Begonia Terrarium 101: Top Plants & (Step-By-Step) Guide

Begonias really are the most intriguing plants. No other genus comes close to the range of unique leaf shapes, growth patterns, and crazy colors.

These unique qualities open up a whole world of exciting creative opportunities, and what better way to experiment and express your flair than with a Begonia terrarium?

In this post, I’ll take you through suitability & what to watch out for, Begonia terrarium plant picks, and finally, I’ll bring you along on an over-the-shoulder build. 

So let’s get on with it and make our terrarium dreams come true.

Begonia Terrarium

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Growing Begonias in Terrariums

First things first, begonias and terrariums…  Does it even work? 

Of course it does!

Originating from the South American tropics, this plant genus loves warmth and humidity, so it should come as no surprise that, for the most part, they thrive in a closed terrarium, and they look fantastic

And the trick to growing happy, healthy begonias is consistency, so what better way to provide that than to encapsulate them within a controlled environment? 

There are a couple of points to mention on suitability though:

  • Begonias like moisture but can’t under any circumstances be sat in wet soil; having a drainage layer and high-quality substrate is even more critical in a project like this.
  • They can get big, so you’ll either need a large terrarium container, a willingness to maintain regularly, or some smaller species – which satisfyingly leads me on to my next point.

Best Begonias for Terrariums (& Where to Find Terrarium Begonias for Sale)

With over two thousand stunning species in the Begoniaceae family, it can be challenging to know where to start.

While you can use whatever plant you like, I’ve curated a list of favorites to help start your search, and I’ve also included Etsy links to make your life a little easier.

  • Begonia foliosa – You’re bound to fall in love with this dainty vining Begonia. Flaunting forest green leaves and perfectly pink stems – what’s not to love? Read more in our plant profile here
Begonia foliosa Etsy
Begonia foliosa is perfect for a terrarium. (Image Credit: NatureFunEU on Etsy)
  • Begonia rajah –  An ornamental slow-grower with textured leaves somewhere between burgundy and salmon pink and wild Shrek-green venation. One of the more Frog-looking plants on this list for sure, but very deserving of its regal name nonetheless. 
Begonia rajah etsy
You can’t deny Begonia rajah looks like a beautiful poisonous toad! (Image Credit: AngiesPlanties on Etsy).
  • Begonia bipinnatifida – The wild card of the group. The foliage looks almost skeletal, with very little “leaf” surrounding the veins. It’s definitely one to check out; read more in our plant profile here
  • Begonia manaus – With stunning round red or khaki leaves, bright lime detail, and a gorgeous gradient between the two parts, it’s a welcome addition to any terrarium. 
Begonia manaus etsy
Begonia manaus is a sunset in plant form. (Image Credit: BijanTropicals on Etsy).
  • Begonia ‘Tiny Gem’ – The clue is in the name. This tiny gem with low-growing creeping stems is a perfect way to add some vibrant foliage to a petite terrarium build. 
  • Begonia crispula – A lovely little plant that somewhat reminds me of the Chinese Money Plant. It’s adorned with beautiful lily-pad leaves at the end of bright pink stems.
Begonia crispula etsy
How cute is this Begonia crispula? (Image Credit: TGIFexotics on Etsy)
  • Saxifraga sarmentosa (Strawberry Begonia) – While it isn’t a true Begonia, I’m letting it off because it’s great. It gives Begonia foliage energy with Spider Plant propagative tactics – watch in amazement as it sprouts out babies that root up and produce new plants. 

And much more broadly, Amphioxus Begonias, Angel Wing Begonias (such as Begonia Maculata), and Rex Begonias are all an excellent fit for terrarium conditions but tend to need more trimming as they grow. 

Begonia Terrarium
I’m working with a Rex Begonia today. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Now, what are we waiting for? Let’s get on with the build.

How to Make a Begonia Closed Terrarium

Lay the Foundation

I began my build by pouring some aquarium gravel on the bottom of my container to create a drainage layer.

You can use any similar material – leca is my particular favorite. 

Begonia Terrarium
I was running low on gravel, so my drainage layer was only about half an inch thick, it’ll work just fine, but an inch is ideal.

Next, I added the substrate on top.

Begonias are particularly unforgiving when it comes to substrate. They really don’t like to dry out yet can’t tolerate being sat in a soggy environment. So you’ll need a substrate that retains moisture, drains well, and provides root aeration. 

Begonia Terrarium
I’ve gone for a light, chunky substrate mix that will resist compaction.

You just need enough to comfortably house your plants’ roots, and you’re set.

Plant your Begonias and Friends

It’s time for the star of the show.

Because this terrarium build is so dainty, I’ve decided to go for a 360° planting style so that the piece will look great from all angles. 

So, the Begonia is going straight in the middle. 

Begonia Terrarium
While this beautiful Begonia Rex will quickly outgrow the container, I don’t care one bit.

Once my begonia was secured, I dotted some little plants and cuttings around to contrast the begonia and add more vibrant colors and textures.

My choices were:

  • Two tiny fluffy divided Asparagus Ferns
  • A few zingy lime-colored Lemon Button Fern fronds
  • Lots of deep turquoise Selaginella uncinata for ground cover
Begonia Terrarium
The planting was challenging in such a small container.
Begonia Terrarium
I’m so happy with the contrasting colors and textures.

Begonia Terrarium Care

Watering

When you’re happy with your piece, give it a few sprays of water and pop the lid on. 

When it comes to watering terrariums, it’s always easier to start small and add more later if your plants need it. The drainage layer will provide some protection for your plants’ roots, but there’s only so much excess water that it can take.

Begonia terrarium
Never wet but consistently moist soil is the goal, and it can be tricky to balance.

Lighting

Thankfully, terrarium lighting is a little easier to get right.

The gold standard for both begonias and terrariums is bright, indirect light. So in that sense, they’re a match made in heaven.

Keep your Begonia terrarium in a bright spot, out of direct sunlight. If you haven’t got an appropriate place, you can always use a grow light.

Begonia maculata
I had my Begonia maculata sat in direct light, and the leaves scorched. #badplantparent

Now, all there is to do is adore your brand-new terrarium.

C’est Fini

That’s it for today. What’s your Begonia terrarium pick? Have you gone for a petite species or a quick grower?

Let me know in the comments, and tag us in your creation on Instagram!

Finally, for more plant inspiration – check out our Complete Guide to Terrarium Plants.

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