How To Make A Beautiful Tropical Terrarium?

Tropical terrariums bring the beauty and wonder of a tropical rainforest to your home. Start off with a clear glass container, or tall vase, and place a layer of soil on the bottom. Then, create a miniature landscape using tropical plants, rocks, and pebbles that represent a tropical island.
Terrarium material set.

What do you think of when you hear the word “Tropical“? Palm trees, bright flowers, exotic animals? A Tropical Terrarium is a miniature version of all these things. This is a great way to bring the tropics to your home. They are easy to make and look beautiful in any home or office space. Not only are they beautiful, but they also serve as perfect decorative pieces for any room.

So, how can you create a tropical terrarium at home? It’s important that you have all of the necessary supplies and materials on hand. Start by gathering any containers you may have, such as glass jars or bowls. Then gather some moss and pebbles for the base of your terrarium. After adding the right potting soil to your container, find a decorative tropical plant suitable for an indoor setting like tropical plants like ferns, bromeliads dracaena or anthuriums. Remove any excess soil from around their roots before planting them in your new terrarium. Mist lightly and watch your tropical paradise thrive.

Steps to creating a tropical terrarium

Creating a tropical terrarium is easier said than done. However, by following these simple steps, you will be able to create your very own tropical terrarium in no time.

1.      Gathering necessary supplies and materials

The first step is to gather all of the necessary supplies and materials that you will need for your project. These items include:

Tools needed for making your own terrarium.
Gather all of the necessary supplies and materials that you will need.
  • Terrarium container
  • Pebbles or gravel
  • Activated charcoal
  • Moss
  • Potting soil
  • Tropical indoor plants
  • Decorative rocks
  • Fertilizer
  • Misting spray bottle
  • Top dressing soil

2.      Tools needed:

  • Scissors – A pair of scissors is needed to cut through the plant’s leaves and also remove excess dirt.
  • Gloves – Gloves are vital because some chemicals can be harmful to your hands if you do not wear them. Also, sometimes plants may have thorns that could prick your fingers.
  • Water spray bottle – This tool is used to mist the plants in order to keep them moist and thriving in a closed environment.
  • Long-handled spoon – A long-handled spoon is vital to help mix the soil without getting it on yourself or spilling it everywhere.
  • Tweezers – If any plants need to be moved or removed from the terrarium, tweezers will come in handy to do so without damaging the other plants.

Now that you have all of the necessary supplies, it is time to begin constructing your terrarium.

3.      Selecting ideal Terrarium container

Selecting a good terrarium container cannot be underrated when creating a tropical terrarium. The best containers are ones that have a wide opening at the top and bottom so you can easily reach in and tend to your plants. Look for sturdy containers made from glass, plastic or metal.

Glass hexagon shaped terrarium.
The best containers are ones that have a wide opening at the top and bottom.

Avoid thin materials like paper or cardboard as they will not hold up against the moisture of the terrarium. Remember, the terrarium will be creating its own mini-climate, so make sure the container can handle the humidity.

4.      Cleaning your Terrarium container

Before adding any potting soil or plants to your terrarium, it is important to clean and sterilize the container. This can be done by using a bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or by using a commercial cleaner. Be sure to rinse the container well afterwards to remove any traces of bleach or cleaner.

This step is necessary to avoid any residue or dirt that could possibly affect the health of your plants later on down the road. Remember, you are creating a mini-climate within the container, so everything that is put into it will affect its overall function.

5.      Identify the right location

Before you create your tropical terrarium, you need to identify the best location for the same. You will want to place your container someplace where the terrarium can receive some indirect sunlight, but not be in direct sunlight because this could lead to overheating and plant damage.

A terrarium near the window.
Place your container someplace where the terrarium can receive some indirect sunlight.

It is recommended that a spot near a window with eastern or western exposure is ideal. If you live in a hot and humid climate, you will also want to place your terrarium someplace where it will get good air circulation.

6.      Adding Pebbles or gravel to Terrarium container

The next step is adding pebbles or small rocks to your terrarium. This material helps with drainage and makes sure there are no pockets of water sitting at the bottom of the container.

Pebbles or gravel can be found at most garden supply stores and should cost very little, if anything at all. Alternatively, you can use small rocks found outdoors.

7.      Adding Activated charcoal to Terrarium container

Activated charcoal is an important material that helps remove toxins from the soil and prevents mold growth in your terrarium. This product will be placed directly on top of the pebbles or gravel layer at the bottom of your container, so make sure it is large enough to cover the pebbles or rocks.

When adding your activated charcoal, make sure it is in a layer that is thin enough for the plants roots to grow through. This

8.      Adding moss to Terrarium container

Depending on where you are planning on placing your terrarium, having moss growing inside of it can help give off an overall natural look. Moss grows naturally indoors or outdoors and should be able to thrive with little-to-no care.

There are many different types of moss that can be used in a terrarium and all can be found at most garden supply stores. Just make sure to avoid any moss that requires a lot of water or direct sunlight to grow.

9.      Prepare the soil

Once you have selected the right container and identified the best location for your terrarium, added gravel and activated charcoal, it is time to start preparing the soil. The potting soil that you select should be peat-based, as it is ideal for promoting the health of carnivorous plants.

A potting mix.
The potting soil that you select should be peat-based.

You can also add in a small amount of fertilizer to the soil mixture at this time. This will help spur plant growth and development in your terrarium. Once you have prepared the potting mix, it is time to add it into the container.

10. Stage your design

Now that the container is ready and you have added the potting soil, it is time to start staging your design. This can be done in any way that you please, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, make sure there is enough room for the plants to grow. You will not want to overcrowd your terrarium with too many plants at once.

If you are planting more than one plant in your terrarium, you will want to place them someplace where they can be easily seen. This is especially important for carnivorous plants because it allows people to see the unique characteristics of each plant while creating an overall natural-looking design.

11. Adding plants to Terrarium container

Now it is time to add the plants to your terrarium. When selecting plants, try to choose a variety of different types that will thrive in the same environment. You can find a list of suitable plants for terrariums online or at most garden supply stores.

Plant being transferred.
When selecting plants, try to choose a variety of different types that will thrive in the same environment.

When adding the plants, be sure to mix them up. Do not create an island of one type of plant, as this will make it difficult for the plants to flourish or grow. Remember, you are trying to create a natural-looking terrarium, not a garden.

12. Watering your  Terrarium

Since terrariums are self-contained ecosystems, the amount of watering the plants in them requires is not much at all. Just like with any plant, you will want to water them when the soil feels dry to the touch. However, you will not want to over-water your plants, as this can lead to root rot and plant death.

13. Misting Terrarium

In order for your terrarium to be a healthy and thriving environment, it is important to mist it regularly. This will help keep the humidity levels up, which is essential for allowing your plants to grow.

14. Top dressing your  Terrarium

To make sure your terrarium has an overall finished look, you should top dress it. Top dressing is the act of putting small rocks or pebbles over the soil surface of each plant in your container. This will help each plant stand out and look more natural.

Your terrarium is now ready to sit in a location that will not receive direct sunlight or much attention at all. If you are interested in adding other plants into your terrarium, you can do so by just planting them directly into the potting soil that is already inside of it.

Common Tropical Terrarium Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Creating a tropical paradise at home is a walk in the park if you understand what it takes and the process involved. However, a slight mistake can prove detrimental to your plants. Let’s look at the most common mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Too Much Light

Light is essential for photosynthesis, but too much of it can result in sunburn and burns in sensitive plants like anthuriums and orchids. Your tropical plant should be in a location that does not receive direct sunlight, but is instead bathed in diffused light or light from an open window.

Effects of too much sunlight.
Too much Sunlight can result in sunburn and burns in sensitive plants like anthuriums and orchids.

2. Too Little Light

If your plant does not get enough light, it will become leggy and stretched as it reaches for the sun. In addition, leaves will start to yellow and drop off. Most plants need between 6-8 hours of light per day. To ensure your plant is getting enough light, place it in a location where it will receive indirect sunlight for most of the day.

3. Overgrown Plants

In closed terrariums, plants can grow too large and will need to be cut back or pruned. Such action prevents them from falling over and taking other plants with it. This is a common issue that leads people to kill their plants because they do not know how to properly care for them.

4. Too Close to Heat Sources

Another common mistake is placing terrariums too close to heat sources, like televisions or fireplaces. This can cause the plants to dry out and die. In addition, heated air can create a convection current that disturbs the balance of moisture and humidity in the terrarium, also leading to plant death. To avoid this issue, place your plant in a location away from any heat sources.

5. Overgrown Plants

If the roots of your plants become too large for the pot over time, they will need to be transplanted into a larger container. This is not necessarily bad news as such “overgrown” plants will produce new growth and once again flourish in your terrarium.

flytrap terrarium
Most plants need to be cut back and pruned to keep them from growing too large for their containers.

Most plants need to be cut back and pruned to keep them from growing too large for their containers, but cutting the plant off at the soil level will kill it. To avoid this issue, always prune off branches or leaves with a sharp knife or pruning clippers so as not to damage the stem.

6. Failure to Remove Dying Plants

If a plant in your terrarium starts to die, it is important to remove it from the pot and discard it. Leaving dying plants in your terrarium will only contaminate the soil and make it difficult for other plants to thrive.

7. Dirty Glass

If your terrarium’s glass becomes dirty, it will be difficult for you to see your plants and determine their health. To clean the glass, use a soft cloth and water to wipe away any dirt or grime.

8. Over Fertilizing

Fertilizing your plants is important for their health and growth, but over fertilizing can actually be harmful. Excessive fertilization will cause the soil to become too wet and can lead to root rot and plant death.

In addition, fertilizing your plants too often can lead to the growth of algae and moss, which can actually kill your plants. To avoid this issue, do not fertilize your plants more than three times a year.

9. Over Watering

Water is essential for the survival and happiness of all tropical and subtropical plants, but it is easy to overdo it and flood your terrarium with too much water. Over watering will cause the soil to become wet and can lead to root rot, plant death, and the growth of algae and moss.

Plant being watered.
Over watering will cause the soil to become wet and can lead to root rot, plant death, and the growth of algae and moss.

To avoid over watering your plants, wait until the top inch of soil is dry before watering again. Make sure not to splash water onto the glass as it will only make it difficult for you to see how your plants are doing.

10. Planting Succulents in Closed Terrariums

There are certain plants that do not do well in closed terrariums, like succulents. Succulents need to be exposed to air and sunlight to absorb water and grow properly, making them difficult for you to care for in a closed terrarium. If you want to include succulents in your terrarium, make sure to place it in an area where it will get plenty of sunlight.

11. Choosing the Wrong Plants

The key to a healthy, thriving tropical terrarium is choosing the right plants. It is important that you understand what type of conditions and care your plants need before purchasing them. A little research goes a long way in ensuring your plants thrive and do not die an untimely death.

Ideal plants to consider for your tropical terrarium

A tropical terrarium is not complete without a collection of tropical plants. There are many plants out there to choose from, but not all tropical plants will thrive in your terrarium.  Some notable plants you can consider for your terrarium are:

  • Biophytum sensitivum – This hardy epiphyte is ideal for tropical terrarium thanks to its low light and moisture needs. It makes a great hanging plant for your terrarium and is not likely to die or get overgrown in your small environment.
  • Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ – While many ferns require bright, indirect sunlight, this variety thrives in areas with low lighting conditions. Asplenium nidus ‘Crispy Wave’ is ideal for your terrarium because it does not require much light to grow.
  • Neoregelia ‘Fireball’ – This bromeliad is a colorful, tropical plant that will add beauty to your terrarium. It is easy to care for and requires bright sunlight to thrive.
  • Humata heterophylla – This unusual plant is a great addition to any tropical terrarium. It does well in moist environments and does not require much light to grow.
  • Microsorum musifolium (Crocodile Fern) – This fern is perfect for your terrarium as it thrives in shaded areas with moist, but not wet soil. It does best in a humid environment and will add beauty to any terrarium.
  • Syngonium podophyllum ‘Pixie’ – As this plant does well in low light conditions, it is the perfect addition for your terrarium. If you live in a room with bright lights or direct sunlight, this plant will do well in an area where it can get some indirect light.
  • Macodes petola – This beautiful, shade-loving orchid is another great addition to your terrarium. It does best in shady areas with moisture rich soil, making it the perfect candidate for your terrarium.


Let’s face it; tropical terrariums area a beauty to behold. They offer a glimpse into a lush, green world where things are not as they seem. Whether you want to create a terrarium for yourself or give it as a gift, mastering the right techniques will ensure success. With a little bit of know-how, anyone can create a beautiful tropical terrarium. Just remember to choose the right plants, provide the right conditions, and be patient as your terrarium establishes itself. In no time at all, you will have a lush, green oasis to enjoy.

Last update on 2024-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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