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7 Different Types of Terrariums

Get to know the different types of terrariums, also known as indoor gardens housed in glass containers, so that you can still have a bit of greenery in your home even when you don't have adequate garden space.

Florist making a terrarium garden.

Often described as a fancy word or term for an indoor garden that is grown in a glass jar, a Terrarium is exactly that. It is almost like a mini aquarium, except with plants growing in it rather than fish. It is an ideal option, more like an alternative for all those nature enthusiasts who are big on plush greenery around the house but lack adequate garden space.

A terrarium is simply a closed enclosure where you can grow plants and create a blooming ecosystem in a simple glass container. It is also often referred to as a “terraria” where ‘terra’ is a Latin word that means terrain or land. The whole word altogether translates to ‘land within a container’.

These miniature gardens housed in glass containers have become quite a rage in various parts of the world, especially in Singapore. The main reasons for their popularity are that they take up very little space, are low maintenance, making them perfect for those people who don’t have enough time to care for a garden or simply don’t have the space required for a garden. Most people opt for terrariums either with the intent of self-grown vegetation or for decorative purposes because they actually make wonderful centerpieces!

Related: How to Make Succulent Terrarium | Outdoor Fairy Garden | Repurposing Household Items | Types of Carnivorous Plants | What is an Earthship

The Accidental Discovery of Terrariums

Plants Growing in a Terrarium

Although a terrarium sounds like an intricate discovery of the modern world, it actually goes back to the 1840s and has been around for several years. Interestingly, these miniature greenhouses were discovered quite unintentionally by a botanist called Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward.

He happened to stumble across these by a mere accident when he was actually interested in observing insect behavior, moths in particular. His keen interest led him to place cocoons in jars with a bit of soil. His fascination was particularly with the ways in which these moths transformed and grew. However, he mistakenly left one of the jars unattended. Days later he noticed a fern growing in that jar and grass began to sprout from the damp soil.

The fern spore eventually germinated into a plant which led to the invention of the first-ever terrarium. He carried out several other experiments by placing different non-native plants in sealed jars in order to observe and analyze how this kind of greenery thrived under such growing conditions.

The accidental discovery took him by great surprise because he was previously trying to grow these very greens in his garden, but ended up being unsuccessful each time. Back then he had assumed that the inability of these plants to grow in his garden was due to the pollution from local factories. So, what he saw growing in one of those glass jars made him believe that the growth was possible due to the jar being protected from pollution and contaminants present in the environment.

This marked the creation of the terrarium that the world ever saw and it began to be called the “Wardian Cases”, named after the inventor. The trend spread rapidly throughout the Victorian Era in England.

Make Your DIY Terrarium

A girl painting a glass terrarium

Ever since the discovery of terrariums, many people have found themselves gushing over these miniature gardens in a glass container. This resulted in several DIY methods of making a terrarium at home, ranging from a whole mini-ecosystem to an entire garden! This has helped a great many people who don’t have a seasoned green thumb to have a beautiful green space within the walls of a glass container.

Step 1: Gather all Materials

To make your very own terrarium, you will obviously need a glass container, potting soil, plants, pebbles or stones, and activated charcoal.

Step 2: Layer the Container

Begin with choosing a container type for your terrarium, which can include simple options like a glass jar or glass bowl, and even creative ones like a glass bulb, a teapot, and salt and pepper shaker, or an old lantern. Start by layering your soil so; first cover the bottom of your glass container with pebbles or stones which help prevent the plant roots from rotting, followed by a thin layer of activated charcoal.

The charcoal helps ward off mold and bacteria from growing inside. Next, put a layer of potting soil. One important thing to keep in mind here is that your choice of soil greatly depends on the type of plant you are potting. For instance, if you are looking to grow desert-like plants such as succulents or cacti, it is best to get the type of soil that is specially labeled for them.

Step 3: Add the Plants

The next step is to add your plants and you should start with the largest ones by placing them in the middle of the glass container, and then the smaller ones around it. Many people love to jazz up their terrarium by adding in decorative items like stones and shells which you can also do to make yours look pretty.

Key Tips to Remember

Next comes the very crucial part about a homegrown DIY terrarium: the tips to care for, and look after it. You should make sure to never place a terrarium in direct sunlight because they grow best in the presence of indirect sunlight.

Secondly, do not overwater your plants because they don’t need so much water when growing inside a terrarium. If they do need excess water, they will begin to slight droop which is a sign for you to water them. You’d be surprised to know that there are a few terrariums that have lasted for entire decades without being watered!

Different Types of Terrarium

Before you go on to making a DIY terrarium for your home or office, you must know that there are a variety of ways that you can build a terrarium. There are four different types of terrariums, each with unique requirements, benefits, and uses.

Learn all about the different types of terrariums there are in order to successfully develop a healthy and thriving green space setting on your own.

Open Terrariums

Plants Growing in an Open Terrarium

As the name evidently suggests, this is an open container terrarium that doesn’t require a lid. Compared to other types, this is well-suited for a wider variety of plants and is mainly ideal for succulents since it creates a dry environment for them to grow.

This terrarium is open to the surrounding air around it which means that it doesn’t exactly have a water cycle. Therefore, these need to be watered more frequently, at least once a week or sometimes more than that in situations where the leaves begin to droop and the soil starts drying up.

Regardless of the overall humidity levels being low in open containers, one of their biggest benefits is that they give you increased control over moisture levels. You can adjust the moisture content easily by adding or removing water as compared to a closed container.

The plants suitable for open terrariums require a drier environment and a proper circulation of air, which include cacti, aloe, succulents, and air plants. In terms of drainage layers, these terrariums require soil, rocks, pebbles, and charcoal. They also need direct sunlight more often than indirect sunlight in order to grow properly.

The one prominent downside of open terrariums is that they aren’t self-sufficient. This is primarily because they don’t contain any lid or top to cover the plants growing inside the glass container. This means that the plants might just end up popping out of the containers sometimes.

Closed Terrariums

Plants growing Inside a Light Bulb

Also referred to as sealed terrariums, closed terrariums consist of a lid over the glass container in order to safely enclose the plants within the jar or bottle. Due to being closed, this setup produces slightly higher temperatures on the inside which helps evaporate all the moisture that comes from the soil and plants.

The biggest benefit of a closed terrarium setup is that the plants that grow inside them do not dry out or wilt easily. This is essentially due to the fact that the water vapor that condenses inside the closed glass container falls back to the soil and the plants below. This results in a constant supply of water that always keeps the plants and soil properly moist and damp, preventing them from drying out.

Some of the most popular and ideal plant choices for closed terrariums include that love and prefer moist growing conditions such as mosses, ferns, ivy, and fittonia. Unlike open terrariums, these have an in-built water cycle system so water doesn’t need to be added frequently.

Another feature of the closed setup is that it creates quite a unique for plants to grow in, almost similar to a greenhouse considering how both heat and light are allowed to enter. Closed terrariums are also fairly self-sufficient, considering how the water cycle in the container repeats itself.

One important thing to keep in mind here is to make sure that you never leave these closed containers out under direct sunlight because they can actually heat up and end up burning the plants.

Dish Terrariums  

Succulent Growing in a Dish

This is probably the easiest of all three different types of terrariums considering how they are so manageable and convenient to build. Dish terrarium can be created using a variety of different containers and also different types of plants. They require a low-humidity setup with little to no watering at all.

A great advantage of working with dish terrariums is that most of the time, they don’t even need all the three key features that are typically needed by other types of a terrarium. Especially when you are growing air plants in this setup, you can even eliminate the drainage and substrate layers entirely!

Another benefit of this terrarium is that it allows you to grow a variety of those types of plants that may not grow so well in your outdoor environment. The key to successfully creating a dish terrarium is to follow all the steps properly. You first need to layer the bottom of the dish container with gravel and then fill about 1/5 inch with potting soil, followed by your choice of plants.

Succulent Terrariums

Succulent Terrarium in a Glass Vase

Succulents are tremendously growing in popularity, but many people don’t really know what they are. Succulents are basically those plants that have very thick fleshy leaves and they store water in those leaves. Succulent terrariums have become quite popular as a DIY terrarium idea for indoor décor or to give to someone.

Making this terrarium requires a beautiful assortment of mini succulents, a hanging terrarium, seasonal decorations, gravel, and a watering can. The key to making the perfect succulent terrarium is to layer all the things properly, decorate it as you like and once it is ready, hang the terrarium wherever you like inside your home.

Orchid Terrariums

Stunning Glass Orchid Terrarium

Orchid terrarium is another great type of terrarium, especially for all those who love these gorgeous flowers. Orchids simply brighten up the mood and also your home which is why you will find many people making orchid terrariums at home.

When creating one of your own, make sure to choose the right kind of glass container that is spacious enough to support the growth of the orchid flowers. You can even use a mason jar to add a creative touch to your DIY orchid terrarium.

Layer the container with pebbles and rocks and make sure it also has a drainage hole because orchids cannot survive in high humidity. Plant the orchid inside and further decorate with ferns, mosses, and small tree barks. It is also essential to choose the correct orchid plant, ranging from slipper orchids to cattleya orchids.

Hanging Terrariums

Beautiful Hanging Glass Terrariums

If you are someone who often thinks out of the box and is always looking for creative ideas for your home or garden, hanging terrariums is the perfect idea for you. As the name suggests, these glass containers are made to hang from the ceiling or any other place with the help of a thick, jute rope.

Hanging terrariums are a great way to decorate your home because they look incredibly pretty and eye-catching. The key to making the most beautiful and perfect hanging terrarium is to have all the right materials in place. Once you are done setting the container, the next very crucial step is to hang it properly wherever you want with the help of either a rope or a metallic clamp if you are hanging it on a metallic stand.

Wooden Terrariums

Mini Garden in a Wooden Terrarium

If a glass terrarium isn’t your idea of a perfect terrarium for your home décor piece, perhaps, you can go for a wooden container or one that is a combination of both glass and wood. It is ideal to use a wood-based container that comes with a glass lid because some plants need full sunlight in order to grow inside a container. Creating a wooden terrarium requires the same materials and things, with the only

exception that the container is part-wooden, of course! These look simply amazing wherever you place them, be it inside your home or out on the patio.

Which Plants Should You Grow In Your Terrarium?

Beautiful Glass Terrarium

When growing an indoor garden, especially in these glass containers, it is important to know what type of plants are most suitable for this kind of setup, be it an open container, closed container or a dish container. This is because you want to make sure that you place only those plants together in a single terrarium container that has similar or the exact same watering needs.

Generally speaking though, terrarium plants should be those that can easily tolerate low, indirect sunlight as well as varying humidity levels. The plants also need to be small because you don’t want them to be touching the sides of the glass container.

Here is a list of some of the most popular and ideal types of plants that you can consider growing when planting your own terrarium.


Cacti are easily the most popular choice when it comes to open container terrariums. These plants prefer dry surroundings and require a constant airflow which is what makes them so well-suited for open containers.

Air Plant

The best part about air plants is that they don’t require any soil to grow. This is possible due to the fact that they have specialized, slender, pale green leaves that supply all the water and nutrients that the entire plant needs to grow properly. The plant also contains pretty, funnel-like flowers that make it an amazing terrarium choice.

Strawberry Begonia

One of the main reasons why strawberry begonia is a much-preferred choice plant for a terrarium is because it has very prominent red vertical stalks and flowers that provide a pop of color to your glass container. They look beautiful when grown indoors and make a stunning decorative centerpiece.

African Violet  

This plant loves growing in moist soils and grows to an average height of only 6 inches, making it ideal to be grown in a terrarium setup. The African Violet is a super delicate plant that produces gorgeous purple, white, blue, and pink blooming flowers.

Baby’s Tears

This is quite a small plant that is also often referred to as ‘angel’s tears’. It is a low-growing plant that can be successfully grown in a terrarium, given that it is provided with the right conditions. Some of the key growing requirements of the baby’s tears plant include consistent moisture and bright, direct sunlight, making it perfect for an open terrarium.


Moss terrarium is ideal for retaining moisture inside the glass container, even if it is a closed one. It is a very low maintenance type of plant that adds a touch of prettiness to your office desk or even the center table in your home.


Also called nerve plant, this is best characterized by its beautiful patterned leaves that grow in white, green, and burgundy colors. These are tropical plants that grow to an average of 12 inches and require moist, warm air to grow successfully in a terrarium.


Although terrariums are not often suggested for a number of carnivorous plants, however, there are some that have survived quite well in those settings. Some of these include Heliamphora, tropical sundews, Cephalotus, and nepenthes.

Carnivorous terrariums typically prefer growing in bright, direct sunlight and they do require high moisture and humidity content which makes them ideal for open terrarium containers. If provided with the right growing conditions, they are likely to thrive and bloom.

Click here to find out more about the 5 types of carnivorous plants and how they trap.

Terrarium Kits – Your Own Mini Garden

Kit for Growing Mini Garden

If you aren’t exactly a big fan of starting from scratch on your own, you can always go for terrariums kits. These kits allow you to create your own miniature gardens and a mini-ecosystem indoors, in your own home.

They usually come with succulents and air plants to help get you started with the whole indoor garden process. These are two of the easiest plants to set up and look after so it is best to go for them especially if you are a beginner. These kits help you create a self-contained ecosystem and get it up and running in no time.

Some of the key items included in the kits are rocks for the base, plants, a glass container, and often decorative items as well. While these kits to make things a lot easier and enjoyable for those who don’t exactly have a green thumb, the real confusion lies in terms of which kit should you buy?

There are so many different terrarium kits available, each with something unique to offer. To make things easy for you, here are some of the most popular and must-have types of terrarium kits that you must check out before buying one.

TerraGreen Creations Complete Terrarium Kit

Complete Terrarium Kit: Succulent Planter With Soil and Glass Globe + All Supplies for Succulent, Cactus, and Fairy Garden (Glass Globe, Height 4 inches - Width 5 inches)

This amazing kit is especially for those who are new to gardening. It comes with the promise to help you create your own miniature fairy garden with great ease and zero hassle. It is quite a reasonable kit that is easy on the pocket and is ideal for growing cacti and succulents.

The kit comes with all the necessary items like glass containers, activated charcoal, hand-made organic soil mix, and also some decorative pieces. The best part about this kit is that it is available in three different sizes, making it a great gift for all gardening enthusiasts.

The only downside of this kit is that it does not come with a plant and the smallest of the three sizes is apparently too small and doesn’t have too much room.

H Potter Terrarium Kit

H Potter Terrarium Kit Succulent Soil Supplies for Plants Cactus Planters for Kids with Activated Charcoal

This is yet another incredible option for building a thriving ecosystem in your own home. It is of impressive quality and is also a great value for money. It is a complete terrarium kit that comes at a fairly affordable price with a gorgeous presentation.

This starter terrarium kit contains pea gravel, soil, activated charcoal, and a proper plant care brochure. It is ideal for growing tropical plants like orchids and succulents.

An amazing feature of this kit is that it comes with 3 reusable canvas bags and it is also available in two different sizes. The only downsides attached with this kit are that firstly, it doesn’t contain moss, and secondly, the terrarium has to be purchased separately.


Are you tempted to grow a beautiful mini-ecosystem inside your home yet?