What to Put in a Terrarium Besides Plants? 9 Decor Ideas

Of course, plants will always 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.

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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 will 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, you mustn’t put anything in that might be unclean, could decay, or leech unwanted substances into the water system.

Thankfully, there are plenty of materials that fit the bill to choose from, so let’s dig in!

1 | Seed & Nut Pods

Let’s kick this off with my personal favorite way to level up your terrarium – seed and nut pods! 

A perfect way to add in some lovely earthy, tropical texture, but with some really interesting shapes – great for woodland terrariums.

It’s certainly not your everyday terrarium decor. 

magnolia seed pod above terrarium
Magnolia seed pods are stunning.

Seed pods aren’t just aesthetically pleasing; they also provide natural spots for isopods to hide and breed.

Armadillidium gestroi isopods on lotus pod
Isopods love exploring seed pods!

Or, if your terrarium isn’t bioactive, you can liven up the crevices with a touch of vibrant moss.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop magnolia seed pods on the Terrarium Tribe store.

2 | 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 centerpiece – 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.

Dragon stone close up
I seriously love dragon stone.

The natural crevices and unique texture create a fantastic, rugged look. And they provide lots of opportunities for 3D planting with the more dappled pieces. 

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop dragon stone on Etsy.

3 | 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 look complete without branches and trees, right?

two toned mopani wood on table with plants in background
Mopani wood is the real deal!

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.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop Mopani Wood on Etsy.

4 | 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. 

ceramic light grey pebbles with painted eyes
It doesn’t need to be outlandish – these adorable pebble people are super sweet! (Image credit: joeyruthers on Etsy).

Naturally, Jurassic Park themed terrariums are most popular (and for good reason), but there are no boundaries with what you can create. 

Fairy terrariums have a tonne of options too.

Get wild. Let your hair down. This is your art, and you make the rules!

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop fun terrarium miniatures on Etsy!

5 | Resin

Resin is quite a versatile material, but it’s mostly used to create a “fake water” effect in the terrarium world.

Perfect for your beachside scene, or idyllic stream.

Lagoon resin terrarium
When done right, fake water really can look real. Especially in a fish bowl terrarium.(Image credit: DoodleBirdTerrariums on Etsy).

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. 

6 | Sand

While sand is predominately known on the terrarium scene for its substrate-supplementing abilities, it also provides plenty of scope for decoration.

In a beachy 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. 

Black, red and orange sand art layers
Granted, it’s a little trickier to pull off than some of the other options on this list, but the results are worth it.

There’s lots to consider. 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. 

7 | Crystals

Can you put crystals in a terrarium? Of course!

There are heaps of shapes, textures, and colors to experiment with. 

amethyst crystal for terrarium
This crystal would look stunning in a terrarium, however you choose to use it.

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. 

Check out my Crystal Terrarium Guide for more.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop crystals on Etsy.

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. 

air plant close up
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,

Smaller shells can be placed decoratively, and larger shells can even be planted in themselves!

placing shells in a beach terrarium
We used shells in our beach terrarium project.

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?

Of course, If I’ve missed anything, let me know in the comments!

And if you already have your decor items picked out, now’s a good time to check out our online terrarium store for the rest of your supplies.

5 thoughts on “What to Put in a Terrarium Besides Plants? 9 Decor Ideas”

  1. Thanks so much for a post on creating small worlds that twin the world we live in. I love the woods, rain forests, and can’t seem to walk one in person without imagining fantastical scenes. What better way to create what I see in my mind than through a terrarium. First and foremost the plants! Absolutely! Then added a mother and child figurine that blew in on a tornado. It has a home! I cringed, felt I was stepping into the world of possible clutter, and added way back peeking through the ferns on a high ledge, half-hidden, a painted pony. BUT it is the plants that rule. Thank You for this post!!!!

  2. Hiya, thanks for a great post! I wonder if I want to put some small objects in like houses, cottages, bridges etc. What material do they have to be made of to endure the humidity and not cramble if you know what I mean? Many thanks, Jana

  3. I have ordered a new terrarium and am excited to put things in itโ€ฆso I enjoyed your article on ideas.

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