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 closed 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. 

Short on time? Here’s a quick introduction to the best terrarium plants:

  1. Fittonia (Nerve Plants)
  2. Syngonium (Arrowhead Plants)
  3. Epipremnum aureum (Pothos)
  4. Pilea (Friendship Plants)
  5. Ferns (e.g., Lemon Button Fern)
  6. Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig)
  7. Peperomia (Radiator Plants)
  8. Selaginella (Spikemoss)
  9. Hypoestes phyllostachya (Polka Dot Plants)
  10. Moss (e.g., Cushion Moss)

Next up, we’re deep-diving into each of these terrarium plants (and giving our top recommendations for each!).

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! (I wanted them all).

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.

A moisture-retentive substrate like our Signature Terrarium Substrate Mix goes a long way, too.

fittonia in terrarium
Keep your Fittonia terrarium well watered, and you’ll be rewarded with lush foliage.

👉 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 pixie in 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.’

pink syngonium vs erythrophyllum
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

rae with goldon 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 vs 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 you 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.

pilea moon valley for 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 terrarium
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 terrarium
I use Lemon Button Ferns in many of my builds – they’re great for adding effortless texture.
delta maidenhair fern in terrarium
For a beginner-friendly terrarium, give bad boys like this Delta Maidenhair Fern 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 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 attached to seiryu stone
I used the variegated variety in a recent woodland terrarium; it attached itself to this Seiryu stone nicely!

👉 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 a love of humid conditions, it’s such a set-and-forget genus. You know they will 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.

String of Turtles gets a feature in many of our terrarium builds!
peperomia rosso in terrarium
I used Peperomia ‘Rosso’ in my beginner’s 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.

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 uncinata  in 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 plant and fittonia in terrarium
Our Polka Dot Plant is just a cute little sprout at this point but it’ll grow up beautiful one day!

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. 

hypnum moss and mood 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! You can grab some Live Sheet Moss on our store.
  • 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. Shop Cushion Moss.

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.

mood moss in tweezers
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.

👉 Check out our full range of moss for terrariums on our store.

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

macodes pelota held above 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? 

Now that you have a list of easy terrarium plants, why not check out our beginner’s guide, How to Make a Terrarium?

Or better yet, dive straight into our collection of high-quality terrarium supplies.

Till next time x

9 thoughts on “The 10 Best Terrarium Plants for Beginners (Easy Care Picks)”

  1. Excellent article. I am about to start a Halloween themed terrarium and your information has helped me a lot. Thanks!

  2. Very interesting article

    With regard to cushion moss how much of the underside do you remove? On some of my builds I would of loved less of the underside but was worried about removing it. Is there a point to where you can trim to?

    Thanks in advance for any info

    1. Hi Darrell, you can trim as much as you like and the moss will be just fine – I’m fairly liberal with the scissors! The only issue is that the more you trim the less it all holds together making it difficult to place.

  3. My PK class is going to make a terrarium for a science fair project. This was excellent information for them and what plants would work best.

  4. My problem has always been that these plants are too happy and everything over grows so fast. Stopped here on my way to maintenance tips, haha.

  5. Nice list for beginners but if one doesn’t mind spending a little more, there are some other plants that are just as easy but not so common to find. They’re also not cheap, but then again, what is these days?

    Ficus. sp. Panama – very small crescent shape leaf, not a fast grower.

    There are some very small species of vining Philodendrons that have bromide popular with those who keep vivariums for dart frogs and tropical geckos. Many are not yet classified so their names tend to reflect their origin.

    Philodendron Chinchamayense, P. Mini Santiago ( this one has lovely leaves that look quilted). All grow fairly slowly and have very small to tiny leaves.

    Pepperomias like P.aff bicolour ( origin Ecuador) and P.emarginella which has very tiny leaves and looks something like Baby tears (S.soleirolia) would if it was a vine.

    There are also a few gesneriads that do nicely. I like Pearcea hypocyrtiflora for its colouring.

    Most of my terrariums so far are screen top vivariums that are intended eventually to house tropical fauna too, but I’m also working on some closed small ones.

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