Of course, plants are always going to be the star of the show in a terrarium.
But there’s more to a compelling display than plants alone.
Whether you’re recreating an idyllic beach scene, going all-in on the woodland look, or throwing caution to the winds and going full alien crystal landscape – there are decorative materials to help you get there.
In this article, we’ll cover the best of the natural, artificial (and just plain cool looking) materials so you can decide what to put in a terrarium besides plants.
This page may contain affiliate links that allow us to make a small commission (at no further cost to yourself). 💚 Thank you for helping to support the tribe!
How to Decorate a Terrarium – 9 Unique Ideas
If there’s one thing for sure, terrarium decor is an exciting world to explore.
But, as with building a terrarium, it’s not as straightforward as you might think.
Our delicate ecosystems are going to need additions that will work harmoniously with the life inside, not against it.
Honestly, I’ve seen some bonkers articles proposing putting sweets and even salt in terrariums.
And while it’s a fantastic suggestion if you’re looking to destroy your plants, it’s a disastrous idea if you’re hoping to have a living piece of art at the end of it. For this reason, it’s important that you don’t pop anything in that might be unclean, could decay, or leech unwanted substances into the water system.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of materials that fit the bill to choose from, so let’s dig in!
1 | Rocks
Terrarium rocks flaunt endless design opportunities.
Whether you want to create an adorable pathway for mythical creatures, construct a mighty cave, or simply desire a stunning monolithic centrepiece – rocks are your new best friend.
And with so much natural variation (we technically live on a big rock – don’t we?) you’re unlikely to run out of options any time soon.
Dragon stone (Ohko stone) is a great place to start.
With natural crevices and and unique texture, it creates a fantastic rugged look and opportunities for 3D planting with more dappled pieces.
2 | Wood
There’s a level of depth and character that only wood can offer.
With each piece being as unique as your terrarium, it will provide much-needed contrast, texture and warmth. You can use it in a stylized way, or more organically to give your terrarium a grown-in feel.
After all, no “natural” environment would really look complete without branches and trees, right?
Helpfully, we’ve already done a deep dive into the different types of terrarium wood, so be sure to head there to check out all of your options. Spoiler alert – there are many.
3 | Figurines
Figurines and toys can take your terrarium from a natural wonderland to a fully fleshed-out miniature story.
From tiny artists painting on the glassware, to hot air balloon rides over the lush foliage, to cheeky nudist beach scenes and even zombie apocalypses.
I’ve seen it all.
Naturally, Jurassic Park themes are most popular (and for good reason), but there are no boundaries with what you can create.
Get wild. Let your hair down. This is your art and you make the rules!
4 | Resin
Resin is quite a versatile material, but in the terrarium world it’s mostly used to create a “fake water” effect.
Perfect for your beachside scene, or idyllic stream.
Most people like to add a touch of blue dye to really sell the aquatic factor, but in my opinion dye opens up even more opportunities!
You could add red and create a volcanic scene perhaps, or brown to depict mud.
5 | Sand
While sand is predominately known on the terrarium scene for it’s substrate-supplementing abilities, it also provides plenty of scope for decoration.
In a beach-y piece it’s the golden sand to your resin sea.
Not to mention sand art.
A wonderful way to level-up your terrarium, merge crafts and add in some tasteful color.
There’s lots to consider though, like using aquarium sand so the colors don’t leech, so be sure to check out our article on terrarium sand to get into the nitty gritty details.
6 | Seeds and Nut Pods
You’ve mastered terrarium wood, what’s next?
Take it to the next level with seed and nut pods! A perfect way to add in some lovely earthy, tropical texture, but with some really interesting shapes.
It’s certainly not something I see everyday.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. You can really make use of the unique structure and liven up the bowl-shapes and holes with some vibrant moss.
7 | Crystals
Can you put crystals in a terrarium? Of course!
There are heaps of shapes, textures and colors to experiment with.
In fact, using crystals is the best way to add a splash of color if you’re wanting to stick to natural elements (sometimes I just don’t want to add anything artificial to my natural paradise).
You could try using a larger piece as the main feature to plant around, or smaller rounded stones to use as gravel.
8 | Strings and Hooks
We’re getting a little more abstract here, but have you considered… floating terrarium elements?
After all, why should all terrarium planting be terrestrial?
Not to mention that if you have glassware on the taller side, it’s a wonderful way to fill up some of that empty space.
If you’d like to keep it organic, you could hang a kokedama, or an airplant. If you’d like to hang something artificial, the options are endless.
9 | Shells
It’s finally time . The shells you pocketed from your 2005 beach getaway at long last have a use. Dig them out and pop them straight in your latest terrarium project.
Smaller shells can be placed decoratively, and larger shells can even be planted in themselves!
Naturally you’ll have to choose a plant that won’t outgrow such a small container, but it’s a great way to spice things up a little.
Over to You
There you have it, hopefully you have some good ideas as to what to put in a terrarium besides plants.
What terrarium decor addition are you desperate to try next?
And of course If I’ve missed anything, let me know in the comments!