The 12 Best Terrarium Plants to Grow in Your Miniature Indoor Garden

terrariums near window seal
Photo: Michael Partenio

A tabletop terrarium is easy to make and care for. The best terrarium plants stay small while offering tons of color and texture. Create your own thriving mini indoor garden with these adorable, humidity-loving selections.

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Moon Valley Friendship Plant

potted moon valley friendship plant
Marty Baldwin

The delicate patterning and deeply textured craters and valleys give 'Moon Valley' friendship plants a distinctive look. The two-tone green and purplish-red leaves stand out in terrariums dominated by all-green plants. These plants may surprise you with delicate pink flowers, too.

Name: Pilea involucrata 'Moon Valley'

Size: To 12 inches tall and wide

02 of 12

Variegated Spider Fern

variegated spider fern potted plant
Marty Baldwin

Each glossy, green leaf of variegated spider fern sports a yellow band down the center that distinguishes this easy-care, evergreen fern from other similar-looking plants. If it eventually outgrows your terrarium, you can take it outside and plant it in a shade garden in Zones 6-9.

Name: Arachniodes simplicior 'Variegata'

Size: To 16 inches tall and wide

03 of 12

Starfish Plant

potted starfish plant
Marty Baldwin

A favorite terrarium plant is Cryptanthus bivittatus, also called starfish plant, a member of the bromeliad family. The straplike leaves almost seem to glow with iridescent stripes, which range from red to maroon, white, and deep green; the plant can also bloom with a tiny white flower in its center. The leaf colors of starfish plant change with the intensity of light, and its slow-growing nature makes it well-suited for a terrarium.

Name: Cryptanthus bivittatus

Size: To 6 inches tall and wide

Buy It: Cryptanthus Bivittatus Pink ($20, The Home Depot)

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Nerve Plant

potted nerve plant
Marty Baldwin

Turn your terrarium tropical by adding a nerve plant with a netlike pattern on its leaves in silvery white, burgundy, or pink. This pretty little plant thrives in the high humidity of a closed container. If it starts to crowd other plants, trim it back and use the cuttings to start new plants.

Name: Fittonia verschaffeltii var. argyroneura

Size: To 12 inches tall and wide

05 of 12

Variegata Peperomia

variegata potted plant
Marty Baldwin

The textural wrinkles on the heart-shaped leaves of Peperomia caperata 'Variegata' make this plant an intriguing addition to terrariums. Plus, it has reddish stems for an extra splash of color. This small, slow-growing plant thrives in the high humidity of a closed system.

Name: Peperomia caperata 'Variegata'

Size: To 6 inches tall and wide

Buy It: Peperomia Orba 'Variegata' ($12, Etsy)

06 of 12

Golden Clubmoss

golden clubmoss plant
Marty Baldwin

Even though golden clubmoss stays compact in height, it likes to spread. Be prepared to do some trimming to keep it from crowding other terrarium plants. The light green foliage has a delicate texture that contrasts beautifully with plants that have bold leaves. In warmer zones, golden clubmoss also can be used in shade gardens as a groundcover.

Name: Selaginella kraussiana 'Aurea'

Size: To 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide

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Aquamarine Pilea

aquamarine potted plant
Marty Baldwin

If you examine the leaves up close, you'll see tiny speckles all across the silvery-blue, rounded leaves of Pilea glauca 'Aquamarine.' This terrarium plant loves high humidity and low light. Its low-growing, densely matted, creeping stems create the perfect base for other plants in your terrarium.

Name: Pilea glauca 'Aquamarine'

Size: To 12 inches tall and wide

Buy It: Pilea Glauca ($16, Walmart)

08 of 12

Air Plant

air plant
Marty Baldwin

Although air plants don't need soil, they still make versatile terrarium plants that offer both color and texture. Either set them among other plants in your container, or create a soil-less display exclusively for showing off your air plants.

Name: Tillandsia stricta

Size: To 8 inches tall and wide

Buy It: Assorted Air Plant (8-Pack) ($25, The Home Depot)

09 of 12

Dwarf Golden Sweet Flag

minimus aureus plant
Marty Baldwin

The grassy, golden foliage of tiny Acorus gramineus 'Minimus Aureus' makes a striking addition to terrariums. It can also be grown outside in Zone 5-7, though this perennial plant does best in consistently moist soil.

Name: Acorus gramineus 'Minimus Aureus'

Size: To 4 inches tall and 6 inches wide

10 of 12

Black Mondo Grass

black mondo grass potted plant
Marty Baldwin

Familiar to gardeners in Zones 6-9 as a groundcover plant, black mondo grass also makes a pretty terrarium plant. Its dark, strappy leaves lend a moody hue to your mini landscape.

Name: Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Size: To 5 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Buy It: Black Mondo Grass Plant ($12, The Home Depot)

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Mother Fern

asplenium bulbiferum plant
Marty Baldwin

Although mother fern can get about 2 feet tall, it still makes a good terrarium plant when it's small. This graceful, arching, fine-textured fern does best in high humidity. When mature, the fronds produce tiny plantlets that you can replant to make more ferns or replace the original plant if it has outgrown your terrarium.

Name: Asplenium bulbiferum

Size: To 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Buy It: Tall Green Macho Fern ($24, Walmart)

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Strawberry Begonia

saxifraga potted plant
Marty Baldwin

The name "strawberry begonia" is a little misleading, because this plant isn't actually a begonia or related to strawberries. But the leaves look a bit like begonia foliage, and it sends out runners like strawberry plants do. While strawberry begonia grows quickly, it stays compact enough to fit into most terrariums.

Name: Saxifraga stolonifera

Size: To 8 inches tall and 6 inches wide

Buy It: Pink Variegated Rare Strawberry Begonia ($8, Etsy)

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