When it comes to enclosed terrariums, there are some tough little plants that keep popping up because they’re perfect for those high humidity setups. After checking out what gardeners recommend and seeing what people commonly go for, there’s a list of the top 5 plants that just do awesome in glass cases.

From the trailing golden pothos to the neatly mounding baby’s tears, these small plants are the kings of the terrarium world because they can handle moisture like champs and they always look lush and green. Whether you’re a pro or just starting out, these little guys make it easy to create your own mini garden in a bottle without any stress.

Before you pick out plants for your own little world under glass, make sure you know about these top five tiny plants that can handle warm, humid homes with ease and style. It just goes to show that good things really do come in small packages!

A view of the terrarium in a bubble ball in a white stand.

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What is a Terrarium

Terrariums are a fun way to have an indoor garden to enjoy year round. Glass globe open terrariums featuring live plants are easy to make and care for even for those with brown thumbs. A terrarium is a miniature garden that is typically housed in a glass container. Most are sealed (closed) but some are considered open terrariums like the one I’m sharing today. Closed terrariums are fully functioning ecosystems that are for the most part self-sustainable with the plants watering themselves through a process of transpiration and condensation. I mean, how cool is that?? Open terrariums as pictured above do require more care as the air interrupts the sensitive ecosystem. More on that below but first let’s dive into terrarium types.

terrarium plants with moss and charcoal on a white platter. Ready to be planted.

Types of Terrariums

  • Open terrarium – An open terrarium has (as you would expect) an opening in the container and is not sealed. As mentioned above the air circulating in the container interrupts the ecosystem requiring the owner – ahem, I mean the at-home gardener – to keep the terrarium maintained and hydrated.
  • Sealed terrarium – High humidity sealed terrariums are the way to go if you are interested in having a self-sustaining terrarium. There are specific steps and supplies needed to create this system. Check out this post, 5 Key Elements to a Terrarium Ecosystem (Self-Sustaining Terrarium) from Terrarium Tribe for details on making a sealed terrarium. Just a warning, bugs are recommended to create the most effective self-sustaining terrarium.
  • Succulent terrarium – Yes you can even make a terrarium with succulents! Succulents prefer dry soil and the environment in a terrarium is usually quite moist.1 With a few tweaks, you can create the optimal environment for succulents. Drainage will be important as will using succulent specific soil or cactus soil.
  • Air Plant terrarium – This type of terrarium is by far the easiest to set up and care for. Air plants draw water from the air requiring no soil, moss, or drainage stones. Just create a decorative environment and drop an air plant in and voila! This type of terrarium includes the best plants for those who are plant-challenged!
top view of plants planted in the glass bowl terrarium. there are a variety of plants and textures.

The Fascinating Case of David Latimer’s Terrarium

Fascinating is right! As an avid plant experiment nerd – this is incredible! Here’s the story – in 1960, an Englishman named David Latimer created a sealed glass bottle terrarium that contains a self-sustaining ecosystem. Amazingly, it has not been opened or watered since 1972!2

Inside the 10-gallon bottle, Latimer placed compost, water and spiderwort seeds. It sits closed on a windowsill, receiving sunlight to power photosynthesis. The moisture cycles from the leaves, drips down, and gets reabsorbed by the plants.

Latimer’s bottled world has flourished for over 50 years with no maintenance other than occasional rotation. It illustrates how with light as an energy source, nature can self-sustain even in isolated environments.

The now famous sealed terrarium has been studied and marveled at by scientists and gardening experts alike. As modern closed-system techniques for space stations build on similar principles, Latimer’s curiosity has led to an unintended scientific contribution!3 Visit this post to view David Latimer’s incredible sealer terrarium.

This story, while fascinating, is not surprising if you have ever placed a plant under a cloche. I recently planted Pothos cuttings directly in a pot with soil and placed it under the cloche. I am both surprised and happy that I haven’t had to water it once. The cloche, much like Latimer’s sealed terrarium, creates a controlled environment that mimics nature’s ability to self-sustain. It encapsulates moisture and regulates humidity, allowing the plants to thrive with minimal intervention. Just as Latimer’s bottled world has flourished for over 50 years, my Pothos cuttings serve as a testament to the enduring resilience and adaptability of plants within enclosed spaces. It’s a testament to the remarkable ingenuity of nature and a reminder of our interconnectedness with the natural world.

glass cloche, propagation station and a pothos plant.

5 Top Choices for Open Terrarium Mini Plants

Terrariums accommodate a wide array of plant species, making them accessible to both experienced gardeners and beginners. While air plants are commonly favored for their adaptability, terrariums also suit plants that thrive in humid conditions, such as tropical varieties, ferns, and mosses. Most terrariums include an assortment of plants. I like to choose different shades of greens including plants with dark green leaves, unique variegated leaves along with a variety of textures.

Now, let’s delve into the top choices for open terrarium mini plants, known for their resilience and visual appeal:

  1. Golden Pothos – With its trailing vines and ease of care, golden pothos is a quintessential terrarium plant choice.
a green pothos plant in a white ceramic pot on a white table.

2. English Ivy – Another classic trailing option, ivy grows well in humid enclosed terrariums.

English Ivy plant with flowing stems.

3. Baby’s Tears – The tiny leaves and compact growth create lush soft carpets perfect for small spaces.

Baby tears plant - tiny little round leaves.

4. Polka Dot Plant – Colorful pink-splashed foliage adds standout visual appeal paired with tropical appeal.

Polka dot plant. Plants with oval leave with a lot of variegation. Leaves are in pinks and whites.

5. African Violets – Their petite flowering blooms have made African violets a long time fave indoor gardening plant.

3 purple and pink african violets outside on a railing.

Other Top Contenders: Spider Plants, Nerve Plants, Strawberry Begonia and Ferns would also be go-to recommendations that reliably grow well and suit the high humidity of closed terrariums. Their versatility helps account for popularity.

Pot size is important when choosing your plants and planning your terrarium. Most terrariums require smaller plants which can be hard to find. Most garden centers will carry a collection of small potted terrarium-specific plants. You can also purchase some on Amazon and on Etsy. Larger terrariums can often handle easy-to-find 4″ pots whereas tiny terrariums should start with 2″ pots.

A collection of open terrarium plants.

Supplies Needed for Your Glass Open Terrarium

  1. Glass container – I used a 12″ bubble ball vase. The container is to “house” the plants.
  2. Plants – Depending on the size of your container choose a collection of terrarium ready potted plants that will fit. For this large bubble ball, I used 5 smaller plants.
  3. Live Moss – You can use just one type or a collection of mosses. Reindeer moss works well as does sheet moss. Live moss supports a moist environment and is decorative as well.
  4. Potting soil – Regular potting soil or African violet soil will work well in your open terrarium. This is for planting the terrarium plants in.
  5. Gravel or small rocks – used for drainage at the bottom of the container.
  6. Charcoal – The main reason for adding charcoal to a terrarium is for toxin removal. Charcoal removes the chemicals from the soil, water and air that can accumulate in a terrarium and damage the plants.
  7. Plant Mister – Optional
  8. Decorative Rocks or mini figures (optional) – Just for fun

Pro tip: DIY terrarium kits that come with everything you need (except the plants and container)are available on Etsy.

An assortment of plants and rocks.

Variations and Special Considerations

Terrarium containers: There are so many options! I chose a simple bubble ball as an open container. You can use mason jars, vases, or other types of jars. A container with a larger opening is easier to plant than say a demijohn or bottle with a small opening. With a container that has a small opening much of the set up requires a funnel and some sort of stick or very thin tongs to place the plants in. It’s a very delicate process that requires patience but boy are they beautiful when done!

Succulent or cactus terrarium: As mentioned above with a few tweaks you can plant cacti and/or succulent terrarium. Use cactus soil instead of traditional potting soil. Cactus soil allows for optimal drainage and is specifically made for these plants as they can get moldy fast. Layer your terrarium in this order: gravel, charcoal, moss, then cactus soil. Succulent or cactus plants would not do well in a closed terrarium environment and containers (or dishes) with large openings are the perfect choice for this type of terrarium.

Decorative elements: Get creative! Add decorative rocks or little figurines to your terrarium to create fun fairy gardens! For a woodland feel add some twigs and extra moss. For a beach theme add seashells and beach pebbles. I share how I placed twinkle lights in this lightning bug lanterns featuring succulents post.

Steps for Making a Glass Open Terrarium

  1. Starting with a clean glass container begin by adding rocks or a layer of pebbles, moss (sphagnum moss is an excellent choice), charcoal, and moistened soil. Make sure the open terrarium layers are thick enough to see the contrast between the various layers when looking through the side of the glass container.

2. Remove plants from their pots and place the plant roots in the soil. Be sure to space plants 2″-3″ apart when possible. If needed add more soil to cover the roots. Add a little water to moisten.

3. Add more moss and/or other decorative items to decorate your terrarium.

4. Place near a sunny window and enjoy!

Planting in a bubble ball.

Caring for Your Open Terrarium

Now that you planted your terrarium all that is left is to care for it. Follow these guidelines for proper care:

Light: Place in a spot where the terrarium will get natural light. Indirect light or filtered light works better than bright light whereas the glass magnifies the sun. You will have to be especially careful with direct sunlight in the summer.

Water: Watering can be tricky and you will not only have to get to know what your terrarium requires in terms of water you also may need to adjust through the seasons. It is best to start with a little bit of water and add more as needed. The trick is to never let the potting soil dry out, moist soil is the goal. You may also use a spray mister to keep the terrarium moist. When it comes to water and humidity – again, think moist not wet.

Maintenance: Once you get to know where your terrarium is happiest and how much water it requires you will find it is pretty low maintenance. Keep the glass terrarium container clean by spritzing, wiping and pruning or replacing any plants that grow too big. Over time you may find that certain plants need to be replaced or some of the plants will develop long stems or new growth that may need to be cut back.

a close up of completed terrarium in stand.

Frequently Asked Questions About Small Open Terrarium Plants

What are some of the most popular choices for small terrarium plants that enjoy humid environments and indirect sunlight?

Some great options are miniatures like baby tears, pilea peperomioides, maidenhair ferns, baby tears, and lemon button ferns. These moisture-loving plants with compact size and small leaves thrive in closed terrariums under bright indirect light.

Which of the highlighted terrarium plant species does best in low light conditions but requires high humidity levels?

The little prince friend plant (pilea cadierei) is a good choice, as are mini Chinese money plants, baby’s tears, and other miniature humidity-lovers like davallia heterophylla which grows tiny green fronds. These tiny plants suit small terrariums.

What are some good ground cover or trailing plants that make great choices for small or mini terrariums?

Golden pothos, jade plants, ficus pumila, string of turtles and peacock ferns are classic trailing tropicals that provide beautiful draping foliage perfect for covering ground and maximizing vertical space in glass box gardens. Their versatile shapes allow creative designs.

A top view of the plants in the glass terrariums. there is a variety of texture and colors.

DIY Stand for 12″ Glass Bubble Ball Terrarium

Let’s make stand for your bubble ball terrarium!


  1. Wooden bowl (similar linked)
  2. 4 small wooden finial ball feet
  3. E6000 glue – clear
  4. White chalk paint
  5. Sandpaper- small piece of any grit
  6. Paint brush – any type
  7. Clear wax
  8. Waxing brush

How to Make a DIY Chalk Painted Stand

DIY Stand for 12″ Glass Bubble Ball Terrarium

Elevate your terrarium with this easy DIY Stand.


  • Place the wooden bowl upside down. Dab a small amount of e6000 glue to 4 ball feet and place them on the bottom of the wooden bowl. Let dry overnight.
    ball feet glued to the bottom of the wooden bowl
  • With a paint brush, paint the outside and inside bowl and ball feet with white chalk paint. let the first coat dry and then paint for a second coat. Let dry.
    painting the stand with white chalk paint
  • Using sand paper distress the stand by "scuffing" the chalk paint at different points.
    distressing the stand with sand paper.
  • Using clear wax and a waxing brush using circular motions wax the stand. You will see the distressing become more pronounced as you add the wax. Let dry overnight.
    clear wax for the stand.
  • Place your planted terrarium in the stand.
    a ball glass vase made into a terrarium with green and varigated plants. This terrarium sits in a wood bowl that has ball feet added and is chalk painted white.

Watch the Instagram Reels for this Glass Open Terrarium with DIY Stand.

This low-maintenance garden is such a great DIY project that you can make for yourself or it would be the perfect gift for a friend! Who wouldn’t love one of these miniature gardens? Terrariums are also great for a small space, like an office or bathroom. Thanks for visiting the blog today for my 5 Top Choices for Open Terrarium Mini Plants (2024) post! Will you plant your own in 2024? Let me know in comments!

Happy Planting friends!

my signature, a drawing of me holding a coffee cup that says Create.


  1. Grant, B. L. (2022, August 30). Succulent terrarium care: How to make a succulent terrarium and care for it. Gardeningknowhow. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/scgen/succulent-terrarium-care.htm ↩︎
  2. Shields, J. (2023, March 8). How a closed terrarium can live for decades, no water added. HowStuffWorks. https://home.howstuffworks.com/closed-terrarium.htm ↩︎
  3. Wilkes, D. (2016, March 6). The sealed bottle garden still thriving after 40 years without fresh air or water. Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2267504/The-sealed-bottle-garden-thriving-40-years-fresh-air-water.html ↩︎

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  1. I have had a few open terrarium bowls over the years but I am loving the wood bowl stand. That is so creative and adds just a great touch. I love following your creative ideals. Great job Stephanie!!!

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