewhere convenient if you have springtails. 
Where to buy Ficus ginseng

Shop Ficus ginseng with ome

Shop Ficus ginseng in the USA

To our final entry!

13. Best plants for small terrariums

Callisia repens (Turtle vine)

Callisia repens for planted terrariums

Callisia repens is the perfect partner for Pilea libanensis. 

I’ve got good news and bad news.

When it comes to terrariums, size does matter.

The good news is, this time we’re celebrating smaller assets (about time, huh?) 

Although Pilea libanensis would be the ideal candidate for a tiny terrarium, it lacks the visual flair of Callisia repens, the turtle vine.

If I’m making truly tiny terrariums, such in a vial or test tube, I’ll always opt to use Callisia repens.

Again, these plants can be rootlessly propagated by cutting above a node (where the leaves split from the stem).

Then, one can take a pair of tweezers, grip the base of the cutting, and feed it into some moss or soil.

The stems and underside of the leaves had a rich purple hue, and the unusual shape of the leaves made the turtle vine a real eye-catcher.

They are rather handsome in larger terrariums too! But, if you’re in your upcycling era and using old jam jars, pesto pots and vials – look no further than the Callisia

  • Pro tip: Callisia repens has delicate stems but quite hardy leaves. So for placement, try gripping the two leaves from the outside in (so they come together). This avoids damaging the stem while keeping it plant-able. 
Where to buy Callisia repens

Shop Callisia repens in the UK

Shop Callisia repens in the USA

3 | Conclusion              

And that’s the list! This is not an extensive list of all the terrarium plants I use, but it contains the best, the brightest, and the easiest to maintain.

Combining this list with my beginner’s guide to terrariums gives you a recipe for total success.

What is your go-to terrarium plant? And what do you avoid? Let me know down below!

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