The 10 Best Terrarium Plants for Beginners (Easy Care Picks)

Terrarium plants are like clothes.

A one-size-fits-all approach never works, and try as you might, some just won’t suit.

But similarly, as long as you know where to look, there are effortless (and stylish) options to be found.

So if you’re looking for ideas, you’ve come to the right place. Stick with me for the official ten best easy-care, super-chic closed terrarium plants.

And to make your life even easier, I’ll also show you where you can find them for sale online.

Let’s go, fashionistas!

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Best Plants for Terrariums 

First, to determine what plants are best, we need to get clear on what a terrarium is exactly.

By definition, a terrarium is a sealed ecosystem that acts as a miniature tropical climate

So the best terrarium plants are tropical plants that are well adapted to that environment – lovers of humidity, moisture, warmth, and indirect sunlight.

Makes sense, right?

But of course, not all tropical plants will be a good fit. I can’t see a giant Alocasia being particularly suitable for a desktop terrarium. So what makes a closed terrarium plant…the best? 

  • 1. Small plant size – you’re typically working with limited space, so small plants and miniature varieties are more suitable. 
  • 2. Easy care requirements – any plant parent knows some plants are significantly more straightforward to look after than others. Being tolerant of different moisture levels and low light is very helpful in a terrarium.

So as you’ve probably guessed, on this list, I’ll be sticking to small, unwavering tropical plants that are almost guaranteed to thrive. 

Without further ado, let’s meet the closed terrarium candidates.

The 10 Easiest Closed Terrarium Plants

1 | Nerve Plants (Fittonia)

Let’s channel our inner Julie Andrews and start at the very beginning (it really is a very good place to start).

Known for its striking, contrasting venation and amazing colors, Fittonia is the quintessential terrarium plant and absolutely perfect for beginners.

Girl with Fittonia plants
Believe it or not, this is just a small selection of the crazy vibrant types you can get your hands on!

They’re fabulously striking and super easy to care for.

A Nerve Plant will tell you when it needs more water. A plant with dramatic flair, it will literally faint and spring back to life once it’s had a drink.

Easy to interpret = easy care.

Fittonia Terrarium - watering
While a drainage layer is an excellent failsafe (especially for beginners), I didn’t even use one in my Fittonia terrarium; I just gave it a few sprays of water at a time till the plants were looking great.

👉 Shop Fittonia on Etsy.

2 | Syngonium

Oh Syngonium, the unsung terrarium hero.

This one is for you if you’re a fan of bold colors, funky leaf shapes, and remarkable variegation (who isn’t?!).

This beautiful species often gets overlooked on terrarium plant lists, and I cannot understand why.

Both stunning and easy to care for, they’re terrarium plant superstars, and it’s time to give them their moment in the limelight.

And with literally 30+ species and likely hundreds of exciting varieties, there’s something for everyone.

Syngonium podophyllum 'Pixie' in a terrarium
This Syngonium podophyllum ‘Pixie’ is so happy in a tropical environment; positively born to be in a terrarium! 

You could go for something pretty in pink like the Syngonium podophyllum ‘Neon Robusta’, or a blood-red devilish delight like the Syngonium erythrophyllum ‘Llano Carti Road’.

Syngonium plants
They’re so gorgeous and so different.

👉 Shop Syngonium on Etsy.

3 | Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Despite being beloved houseplants, Epipremnum are considered wild, invasive growers in tropical climates. They’re so aggressive they’ve even been banned in some places!

Why is this relevant? Well, they’re very easy to care for in humid conditions and honestly quite challenging to destroy.

If you plant a rooted cutting in a terrarium, it’s almost guaranteed to thrive

Large golden pothos
Look how crazily big this Golden Pothos is in the tropics (and how crazily excited I am to see it).

Ultimately, you can put any type of Pothos in a terrarium, but as you can probably imagine, some varieties are more appropriate than others when considering longevity. 

The following varieties are slower, more compact growers with shorter leaf internodes (the space between each leaf on the stem), making them much better suited for terrarium life.

  • Manjula Pothos –  heart-shaped leaves and creamy, half blotched, half speckled variegation. 
  • Njoy Pothos – small, irregular leaves with patchwork green and cream variegation.
  • Pearls & Jade Pothos – a much more speckled version of the Njoy.
Manjula pothos compared with Njoy Pothos
On the left, you have the Manjula and on the right, you have the Njoy.

Though it’s a faster grower, the new Global Green Pothos also has short leaf internodes too – the plant patent states around 1 inch in length.

👉 Shop Pothos cuttings on Etsy.

4 | Pilea

Known for being easy-to-care-for houseplants, Pilea are even easier terrarium plants.

They fit nicely into two functional categories, depending on what your need for your project:

1 | Larger feature plants with interesting foliagePilea involucrata (Friendship Plant), Pilea mollis (Moon Valley Pilea), Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant) & Pilea cadierei (Aluminum Plant).

These kinds of Pilea will be planted terrestrially as the main event.

Moon Valley Pilea ready to go in a terrarium
In my rainforest terrarium, I used a Moon Valley Pilea to make a statement.

2 | Dainty accent plantsPilea glauca (Silver Sparkle), Pilea depressa (Baby Tears).

These plants are typically the last thing to add to a terrarium. Just pop a few cuttings wherever you’d like to add some texture, and over the coming days and weeks, they’ll root up and settle in.

Pilea glauca in a terrarium
Somehow, this Pilea glauca has stolen the show in this terrarium build. 

👉 Shop Pilea on Etsy.

5 | Ferns

Ferns are great terrarium plants, or rather, more specifically, well-behaved ferns are.

Reliable, honest ferns you’d take home to meet your parents, not booty-call ferns that give you the hot and cold treatment and make you hate yourself.

Don’t act like you don’t know exactly what I mean…

Here are some great options that will treat you right:

Lemon Button Fern in a terrarium with a begonia
I use Lemon Button Ferns in many of my builds – they’re great for adding effortless texture.
Maidenhair Fern in a terrarium
For a beginner-friendly terrarium, give bad boys like Maidenhair Ferns a miss; I know they’re gorgeous, but keeping them happy is a nightmare – they’ll only break your heart. 

👉 Shop terrarium ferns on Etsy.

6 | Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)

Okay, I get a little too enthusiastic about this plant. But you’ll soon understand why. 

Ficus pumila is arguably the easiest terrarium plant there is. Planting? No need! All you need to do is carelessly drop a cutting or two in the container, and it will do the hard work for you.

It roots up and grows ridiculously quickly in a humid environment, filling your terrarium with adorable green leaves. 

Ficus pumila in a terrarium
You really can’t go wrong with Ficus pumila

There are three main varieties:

  1. The classic.
  2. The classic, but with variegated leaves.
  3. Ficus pumila quercifolia (with an oak leaf shape).
Ficus pumila in a terrarium
I used the variegated variety in a recent woodland terrarium; it almost gives an English Ivy look!

👉 Shop Ficus pumila on Etsy.

7 | Peperomia

Pretty much the entire Peperomia genus is terrarium-ready, and there are a lot of them.

With a taste for indirect light and love of humid conditions, it’s such a set-and-forget genus. You know they’re going to be happy in a terrarium, so you can leave them to do their thing stress-free.

Broadly, they can be categorized into vines, foliage, and large, and I’ll give you a few examples for each.

Peperomia Prostrata (String of Turtles) going in a terrarium
String of Turtles gets a feature in many of our terrarium builds!
Plant terrarium
I used Peperomia ‘Rosso’ in my easy terrarium build. It’s both attractive and low maintenance!
  • LargePeperomia with broader, glossy leaves such as Peperomia obtusfolia (Mini Rubber Plant) and Peperomia ‘Ginny’ make a beautiful statement.
Peperomia Ginny
How cute is my Peperomia Ginny? The pink definition will look incredible in a terrarium.

I could go on and on, but this is plenty to get you going, and I’m beginning to grow grey hairs.

👉 Shop terrarium Peperomia on Etsy.

8 | Selaginella/ Clubmoss/ Spikemoss

Selaginella is a unique genus, and its somewhat weird features make it a perfect choice for terrariums.

Both visually and characteristically, they can easily be mistaken for mosses or ferns. They behave like carpeting mosses, creating a thick mat as they grow, and like ferns, they’re spore-producing.

This can make Selaginella shopping rather challenging. As you can see by the title, they go by many names. 

A great place to start is with Selaginella kraussiana (Golden Clubmoss). It has tiny scaled green leaves. Perfect for a dense, lush ground cover.

And if you want a splash of contrasting color, my favorite is Selaginella uncinata (Peacock Fern), which looks similar to the kraussiana, but has dreamy iridescent blue tones.

Selaginella terrarium
Selaginella is a fool-proof closed terrarium plant, and it’s beautiful.

I’ve honestly never known such a hardy plant.

When I bought a cutting, I pretty much forgot about it. It was on some moist sphagnum moss in a sealed Tupperware box in dim light conditions. When I opened it a few weeks later, it had nearly doubled in size. 

👉 Shop Selaginella on Etsy.

9 | Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Honestly, the Polka Dot Plant is very similar to the Fittonia that we began this list with, despite evolving on other sides of the planet. 

This plant has spots instead of venation and a tricker name to pronounce.

They come in various brilliant bright colors, with many combinations of red, white, pink, and green leaves. Sometimes the spotted variegation can even blur into patches.

Polka Dot Plants
Any of these fabulous plants would bring such an exciting pop of color to your terrarium project (Image Credit: Moscy on Etsy).

And similarly to Fittonia, it’s super easy to care for in a terrarium. It loves a warm, moist environment, so you can’t go wrong with it.

👉 Shop Polka Dot Plant on Etsy.

10 | Moss

When it comes to caring for moss, there’s not much to it.

Because moss needs a humid environment out of direct sunlight, the closed terrarium itself will do the hard work for you. Just keep it moist, and you’ll be rewarded with lush green vibrancy. 

Terrarium moss
And when I say vibrancy, I mean vibrancy.

No roots = no risk of root rot. 

There are two main types:

  • 1. Sheet moss (e.g., Hypnum Moss) is great for beginners; it’s effectively a ready-made carpet that will cover the ground of your terrarium. Easy!
  • 2. Clumpy moss (e.g., Cushion Moss) is gorgeous but more challenging. Not in terms of care, but in that it’s more challenging to place. It has a thick fibrous underside that holds the moss together, which needs to be trimmed off; once it’s off, it’s tricky to hold the moss clumps together as you place them.

Ultimately you can choose whichever moss you fancy, as both sheet and clumpy mosses will thrive. But if you’re going for a clumpy moss, you might need a pair of aquascaping tweezers to make the job easier.

Placing Mood Moss
Placing my moss tufts with tweezers.

Unless you’re up for a real challenge,  stay clear of aquatic mosses like Java Moss – they need extremely humid terrarium conditions that are hard to achieve.

👉 Shop live moss on Etsy.

Plants Beginners Should Avoid

Surprised you haven’t seen Prayer Plants, Jewel Orchids, and Air Plants on this list?

Despite being a good fit for closed terrariums, they’re far more sensitive to airflow.

That means you need to keep a closer eye on them and take the lid off every once in a while, which means you’ll need to rebalance the humidity and water content more.

So they are good terrarium plants, just not the most straightforward

Jewel orchid terrarium
I actually love to use Jewel Orchids in terrariums, but beginner-friendly they are not.

Carnivorous plants have no place in this article either. While some are more suited to terrarium life than others, they’re anything but beginner-friendly (in fact, Venus Flytrap terrariums are almost impossible).

Finally, avoid cacti, succulents (such as a jade plant), and other arid plants like the plague.

Because these guys prefer dry conditions, they’d quickly struggle inside a closed glass container.

Instead, they will need an open terrarium, which isn’t technically a terrarium at all, but we let them off because they’re cool. Feel free to join the dark side if that sounds more like your thing.

It’s Your Turn

What’s been an easy terrarium plant for you? Share your knowledge in the comments! After all, having hands-on experience with these plants reveals which are effortless and which are challenging.

Have any plants surprised you, for better or worse? Till next time x

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