Correctly Placing and Caring For Your Terrarium Plants

So, first thing's first... What kind of plants do you have in your terrarium?

If you've got an open terrarium, sporting cacti, succulents go ahead and visit my individual care pages for those plants. You can fine them here:

  • Caring for Your Cacti
  • Caring for Your Succulents
If you've got a traditional, leafy terrarium, like that featured above, then this is the article for you.
Now, of course, every plant is different and will have individual care needs. Part of the fun of building a terrarium is finding plants that compliment each other and that can thrive together in their enclosed space. Therefore I am going to give more general care advice here, based on differing levels within the terrarium. From here you'll be able to visit the individual care pages for the plants featured.
  • Height & Foliage
  • Feature Plants
  • Mid-level Bushy Plants & Foliage
  • Mosses and Groundcover
Can't find care advice for an exact plant?
Bear with me. I am always updating my blog and usually have more posts to write than time to actually do so. If you're stuck in the meantime please email me at and I will  help as best as possible.

General Terrarium Care

Before we drill down into terrarium sections and individual plant care, let's take a look at general best practices for keeping a terrarium.
Whilst it's true that you should avoid the plants actually touching the glass, I have found some to be quite tolerant of this.
I like to build my terrariums up in levels, and often the "backdrop" comes into contact with the glass and is very aesthetically pleasing. Good plants for this include peace lillies, asparagus fern and ivy.
For the rest of your plants, especially the more fragile, mid-level ones, such as polka dot plants - keep them away from the edges of your container. Allow them enough room to grow some, without coming into contact with the glass.
How often you need to water your terrarium depends on whether or not it's completely sealed, what plants you have inside it, and where you keep it. The trick here is reading your plants and letting them guide you as to when to water them and by how much.
Spin your container as you water it for even coverage
As a general guidelinne, water terrariums with wide openings every 7-10 days, small openings every 2-3 weeks, and completely sealed terrariums once every 3 weeks for the first year or so. After becoming established you may find that your completely sealed terrarium no longer needs watering, but rather maintains it's own enironment. Again, let your plants be your guide. 
You may need to water your terrarium a little more often if you've got a lot of thirsy plants inside and/or during warm spells.
The goal with your terrarium plants is to keep them small and compact, confined within their glass home. To achieve this you will need to regularly trim and maintain your plants.
Don't fertilise your terrarium
As for feeding anf fertilising - there is no need. Fertilisers promote plant growth and we want to inhibit it, so take a pass here.
The vast majority of terrarium plants like bright, indirect light, but are also tolerant of low light conditions. Even if some of your selection don't like low light you may find you're able to push them a little. Their growth may be inhibited as a result, but this is actually a good thing where terrariums are concerned. On the downside, some plants achieve brighter and bolder colours with good lighting. Therefore you may need to carry about a bit of testing and find what works for your plants.
The vast majority of terrarium set ups should do just fne in a normal household room with window. 
Personally, I have found that my terrariums like a slightly cooler spot in the house. The warmer they become the more condensation you're likely to get gathering on the inside too. 

Height & Foliage

  • Palms
  • Peace Lily
  • Arrowheads
  • Ferns 
  • Spider Plants
There are  2 main classifications here: dry climate tall plants, and moist climate tall plants. Group them appropiately and you'll do just fine.
Palms are your dry climate plants. I tend to use betal nut plams and miniature parlour palms. Both are tolerant of moist climates, making them a good choice for terrariums, but benefit from occassional drought. Therefore, place them in a rockier section of your terrarium, or provide them with a spot of slighter better draining soil than the rest of your set up. The aim is to avoid any pooling of water and give them the opportunity to remain a little drier too.
The remaining plants listed, all like moist environments and continually moist (not soggy) soil. Therefore you can go ahead and place them wherever you like. I especially like asparagus ferns (not actually a fern, but member of the same family as the peace lilly) as they have a very tree-like structure and look fantastic in just about any set up.

Feature Plants

  • Calathea
  • Arrowheads
  • Begonias
  • Cryptanthus
  • Upright Pilea Plants

I try to include at least one feature plant in my designs - something striking that catches the eye. There's a bit of crossover here as a number of the bushy, mid-level plants are also feature plants in their own right. Especially the nerve and polka dot plants, with their showy foliage.

Whatever your showstopper is you'll have to adhere to the individual needs of the plant. In the meantime, keep following the terrarium best practice guidance above.

Mid-level Bushy Plants & Foliage

  • Nerve Plants
  • Polka Dot Plants
  • Ficus Pumila
  • Ivy
  • Rose of Jerico
  • Mini Grape

There arent too many rules to follow when it comes to planting this lovely selection of plants. They look great together and all favour similar soil conditions.

The only exception to this is the polkadot plant, which prefers slightly drier soil and does not like getting its leaves wet. Try placing this plant just a smidge apart from the others - enough so that you can avoid wetting its leaves when watering, if possible. If you water the other plants around it the polka dot should be able to draw the moisture it needs, whilst still allowing the soil surface to remain a little drier than the rest of your terrarium.

Mosses and Groundcover

  • Baby Tears
  • Sheet Moss
  • Cushion Moss
  • Spike Moss
  • Crawling Pilea Plants
Moss can create some amazing, wild-looking terrariums all on its own, but is also vital to making a more varied terrarium scene that bit more realistic-looking. The trick to building living dioramas is to create different levels within your scene. A pebble path or stairway will help draw the eye through the design and give the illusion of it going somewhere. Your mosses can accent and highlight these features, as well as create the appearance of grass and earth.
There are lots of different options when it comes to moss. In terms of their preferred conditions they're all pretty similar - moisture loving and hardy The exception to this are the crawling pileas, which require drier conditions. Refer to my guide on how to use pileas in terrariums for more information.
So there you have it - my complete guide to building your happy and healthy terrarium. This is built on my experience and it by no means a set of hard and fast rules. Part of the art of creating terrariums is learning from mistakes and still testing new things out. Your plants might just surprise you.
So, have fun and always... Happy Planting!

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