Plants may be the obvious stars of any given terrarium, but (if you’re open to it) you might find that terrarium driftwood can end up being the real unsung hero.
I’m serious, hardscape is the key to elevating a perfectly nice container of plants to a beautifully complex natural wonderland.
In this article, we’re not talking about any random branch from the local woods. As lovely as they may be… We’re talking about a special group of woods that are perfectly suited to terrariums, and can really bring a project to life!
Hardwoods, driftwoods, aquascaping woods; they go by many names – and we’re going to show you the best of them.
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Why Use Wood in Terrariums?
Honestly, wood is such a versatile natural material, there are so many great ways that it can elevate a terrarium.
That being said, it’s often how you use it that counts.
- Create a natural-looking landscape – I mean, what rainforest scene have you ever seen that doesn’t have branches?
- Adds depth, structure, and contrast – In short, it makes terrariums interesting! Endlessly adding plants has diminishing returns in terms of visual aesthetics, but adding the dynamic texture and shape of these driftwoods really makes a difference.
- Opportunities for 3D planting – Branches are meant to be grown on, right? Adding moss and epiphytes to our terrarium wood literally brings it to life, and lets you explore areas at the top of your terrarium that are often just empty space.
Seriously, Driftwood is one of the best hardscape materials.
What’s so Special About Terrarium Wood / Terrarium Driftwood?
There’s a variety of woods selected for aquascaping, terrariums, and vivariums, but they all share one quality that makes them special.
They’re all typically hardwoods (with some caveats).
It’s important in a high humidity environment like a tropical terrarium. These woods are resistant to moisture and therefore mold and rot. Meaning they can live happy and stable lives in your terrarium for a long time.
Just to remove any confusion, they’re commonly called terrarium “driftwood” too, presumably because driftwoods are naturally hardwoods (how else could they survive the sea/rivers?).
Anyway, let’s see them!
Types of Terrarium Wood for Sale
#1: Ghostwood (California Driftwood)
With a name like “ghostwood,” the nerd in me already wants it…
This stunning white driftwood is full of character, with complex twisted branches and a gnarled texture throughout. Great for adding moss!
What’s great about Ghostwood is that it’s highly resistant to moisture (and other worldly effects) so perhaps this wood over any other is going to go the distance in super humid terrariums.
#2: Malaysian Driftwood
This stunning dark hardwood comes from a variety of trees all native to Malaysia.
The shadowy colour provides some lovely contrast in an otherwise fresh green terrarium, and the branches always seem to come in an interesting shape (often with lots of nooks and crannies to plant epiphytes into).
This is one of my favourites, but they do tend to come in larger, heavier chunks. So, they’re often better suited to bigger terrariums.
#3: Manzanita Wood
Manzanita wood is a thin, heavily-branched wood that can be used to great effect in creating a tree-like aspect.
It has quite a smooth texture, so it’s not the easiest terrarium wood for planting on, but you can effectively wrap/glue moss to it for that tree effect.
It’s naturally a reddish colour but you’ll often find it’s been sandblasted to a pale tan.
#4: Cork Bark
Okay, so this is technically a bark, but its utility in terrariums is so great that cork bark has to make this list of best woods.
The fact that it’s literally the outside of a tree makes it arguably the most natural-looking material. Which is why it’s often favoured for terrarium backgrounds, as you’re able to easily sculpt it into whatever shape you need.
Seemingly impervious to moisture, cork bark is an easy choice for any tropical terrarium build.
#5: Pacific Wood
Pacific wood is much like its Malaysian equivalent, just with an overall lighter colouration (and presumably a Pacific region origin?).
It also goes by the name of “horn wood” in the aquascaping industry.
Coming in heavier chunks, with little in the way of branches, it’s a good choice for hardscape that’s destined to anchor the substrate or support the overall structure of a terrarium.
#6: Amazon Wood
Amazon wood is the latest (and perhaps greatest) terrarium wood to work with.
With holes, gnarls and twists galore; it’s full to the brim with character. A fantastic choice for any terrarium build.
#7: Mopani Wood
For a hardwood from the plains of African, Mopani sure can repel moisture with the best of them.
With a gorgeous two-tone colour and deeply twisted structure, it’s always a visually interesting addition to a terrarium.
It’s as heavy as it looks though, so just bear that in mind as you add it to your project.
Spiderwood is a wonderfully intricate driftwood with crazy abstract shapes that can really add a wild element to a terrarium.
It’s often best to grab a selection of smaller pieces that you can shape/assemble to create the exact design that you need. It’s technically a softwood too, which means it’ll be easier to work with but won’t last indefinitely
Spiderwood is the name for wood from the roots of a variety of different tree species, including Azalea Wood, Black Forest Spiderwood and Redmoor Wood (mostly in the UK).
#9: Bonsai Wood
Speaking of living tree effects, here’s the real deal.
Bonsai wood is a stunning way to create your very own custom bonsai tree by attaching any combination of epiphytes and moss as you wish.
The densely-branched tips make perfect plant holders, you probably won’t even need to attach them.
They’re hand crafted from a variety of woods (though I’ve no idea how), meaning they come in all shapes and styles – so be sure to check out the full collection on sale.
Tigerwood is kinda like spiderwood on steroids…
A real tangled mass of roots around a central stump makes it an interesting focal piece for a terrarium.
Coming in variety of (crazy) shapes and sizes, it might take some looking to get the ideal piece but it’ll be worth it!
#Bonus: Cholla Wood
With an intricate lattice of holes perforating a thick wooden tube, there’s nothing quite like Cholla Wood.
The unique structure makes for an interesting piece, and it also provides lots of planting spaces for epiphytes.
It’s a softwood, so it’s important to use it in the right environments – but, the opportunities are endless when you know how to get the best from it.
Now it’s your Turn
Which terrarium wood takes your fancy?
Or have I missed off your favourite? Let me know in the comments!